The Other Lies of George Bush
Does Bush believe his own untruths? Did he truly consider a WMD-loaded Saddam Hussein an imminent threat to the United States? Or was he knowingly employing dramatic license because he wanted war for other reasons? Did he really think the average middle-class taxpayer would receive $1,083 from his second tax-cut plan? Or did he realize this was a fuzzy number cooked up to make the package seem a better deal than it was for middle- and low-income workers? Did he believe there were enough stem-cell lines to support robust research? Or did he know he had exaggerated the number of lines in order to avoid a politically tough decision?
It's hard to tell. Bush's public statements do suggest he is a binary thinker who views the world in black-and-white terms. You're either for freedom or against it. With the United States or not. Tax cuts are good--always. The more tax cuts the better--always. He's impatient with nuances. Asked in 1999 to name something he wasn't good at, Bush replied, "Sitting down and reading a 500-page book on public policy or philosophy or something." Bush likes life to be clear-cut. And perhaps that causes him to either bend the truth or see (and promote) a bent version of reality. Observers can debate whether Bush considers his embellishments and misrepresentations to be the honest-to-God truth or whether he cynically hurls falsehoods to con the public. But believer or deceiver--the result is the same.
With his misrepresentations and false assertions, Bush has dramatically changed the nation and the world. Relying on deceptions, he turned the United States into an occupying power. Using lies, he pushed through tax cuts that will profoundly reshape the US budget for years to come, most likely insuring a long stretch of deficits that will make it difficult, perhaps impossible, for the federal government to fund existing programs or contemplate new ones.
Does Bush lie more than his predecessors, more than his political opponents? That's irrelevant. He's guiding the nation during difficult and perhaps perilous times, in which a credible President is much in need. Prosperity or economic decline? War or peace? Security or fear? This country has a lot to deal with. Lies from the White House poison the debates that must occur if Americans are going to confront and overcome the challenges of this century at home and abroad.
Presidential lying, in fact, threatens the country. To render informed and wise choices about the crucial and complicated controversies of the day, people need truthful information. The President is generally in a position to define and dominate a debate more than other political players. And a lie from the White House--or a fib or a misrepresentation or a fudged number--can go a long way toward distorting the national discussion.
Bush campaigned for the presidency as the fellow who would bring honesty back to the White House. During his first full day on the job, while swearing in his White House staff, he reminded his cadre, "On a mantelpiece in this great house is inscribed the prayer of John Adams, that only the wise and honest may rule under this roof." But Adams's prayer would once more go unanswered. There has been no restoration of integrity. Bush's promise was a lie. The future of the United States remains in the hands of a dishonest man.