WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2003
BEND IT LIKE BUSH: Its time for a Missing Person Alert: Whatever happened to Candidate Bush, the fellow who ran for office in Campaign 2000? As a candidate, Bush endlessly swore that a $1.3 trillion tax cut was all we could possibly afford. More than that, the candidate said, and wed have to start spending the Social Security surplussomething he just wouldnt do. As a candidate, Bush swore that hed take all future SS surpluses and use them for Social Security.
FRIST: Im very hopeful that they wont be temporary, that this $350 billion tax plan will, indeed, be made permanent, will grow to what it really is, is an $800 billion tax relief package for the American people.The recent tax cutpimped as $350 billionwas really $800 billion, Frist says. Fristwho likes to stress his Christ-like waysalso seems to like fooling the public. Just in case you missed his point, he made it even more clear:
FRIST: Remember, the budget that we passed in the Senate and in the House had, not a $350 billion package, but a $1.2 trillion tax relief package. That is the goal. This is really the first iteration, that first step. And itll play out, yes, in the campaigns, but also on the floor of the United States Senate as we try to make these permanent.But what happened to Bushs pledge as a candidate? The Culture of Lying is all over Bush, who misled you in that campaign.
But dont expect the Washington press corps to say even one word about it. To all appearances, they tremble and quake in the face of King Bush. This brings us to yesterdays Paul Krugman columnand to a fact of life that even Krugman overlooks in his seminal piece.
Krugman quotes Londons normally staid Financial Times as it reviews Bushs cuts. The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum, the Times says. According to Krugman, the FT suggests that more extreme Republicans actually want a fiscal train wreck. Good for the Financial Times, Krugman writes. It seems that stating the obvious has now, finally, become respectable.
You should read Krugmans every wordand then read his column again. But Krugman is dreaming in one major way. He closes with a question that answers itself. See if you can nail it:
KRUGMAN: How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They dont realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is They imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it wont destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.When will the public wake up? the scribe asks. His question is easy to answer. The public wont wake up as long as Krugman has to go to Great Britain to find a Big Newspaper stating the obvious. In this country, it has quite plainly not become respectable to state the obvious about Bush and his cuts. Our simpering press corps trembles and quakes, afraid to tell the public whats happeningand afraid to challenge Emperor Bush about the pledges he made as a candidate. A Culture of Lying is all over Bush, and trembling pundits refuse to address it. The public will never wake upwill never understandas long as these Big Pundits cower.
We thought this press corps just hated big flip-flops. When will these cowardly boys and girls dare challenge our Culture of Lying?
TOMORROW: How do The Fearful respond to the obvious? We visit three major Post pundits.
COHEN: We all know now of Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter and world-class liarWhen Cohen expressed his concerns about full, frank correction, we quickly emitted those low, mordant chuckles so prevalent here at THE HOWLER.
Weve told part of this story before. But the tale is such an absolute doozy it deserves to be laid out in full.
In late August 2000, Candidate George W. Bush spoke at the annual convention of Bnai Brith International. In his speech, he offered the following remarks. Lets face itthe comments are boilerplate:
BUSH STATEMENT: Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned in history to be a model to the world of justice and diversity without division. Jews and Christians and Muslims speak as one in the commitment to a kind, just, tolerant society.For unknown reasons, Cohen was outraged by Bushs remarks, and decided to make them sound outrageous. So he wrote a column about the remarksbut he edited what Bush had said. It ended up sounding like this:
BUSH STATEMENT, AS EDITED BY COHEN: Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world.That was it! Then, Cohen proceeded to lambaste the quoteand the person he thought had made it. Unfortunately, Cohen had somehow become quite confused. For unknown reasons, he thought that VP hopeful Joseph Lieberman had visited Bnai Brith and made the statement in question. So Cohen battered Liebermanfor an entire columnfor the quote which his rival, George Bush, really said! According to Cohen, Lieberman spoke in bad taste and was downright smug. His statement was preposterously false. Youre going to think were making this up. But here was the pundits great reasoning:
COHEN (9/6/00): Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world, Lieberman told the annual convention of Bnai Brith late last month.Treat yourself to a dark, mordant chuckle. Bush had uttered a bit of boilerplate; God wanted the United States to be a kind, just, tolerant society, he had said. Cohen edited the quotation down, completely obscuring its actual tone. Then, he lambasted Lieberman for the statement, making it sound like Smokin Joe didnt give a fig about slave times. So it went as the Post just kept on making a joke of your White House election.
But we really enjoyed a laugh last week when Cohen scolded the Posts weak corrections. How did Cohen correct his howler? Remember, he had battered Lieberman for a whole column, calling him every name in the book. How did he try to set things right? A note was unobtrusively tucked at the bottom of Cohens next column:
COHEN (9/9/00):That was it! A reader had no way of knowing how grievous the mistaken attribution really was. Nor did Cohen make any attempt to counter the impression his column had rendered. By the way, in the column before his Bnai Brith debacle, Cohen completely misstated major parts of David Maraniss new bio of Gore. No correction followed thatalthough, given the way he corrected on Lieberman, it hardly made any real difference.
So yes, we couldnt help chuckling as Richard Cohen raged, raged against lazy correction. Thats why no one trusts us, the troubled scribe said. We just laughedas he bent it like Jayson.
[For the record: We described Cohens groaner in full on 9/12/00 at the now-defunct SpeakOut.com.]