Shh, Don’t Tell the Swing Voters

Shh, Don’t Tell the Swing Voters

Bush is being sold as a no-nonsense leader. So much for truth in advertising.


The White House, the Bush campaign and Republicans are spending hundreds of millions of dollars this year to convince swing voters that George W. Bush is a decisive, no-nonsense fellow who does what’s best for the nation. This, of course, requires loads of spin, subterfuge and truth-stretching. There are books overflowing with evidence proving that Bush’s campaign is guilty of massive false advertising. Below is a partial list–much shorter than it could be–of matters Bush’s handlers would prefer swing voters not know.

Bush doesn’t understand the basics of 9/11.

After 9/11, Bush said repeatedly that Al Qaeda had attacked the United States because “they hate our freedoms.” But this was a comic-book rendition of the conflict at hand, and it ignored a slew of geopolitical realities and Osama bin Laden’s actual (and perverse) motivations. As Anonymous (a CIA analyst who headed the bin Laden desk and whose true identity has been revealed as Michael Scheuer) noted in his new book, Imperial Hubris, bin Laden’s “attacks are meant to advance bin Laden’s clear, focused, limited, and widely popular foreign policy goals”–which include ending US support of Israel and apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan. “Bin Laden,” he writes, “is out to drastically alter US and Western policies toward the Islamic world, not necessarily to destroy America, much less its freedoms and liberties.”

Bush is not taking all possible measures to protect the nation.

Bush has said that his Administration is doing everything it can to protect the homeland, but it has resisted some obvious steps–particularly when industry has complained. In October 2002, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge called for mandatory government regulations covering security at chemical plants. An attack at such a facility could lead to massive casualties. But the chemical industry has opposed such a measure, and the White House has done nothing to turn Ridge’s idea into reality. The White House has also sided with the aviation industry in blocking legislation that would require airliners to screen cargo carried on passenger flights. About one-fifth of all air cargo transported in the United States is carried aboard passenger flights. But unlike checked baggage, it is rarely screened. How many swing voters realize that when they fly they are sitting above commercial cargo that has not been inspected, thanks in part to Bush?

Bush never bothered to look at the intelligence before launching the Iraq war.

In announcing his intention to invade Iraq, Bush said intelligence gathered by the US government “leaves no doubt” that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs. After the invasion, Bush declared that he had based his decision on “good, solid intelligence.” But how did he know that? In a background briefing last summer, White House aides conceded that Bush had never read the ninety-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMDs. (The NIE was a flawed document that wrongly stated Iraq had chemical and biological weapons but that also included serious qualifiers and caveats that should have caused a reader to wonder about those conclusions.) This Commander in Chief once told an interviewer he doesn’t read newspapers; he also does not read the most comprehensive threat assessments before placing US troops in harm’s way.

Bush couldn’t cite evidence to support his claim that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda.

Bush partially justified his push for war in Iraq by saying before the invasion that Saddam was “a threat because he is dealing with Al Qaeda.” The 9/11 Commission, the House and Senate intelligence committees and the CIA have all reported that there was no evidence of a working relationship between Al Qaeda and the Iraq regime. Rather than acknowledge that he had exaggerated the ties between the two, Bush and his aides have tried to spin facts to support his prewar assertions. But in July 2003, Bush was specifically asked at a press conference to cite the evidence that backed up his pre-invasion claim that Saddam had been in league with Al Qaeda. He replied, “We’ve been [in Iraq] for ninety days since the cessation of major military operations. It’s going to take time for us to gather the evidence.” He had not been asked for new evidence. He had been asked for the initial evidence that supported one of his primary rationales for war. He could not point to a single thing.

Bush has been doubly dishonest in endangering the nation’s fiscal security.

Bush has taken fuzzy math to new heights by simultaneously overstating and understating his budget deficits. In February the Bush White House put out an inflated estimate of the deficit ($521 billion) so its more realistic mid-year projection ($445 billion) could then be cited as a sign of progress–even though the latter estimate showed the deficit growing by 19 percent over last year’s figure. At the same time, the Administration has finagled the numbers to underestimate the deficit projections for the next five years, claiming it will cut the deficit in half by 2009. As a Goldman Sachs report noted recently, the White House has not included in its estimates the full cost of tax breaks and various programs–such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And a study put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Committee for Economic Development and the Concord Coalition noted that deficits will total $4.6 trillion in the next ten years–more than twice the amount calculated by the Congressional Budget Office. Bush and his aides have blamed 9/11, the recession and the wars for the deficits. But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that about one-third of these deficits is the result of Bush’s tax cuts.


ush may have a quasi-secret plan to slash social programs.

The Bush Administration has considered drastically downsizing the domestic discretionary budget, which covers education, environmental protection, national parks, low-income energy assistance and much more. Budget material developed by the White House earlier this year–but not included in the budget books as is customary–proposed serious cuts in domestic programs over the next five years. In 2009, discretionary domestic programs (outside homeland security) would be cut $45 billion, or 10.4 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars (14 percent, if population growth is taken into account). These cuts would, for example, include lowering the number of low- and moderate-income families receiving childcare assistance by 200,000 to 365,000. By the way, these cuts would hardly improve the deficit situation. Domestic programs (excluding homeland security) make up only one-sixth of the budget. The White House has denied that these hard-to-find documents indicate such budget cuts are actually coming. Yet the White House has instructed department heads to refer to these numbers in submitting their budget proposals.

Bush failed to keep his 2000 promise about tax cuts.

While campaigning for the presidency in 2000, Bush said, “The vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum.” The reality: Almost half of his first–and biggest–round of tax cuts went to the top 1 percent, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. The bottom 60 percent of taxpayers netted about 13 percent. And according to a recent Congressional Budget Office study, the share of federal taxes paid by the bottom 80 percent has gone up in the Bush II years, while the portion paid by the richest taxpayers has fallen dramatically. Still, Bush has claimed his tax cuts have helped improve the economy and led to the creation of 1.5 million jobs (even though more than 2.5 million jobs have been lost during his presidency). The connection between his tax cuts and jobs creation is a debate for economists. But it is undeniable that since the end of last year, average hourly wages have declined and are now slightly below what they were in November. Wages and salaries are being outpaced by inflation.

Bush avoided answering the hardest questions about his past business deals.

The Enron scandal brought attention to Bush’s less than glorious history as a businessman, which included several questionable episodes. In one, Harken Energy, a company that bailed out Bush’s failing oil firm and placed him on its board, sold a subsidiary to a partnership of Harken insiders to whom it had lent the money to finance this purchase. It was all very Enron-ish, and the point was to understate Harken’s losses for the year and keep its stock price inflated. Bush benefited from this sham deal, because soon afterward he sold 212,000 Harken shares and bagged $848,000. (He used these proceeds to pay off a bank loan he had taken to obtain an interest in the Texas Rangers baseball team–an interest that would later earn him $16 million.) What did he know about this untoward transaction, which the SEC later questioned? When reporters in 2002 asked Bush if he had been involved in the bogus deal, he did not reply directly and said, “You need to look back on the directors’ minutes.” But the minutes were not publicly available, and the White House declined to ask Harken to release them. To date, Bush has not said if he had a role in this transaction. And neither he nor the broker who arranged the sale of Bush’s Harken shares has ever identified who bought his shares.

Bush was not only MIA from the National Guard in Alabama; he was missing in Texas, too.

The main issue has been whether Bush reported for Guard duty when he was in Alabama in 1972. The available records do not document that he served in Alabama–though limited documents indicate he was paid for a few days of service in October and November 1972 and later showed up for a dental visit at an Alabama base. Citing these incomplete records, the White House has played the missing-in-Alabama issue to a tie. But what has received much less attention is the evidence that Bush skipped out of service for months after he returned from Alabama to Houston. Summaries of his pay records indicate that he was paid for several days of service in the first four months of 1973, but a May 1973 performance review–signed by his immediate supervisors at Ellington Air Base in Houston–said he had not “been observed at this unit” for the past year. And his main file–loaded with information pertaining to his duty at Ellington–has nothing in it about his activity at Ellington for the first months of 1973. This gap is as suspicious as the Alabama hole.

If those mythical swing voters knew all of the above, would they still vote for this guy? Maybe some would still be drawn to his tough-guy, bring-’em-on shtick or his conservative positions. But–lucky for Bush–swing voters often say they are not as informed about the candidates as they would like to be. What a difference it could make if in the the final months of the campaign they were exposed to the full facts, not the campaign’s made-for-TV spin.

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