WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2003
STRAIGHT FROM THE PRESS CORPS PRIVATE PLANET: Here at THE HOWLER, were still stunned by the Washington Monthlys utterly fatuous Mendacity Index (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/2/03). How fatuous is your insider press corps? As youll recall, the Monthlys experts picked the six biggest lies of each of the last four presidents. According to the Monthlys experts, here is one of the six biggest lies George W. Bush ever told:
Going to War.To make things easier, we marked a key word. The key word we highlighted? Joked.
Thats right, readers. According to the Washington Monthly, one of the biggest lies Bush ever told is this JOKE about his twin daughters! To help you see how mindless this is, here is the original report of the deeply troubling incident:
ASSOCIATED PRESS (1/27/02): President Bush says between going to war and raising twins, hed choose war.Shall we note a few things about this report? First, the text of Bushs joke comes second-hand, remembered and reported by Kiss. So we dont even know what Bush really said. For example, he may have said, Ive planned a war [Afghanistan], and Ive raised twins. The Monthlys experts assume Bush meant Vietnam. But they have no way of knowing, and as is so typical with their cohort, they dont seem to have noticed or cared.
But readers, can we return to that key word? The key word, again, would be joked. According to the Monthlys experts, this one-on-one JOKE by President Bush is one of the six biggest lies he has told! Our suggestion: Read back through the budget buffoonism which actually got George Bush electedthe budget buffoonism of October 2000, part of which we described in yesterdays HOWLER. Paul Krugman discussed some of this clowning three separate times before Bush and Gores first debate. But the press corps ignored Krugmans work in real time, and those life-changing howlers still dont trouble the experts. Theyre more disturbedtheyre deeply troubledby this JOKE which Bush told to Bob Kiss.
Amazing, isnt it? What kind of people take part in such clowning? Well stick with our original guess: The kind of perfumed, overpaid people who simply arent able to care.
But drink in the foolishness, HOWLER readers! According to the Monthlys experts, a meaningless JOKE which Bush told Kiss is the fifth biggest lie he ever told! Thats rightyou can check the rankings yourselves. The Monthlys experts consider this lie more serious than Bushs trifecta statementa misstatement repeatedly made in public to shore up his political standing.
Please remember the key point in this: You simply cant measure a presidents honesty by pie-eating contests of this type. But what kind of people engage in such clowning? Your perfumed press corps takes part in this farcepeople unable to think very clearly, and people unable to care.
MARSHALL LAW: Some have excused the foolishness of the Index; they have told us that Josh Marshalls accompanying Monthly piece puts this whole thing in perspective. We disagree with this view. We think Marshall does superlative work at his own site; its one of the few places we visit expecting to learn something. But his Monthly piece is empty and drawn. Philosophes will adore its High Theoretics, but its far below his usual work. Heres part of the second paragraph:
MARSHALL: [Bushs] style of deception is also unique. When Reagan said he didnt trade arms for hostages, or Clinton insisted he didnt have sex with that woman, the falsity of the claims was readily provableby an Oliver North memo or a stained blue dress. Bush and his administration, however, specialize in a particular form of deception: The confidently expressed, but currently undisprovable assertion. In his State of the Union address last January, the president claimed that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and a robust nuclear weapons program, and that therefore we needed to invade Iraq. Even at the time, many military and intelligence experts said that the president's assertions probably werent true and were based on at best fragmentary evidence. But there was no way to know for sure unless we did what Bush wanted. When the president said on numerous occasions that his tax cutswhich were essentially long-term rate reductions for the wealthywould spur growth without causing structural deficits, most experts, again, cried foul, pointing out that both past experience and accepted economic theory said otherwise. But in point of fact nobody could say for sure that maybe this time the cuts might not work.Can this be the man who writes TPM? Bushs style of deception is unique? Please. Bush has made many misstatements which are quite disprovablethe trifecta, for example, or almost all the ludicrous statements in the fall of 2000. As noted, Krugman disproved one such whopper three times, although the press made a point not to notice. (By the way: Clinton didnt know about the blue dress. Duh.) And every Admin makes budget predictions which cant be disproved in advance. Nor is spun intelligence unique. To the extent that Bush misstated intelligence, he hardly invented new conduct.
Marshall does excellent work at his site. But his Monthly piece is Pure High Piffle. That makes it perfect for its vesselfor a mag which thinks that a meaningless JOKE is George Bushs fifth biggest whopper.