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Perspective: Calling Bush a Liar

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 997 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... CALLING BUSH A LIAR By Nicholas D. Kristof New York
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2004
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      By Nicholas D. Kristof
      New York Times
      June 30, 2004


      So is President Bush a liar?

      Plenty of Americans think so. Bookshops are filled with titles about Mr.
      Bush like "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," "Big Lies," "Thieves in
      High Places" and "The Lies of George W. Bush."

      A consensus is emerging on the left that Mr. Bush is fundamentally
      dishonest, perhaps even evil ‹ a nut, yes, but mostly a liar and a schemer.
      That view is at the heart of Michael Moore's scathing new documentary,
      "Farenheit 9/11."

      In the 1990's, nothing made conservatives look more petty and simple-minded
      than their demonization of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who were even accused
      of spending their spare time killing Vince Foster and others. Mr. Clinton,
      in other words, left the right wing addled. Now Mr. Bush is doing the same
      to the left. For example, Mr. Moore hints that the real reason Mr. Bush
      invaded Afghanistan was to give his cronies a chance to profit by building
      an oil pipeline there.

      "I'm just raising what I think is a legitimate question," Mr. Moore told me,
      a touch defensively, adding, "I'm just posing a question."

      Right. And right-wing nuts were "just posing a question" about whether Mr.
      Clinton was a serial killer.

      I'm against the "liar" label for two reasons. First, it further polarizes
      the political cesspool, and this polarization is making America increasingly
      difficult to govern. Second, insults and rage impede understanding.

      Lefties have been asking me whether Mr. Bush has already captured Osama bin
      Laden, and whether Mr. Bush will plant W.M.D. in Iraq. Those are the
      questions of a conspiracy theorist, for even if officials wanted to pull
      such stunts, they would be daunted by the fear of leaks.

      Bob Woodward's latest book underscores that Mr. Bush actually believed that
      Saddam did have W.M.D. After one briefing, Mr. Bush turned to George Tenet
      and protested, "I've been told all this intelligence about having W.M.D.,
      and this is the best we've got?" The same book also reports that Mr. Bush
      told Mr. Tenet several times, "Make sure no one stretches to make our case."

      In fact, of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was
      all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies. Indeed, there's some
      evidence that Mr. Bush carefully avoids the most blatant lies ‹ witness his
      meticulous descriptions of the periods in which he did not use illegal

      True, Mr. Bush boasted that he doesn't normally read newspaper articles,
      when his wife said he does. And Mr. Bush wrongly claimed that he was
      watching on television on the morning of 9/11 as the first airplane hit the
      World Trade Center. But considering the odd things the president often says
      ("I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family"), Mr. Bush
      always has available a prima facie defense of confusion.

      Mr. Bush's central problem is not that he was lying about Iraq, but that he
      was overzealous and self-deluded. He surrounded himself with like-minded
      ideologues, and they all told one another that Saddam was a mortal threat to
      us. They deceived themselves along with the public ‹ a more common problem
      in government than flat-out lying.

      Some Democrats, like Mr. Clinton and Senator Joseph Lieberman, have pushed
      back against the impulse to demonize Mr. Bush. I salute them, for there are
      so many legitimate criticisms we can (and should) make about this president
      that we don't need to get into kindergarten epithets.

      But the rush to sling mud is gaining momentum, and "Farenheit 9/11" marks
      the polarization of yet another form of media. One medium after another has
      found it profitable to turn from information to entertainment, from nuance
      to table-thumping.

      Talk radio pioneered this strategy, then cable television. Political books
      have lately become as subtle as professional wrestling, and the Internet is
      adding to the polarization. Now, with the economic success of "Farenheit
      9/11," look for more documentaries that shriek rather than explain.

      It wasn't surprising when the right foamed at the mouth during the Clinton
      years, for conservatives have always been quick to detect evil empires. But
      liberals love subtlety and describe the world in a palette of grays ‹ yet
      many have now dropped all nuance about this president.

      Mr. Bush got us into a mess by overdosing on moral clarity and
      self-righteousness, and embracing conspiracy theories of like-minded
      zealots. How sad that many liberals now seem intent on making the same


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