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A CULTURE OF LYING (PART 4)! One scribe noted what Bush had done. You could call it a senior moment:

THURSDAY, MAY 15, 2003

SENIORITY SYSTEM: You can’t believe a thing he says, Jonathan Chait said, speaking of Bush. Bush has “a rather flexible idea” about telling the truth, E. J. Dionne said on Tuesday (Bush is from the “say-anything school”). In this morning’s Post, meanwhile, the editors complain about the Bush administration’s latest “charade” and “masquerade;” the House tax bill was “about as a phony as a tax bill could get,” but the new White House effort is even more “dishonest.” And on page one, the French government is quoted saying that “it is the victim of an ‘organized disinformation campaign from within the Bush administration.’” You’d like to think that couldn’t be true. But of course, it most likely is.

But then, a Culture of Lying has surrounded Bush at least since the fall of 2000, when the candidate began dissembling hard in his effort to get to the White House. At the crucial first debate with Gore, Bush lied about his budget plan, then accused Gore of using “phony numbers” and “fuzzy math” when he described the budget plan accurately. The next day, the fun really started, as Bush and aides toured the country, tossing off palpably bogus facts—and saying that they showed Gore was lying. It truly takes a low, slimy man to call the other guy a liar on the basis of “facts” which he’s simply made up. But a Culture of Lying surrounded Bush—and the press corps already knew not to notice. In the past few weeks, complaints from the mainstream press have been heard. But this culture is a thing that they made.

For the record, there was one journalist who spoke in real time, discussing Bush’s post-debate lying. Her piece appeared on October 17, 2000. The sub-headline? “Bush seems to be having trouble with math lately.” Here’s how the article began:

During the first presidential debate in Boston, Gov. George W. Bush accused Vice President Al Gore of using “fuzzy math” when Gore pointed out that Bush’s plan would spend more of the surplus on tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers than on education, health, prescription drugs and the national defense combined.

The next day on “Good Morning America,” Bush admitted that Gore’s math wasn’t fuzzy after all. Later that day on CNN, he changed his story again.

Somehow, this scribe had managed to notice Bush’s October 4 flip-flop, which we described in yesterday’s HOWLER. Then, she noted a nasty “irony”—an irony that would somehow elude the mainstream “press:”
Bush’s attack on the vice president’s mathematical calculations has a dual irony. First, Bush was using fuzzy math himself…While Bush accused his opponent of using “fuzzy math,” the Republican candidate’s own statistics were partisan-created rhetoric rather than substantiated facts.
We don’t know of any other journalist who noted this basic point—who noted that Bush was accusing Gore of the very thing he, Bush, was doing. The journalist then laid out some basic problems with Bush’s fake, phony “facts:”
Gore was correct in his statement about Bush’s budget figures. In Bush’s plan, the tax cut for the top 1 percent of Americans ($620 billion) is greater than total domestic spending on education ($47.6 billion), health ($131.9 billion), prescription drugs ($158 billion), and national defense ($45 billion) combined.

Bush’s questionable calculations were made apparent again during the second presidential debate last Wednesday. Again, Bush defended his tax plan, saying that the top 1 percent would receive only $223 billion.

Likewise, the Bush campaign cites that only 21 percent of the tax cut goes to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. But this 21 percent and associated $223 billion numbers do not include the repeal of the estate tax…

Ignoring these facts, Bush argued that his tax cut for the wealthy was far less than his actual policies and plans demonstrate.

This journalist wasn’t the only scribe who explained where Bush got his numbers. As we saw yesterday, other scribes explained that Bush’s “$223 billion” only included his income tax cuts, completely ignoring the $236 billion in estate tax cuts he proposed. (We noted something else which this journalist didn’t; even in Bush’s income tax figures, he was talking about the year 2005—a year when many of his income-tax cuts for the highest earners wouldn’t yet have taken place.) But this journalist did something no one else did—she realized that this meant Bush was a liar. She didn’t use the L-word herself; more politely, she noted the “irony” of Bush’s claims. But as we saw yesterday, mainstream writers weren’t even up to this task. Instead, mainstream “journalists” were rushing about, looking for ways to make Bush’s behavior seem reasonable. Bush was simply using different “assumptions” from Gore, one scribe said. Mainstream scribes were already involved in creating the Culture of Lying.

Who wrote this October 17 critique? Why, it was Melanie Ho, a UCLA senior, writing in the Daily Bruin. While mainstream “journalists” cowered and quaked—and told the world what a liar Gore was—a college student was somehow able to note the “irony” in what Bush was doing. We’ve often asked if high school students could get away with work like the press corps’. In the fall of 2000, only Melanie Ho—a college student—had the courage to get this tale right.

Who created the Culture of Lying? Manifestly, your “press corps” did. Ho knew the facts—and saw the “irony.” In Washington, store-bought scribes had their eyes to the ground. A Culture of Lying has resulted.

TOMORROW: Speaking of our Culture of Lying, get a load of the astounding Janet Maslin.

THE NUMBERS, THEY WERE A-CHANGIN’: A clarification on one set of numbers from yesterday’s incomparable DAILY HOWLER. At one point, we saw Candidate Bush at Bush-Gore Debate 3, offering this rebuttal to Gore:

BUSH (10/17/00): Under my plan, if you make—the top, the wealthy people pay 62 percent of the taxes today. Afterwards, they pay 64 percent. This is a fair plan.
As we saw, these numbers—offered in a variety of contradictory formulations—were routinely offered as a response to Gore’s claim about that “top one percent.” For example, we saw Andrea Neal (Indy Star) cite these numbers. Neal said they helped us see Gore’s “pure demagoguery.”

Yesterday afternoon, we finally saw where those numbers came from, and what those numbers actually meant. On April 11, 2000, Bush spoke in Cleveland, pretending to have major plans for the poor. On that day, he cited those numbers—and explained what they actually meant:

BUSH (4/11/00): Today, the wealthiest taxpayers, those earning more than $100,000, account for 62 percent of total income taxes paid. Under my plan, this will increase to 64 percent.
Oh! Bush’s numbers referred to income tax only, and they referred to everyone making 100K or up. For the record, this was roughly ten percent of all earners; in 2000, the top one percent were those who earned $319,000 or more. We’ll assume that this figure was also gimmicked by date, and did not include the high-end income-tax rate reductions that Bush had scheduled for the later years of the decade. By the fall, almost every number out of Bush’s mouth had been gimmicked to mislead and deceive.

In short, Bush’s figure had nothing to do with what Gore said. But look back at yesterday’s HOWLER and watch an array of “journalists” use those numbers to say what a liar Gore was. A Culture of Lying was being created, and Gore would be sacrificed on a high altar. No one—no one—but Melanie Ho was willing to say what this meant.

The Daily update

NOT SO FAST THERE, DIONNE: We were heartened by Dionne’s Tuesday column, but he underplayed badly at its start:

DIONNE: George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign for the presidency was based in large part on the idea that Bush was honest while Clinton and Gore were liars. The phrase “little lies” stuck to Gore early, and he never shook it.
Say what? “Little” lies? He repeated the phrase a bit later:
DIONNE: You can be absolutely sure that if an Al Gore White House had comparably misled citizens about the reason for a presidential made-for-television visit to an aircraft carrier, Gore would have been pilloried for engaging in yet another “little lie.”
On the one hand, what Dionne says is literally true. As the press corps conducted its War Against Gore, it concocted a string of trivial lies, which it then pretended Gore had uttered. Consider Bush-Gore Debate I, for example. As pundits ignored Bush’s laughably phony facts, the press corps worried about that school desk in Florida. Quite literally, Gore had read a report from a major newspaper (the Sarasota Herald-Tribune) about that troubling desk. Result? The eagle-eyed press corps went into a frenzy about this absurdly trivial “lie.”

But while the “lies” they invented were pathologically trivial, the battering aimed at Gore was not “little.” Once again, here was virtue czar William Bennett, in a fact-averse attack on Gore delivered after Bush-Gore Debate I. Bush was peddling fake facts all over the country as Bennett penned his “little” attack:

BENNETT (10/11/00): Albert Arnold Gore Jr. is a habitual liar.

The vice president lies reflexively, promiscuously, even pathologically. He lies on matters large and small, significant and trivial, when he “needs” to and when he doesn’t, on matters public and private, about his opponents and his family.

The “lies” were little, but the sliming was not. Just before that first debate, for example, the press corps managed to go into a tizzy about that troubling doggy-pill “lie.” Gore had correctly noted that his mother-in-law and his arthritic dog each took a certain arthritis drug. And he correctly noted that humans are charged three times as much for the drug as dogs. But the prices he cited were wholesale, not retail—and the “press corps” went into a frenzy. On September 21, for example, William Kristol wrote an almost lunatic column for the Washington Post op-ed page—the very page where Dionne remarked about those “little” lies. “Many politicians are exploitative,” Kristol wrote. “But no other politician exploits his own family in this way.” And yes, the pundit was speaking of Gore; according to Kristol, Gore had “violat[ed] the boundaries of family privacy” and had “exploit[ed] his own kin” with he said that his mother-in-law took an arthritis pill. The issue wasn’t “simple dissembling,” the scribe said; no, “the issue is Gore’s apparently conscienceless exploitation of his own family.” But then, Gore’s conduct was hardly surprising. When he kissed his wife on stage at the Democratic Convention, “Gore took our decadence to new depths.” Believe it or not, this was Kristol’s conclusion: “Al Gore is not a totalitarian. But his willingness to use his family members for political purposes reveals a self-regard and self-absorption, a ruthlessness and lack of restraint, that have taken him into new territory.”

Simply put, the Washington press corps had lost its mind in the twenty months it spent trashing Gore. A few weeks later, pundits like Kristol would look away as Bush began building our Culture of Lying. But pundits like Dionne chose to look away too. When we cite the “little lies” that were charged to Gore, the refusal to look just continues.