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A CULTURE OF LYING! Bush makes a joke of his campaign pledge. But your “press corps” is too scared to say so:


BEND IT LIKE BUSH: It’s 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 we’d have to start spending the Social Security surplus—something he just wouldn’t do. As a candidate, Bush swore that he’d take all future SS surpluses and use them for Social Security.

But that was then, and this is plunder. To all appearances, Candidate Bush has been replaced by a slick and dishonest impostor. The tax cuts pile up—their real size obscured—and more such cuts are being planned. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Frist discussed the actual cuts that are actually being planned. Here’s what the saintly solon said about Bush’s latest free money:

FRIST: I’m very hopeful that they won’t 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.

SNOW: So, in effect, the president got a bigger tax cut than he requested in the first place?

FRIST: He did.

The recent tax cut—pimped as $350 billion—was “really” $800 billion, Frist says. Frist—who likes to stress his Christ-like ways—also 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 it’ll play out, yes, in the campaigns, but also on the floor of the United States Senate as we try to make these permanent.

SNOW: Will you try to make them permanent this year?

FRIST: Well, there’s lots of other tax relief packages that are out there, other ideas…So I don’t know whether the first step will be to make these permanent or really to bring in other good tax relief packages.

But what happened to Bush’s pledge as a candidate? The Culture of Lying is all over Bush, who misled you in that campaign.

But don’t 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 yesterday’s Paul Krugman column—and to a fact of life that even Krugman overlooks in his seminal piece.

Krugman quotes London’s “normally staid Financial Times” as it reviews Bush’s 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 Krugman’s every word—and 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 don’t 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 won’t destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.

But the people now running America aren’t conservatives: they’re radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what’s going on, but when will the public wake up? [END OF COLUMN]

When will “the public” wake up? the scribe asks. His question is easy to answer. The public won’t “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 what’s happening—and 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 up”—will never understand—as 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.


BEND IT LIKE COHEN: Phew! Last Friday, Richard Cohen was peeved with the Post for its failure to run crisp corrections! When the Post corrected its front-page story on Jessica Lynch, it hid the corrections inside the paper, he said. And Cohen was also quite upset with Jayson Blair and all that Jayson Blair stood for:

COHEN: We all know now of Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter and world-class liar…
This is a black eye not just for the Times but for the press in general. We are not trusted. We are not believed. We are considered arrogant and unresponsive (actually, we’re defensive). Some journalism school will have to come up with all the reasons for this, but one of them has to be the frequent inability of the press to talk to its readers in plain English. We sometimes don’t know how to say either that we were wrong or that we have doubts about what we wrote.
When Cohen expressed his concerns about full, frank correction, we quickly emitted those low, mordant chuckles so prevalent here at THE HOWLER.

We’ve 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 B’nai B’rith International. In his speech, he offered the following remarks. Let’s face it—the 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 Bush’s remarks, and decided to make them sound outrageous. So he wrote a column about the remarks—but 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 “quote”—and 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 B’nai B’rith and made the statement in question. So Cohen battered Lieberman—for an entire column—for 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.” You’re going to think we’re making this up. But here was the pundit’s 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 B’nai B’rith late last month.

Is that so? Did God choose slavery, which persisted in this country long after it was outlawed elsewhere? Did God choose to nearly eradicate the American Indian? Did God choose to incarcerate the Japanese during World War II? Where was God when blacks were being lynched and bigots planted bombs in southern churches, killing innocent little girls? Are these the models God wanted for the rest of the world?

Lieberman’s statement is preposterously false and lacks humility.

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 didn’t 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 Post’s 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 Cohen’s next column:

COHEN (9/9/00):
Correction: In my column of Sept. 6 I mistakenly attributed the quotation, “Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world” to Joseph Lieberman. In fact, the quotation was from George W. Bush.
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 B’nai B’rith debacle, Cohen completely misstated major parts of David Maraniss’ new bio of Gore. No “correction” followed that—although, given the way he “corrected” on Lieberman, it hardly made any real difference.

So yes, we couldn’t help chuckling as Richard Cohen raged, raged against lazy correction. That’s why no one trusts us, the troubled scribe said. We just laughed—as he bent it like Jayson.

[For the record: We described Cohen’s groaner in full on 9/12/00 at the now-defunct]