EMAIL PAGE EIGHT
COLUMN EIGHTY, DECEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
BY PAUL KRUGMAN
BUSH'S FAVORITE TOOL: THE HITLERIAN 'BIG LIE'
Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Dead Parrot Society
Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 20:59:49 -0400 (EDT)
October 25, 2002
Dead Parrot Society
By PAUL KRUGMAN
A few days ago The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote an
article explaining that for George W. Bush, "facts are malleable."
Documenting "dubious, if not wrong" statements on a variety of
subjects, from Iraq's military capability to the federal budget, the White House
correspondent declared that Mr. Bush's "rhetoric has taken some flights of
Also in the last few days, The Wall Street Journal reported
that "senior officials have referred repeatedly to intelligence . . . that
remains largely unverified." The C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism
was blunter: "Basically, cooked information is working its way into
high-level pronouncements." USA Today reports that "pressure has been
building on the intelligence agencies to deliberately slant estimates to fit a
Reading all these euphemisms, I was reminded of Monty
Python's parrot: he's pushing up the daisies, his metabolic processes are
history, he's joined the choir invisible. That is, he's dead. And the Bush
administration lies a lot.
Let me hasten to say that I don't blame reporters for not
quite putting it that way. Mr. Milbank is a brave man, and is paying the usual
price for his courage: he is now the target of a White House smear campaign.
That standard response may help you understand how Mr. Bush
retains a public image as a plain-spoken man, when in fact he is as slippery and
evasive as any politician in memory. Did you notice his recent declaration that
allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power wouldn't mean backing down on
"regime change," because if the Iraqi despot meets U.N. conditions,
"that itself will signal that the regime has changed"?
The recent spate of articles about administration
dishonesty mainly reflects the campaign to sell war with Iraq. But the habit
itself goes all the way back to the 2000 campaign, and is manifest on a wide
range of issues. High points would include the plan for partial privatization of
Social Security, with its 2-1=4 arithmetic; the claim that a tax cut that
delivers 40 percent or more of its benefits to the richest 1 percent was aimed
at the middle class; the claim that there were 60 lines of stem cells available
for research; the promise to include limits on carbon dioxide in an
More generally, Mr. Bush ran as a moderate, a "uniter,
not a divider." The Economist endorsed him back in 2000 because it saw him
as the candidate better able to transcend partisanship; now the magazine
describes him as the "partisan-in-chief."
It's tempting to view all of this merely as a question of
character, but it's more than that. There's method in this administration's
For the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique
trying to maintain a populist facade. Its domestic policies are designed to
benefit a very small number of people " basically those who earn at least
$300,000 a year, and really don't care about either the environment or their
less fortunate compatriots. True, this base is augmented by some powerful
special-interest groups, notably the Christian right and the gun lobby. But
while this coalition can raise vast sums, and can mobilize operatives to stage
bourgeois riots when needed, the policies themselves are inherently unpopular.
Hence the need to reshape those malleable facts.
What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite
Mr. Bush's control of the bully pulpit, he has had little success in changing
the public's fundamental views. Before Sept. 11 the nation was growing
increasingly dismayed over the administration's hard right turn. Terrorism
brought Mr. Bush immense personal popularity, as the public rallied around the
flag; but the helium has been steadily leaking out of that balloon.
Right now the administration is playing the war card,
inventing facts as necessary, and trying to use the remnants of Mr. Bush's
post-Sept. 11 popularity to gain control of all three branches of government.
But then what? There is, after all, no indication that Mr. Bush ever intends to
move to the center.
So the administration's inner circle must think that full
control of the government can be used to lock in a permanent political
advantage, even though the more the public learns about their policies, the less
it likes them. The big question is whether the press, which is beginning to find
its voice, will lose it again in the face of one-party government.
Copyright The New York Times Company ##
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