Posted on Fri, Jul. 25, 2003
A pattern of deception
By WALTER WILLIAMS
id President Bush lie to the American people in his State of the
Union Message when he said: ''The British government has
learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant
quantities of uranium from Africa''? Technically, no, because ''the
statement that he made was indeed accurate,'' said National
Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on July 13. ``The British
government did say that.''
Rice speaks the literal truth, just as her boss does, to distort
what is meaningful. Outright lying is not the administration's
modus operandi; willful deception is.
DUPING THE NATION
Bush's statement on Iraq shows his telltale MO. Moreover, duping the nation into war
is only one case of the pattern of calculated deception that has gone on since the outset
of his administration.
We need to go back to Feb. 27, 2001, when Bush introduced his first tax cut proposal in
a televised speech to Congress and the nation, to see the early duplicity. As New York
Times columnist Paul Krugman observed on March 28: ``I can't think of any precedent
in the history of American economic policy (when an administration was) quite this
shameless about misrepresenting the actual content of its own economic plan.''
I noted in a March 16 Seattle Times column that what stands out in the Bush speech is
the use of the ''Big Lie.'' Such a statement is a technically accurate claim that distorts
rather than reveals the truth. Looking into Bush's MO in his tax legislation illuminates
the pattern of deception as used in Iraq.
In his February address, Bush said: ''People with the smallest incomes will get the
highest percentage reductions.'' The literally true assertion hid that the tax cut provided
little help for most people and that the big winners were the top 1 percent of the
Tax-savings calculations under the Bush proposal made at the time indicated that a
young childless couple earning $20,000 would have its taxes reduced by 41 percent. A
middle-aged couple with $1 million in earnings would receive a 15 percent reduction.
Just as Bush said, the lower-income couple had its taxes cut by a much larger percentage
than the wealthy couple.
But Bush's Big Lie covered up that the young couple would save $410 in taxes, or about
$34 a month; the older couple would benefit by $47,114, or about $3,900 a month. The
wealthier couple's tax savings would amount to over twice as much as the other couple's
total annual income. Suggesting that lower-income families fared better than the
wealthiest ones surely qualifies as world-class deception.
The Bush MO used to justify the Iraq invasion finally created a veritable firestorm of
criticism directed at the president. Things became so bad that CIA Director George J.
Tenet took full responsibility for not warning Bush about the shakiness of the British
assertion: ``These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the
Tenet's statement accepting responsibility, however, also noted that in the fall of 2002,
months before the president's 16 words on the British claim, the CIA ''expressed
reservations'' about their validity both to the British and to members of Congress. And
the top Bush operatives knew nothing about the uranium story being highly unreliable?
There is much controversy over how the alleged uranium purchase surfaced in the Bush
speech. But to me, the strongest candidate is that the 16 words were too tempting to
pass up. They fit the president's MO to a T -- unwarranted by the evidence and hence
deceptive, yet offering the cover of technical correctness.
A hard truth appears to have escaped the notice of the public and received scant
attention from the media: Bush is the first president in American history to use
deceptive propaganda as his main means of communications in selling his policies. His
pattern of deception continues unabated and in direct conflict with the notion of the
public's informed consent that is central to American democracy.
Walter Williams is professor emeritus at the University of Washington's Evans School of