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Feeding the herd with an empty bucket

by Gene Lyons Saturday, Feb. 07, 2004 at 5:49 PM
(501) 378-3482

In my experience, you can catch a clever horse twice with an empty feed bucket. Then the animal quits trusting you. By now, the White House chicanery has grown so brazen that one would expect that even dairy cows and GOP "team leaders" would suspect that they are being had.



Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 6, 2004

To skeptics, the Bush administration appears to be conducting a bold political experiment: government by illusion. The wonder is how they get away with it.

In my experience, you can catch a clever horse twice with an empty feed bucket. Then the animal quits trusting you. By now, the White House chicanery has grown so brazen that one would expect the even less independent-minded grazing animals - such as dairy cows and GOP "team leaders" - to suspect that they are being had. Last week, Bush delivered himself of yet another thunderous whopper on the subject of Iraq.

During a press conference with the president of Poland, Bush was asked about the congressional testimony of David Kay, the recently resigned leader of his Iraq Survey Team. After spending several months and millions of tax dollars in a futile quest, Kay concluded that Saddam Hussein had no "weapons of mass destruction," hence no means whatsoever of posing a military threat to the United States. America's first pre-emptive war was like a bad drug bust where the cops smash through the wrong door.

"We were almost all wrong," the hawkish Kay confessed, thereby signaling his unfitness to remain in the Bush administration. As a matter of policy, this White House admits no error. Mere reality can be an impediment to greatness. Asked if he owed Americans an explanation, the president resorted to fantasy.

"First of all" Bush said "... I was hoping the United Nations would enforce its resolutions ... that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in."

This is the rough equivalent of Bill Clinton denying he'd ever met Monica Lewinsky. In fact, UNMOVIC arms inspectors under the much-derided Swedish diplomat Hans Blix spent months chasing down one bogus U.S. hot tip after another. Reversing his vow to force a vote in the U.N. Security Council, Bush instead ordered the inspectors out of Baghdad, then began bombing. The president made the same absurd claim in an appearance with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan last July.

So take your pick. Either Bush has forgotten how the Iraq war started, or he thinks voters have. The nation's most important newspapers and broadcast networks have mostly given him a pass. Hardly anybody but Salon's Joe Conason appeared to notice.

As long as Bush doesn't misrepresent something truly significant, like playing slap and tickle with a 22-year-old intern, nobody wants to diminish respect for the presidency. After all, there's a war on.

Only days later, the White House yielded to political reality. Even post-9/11, enough people were concerned, or pretended to be concerned that U.S. intelligence had vastly overstated the Iraqi "threat" that Bush promised to sign an executive order appointing a bipartisan commission to find out why. Almost needless to say, it won't report until after the 2004 election.

Remember all those news stories about Donald Rumsfeld's "Office of Special Plans," and Vice President Cheney's visits to CIA headquarters to whip foot-dragging bureaucrats into line with the administration's hardline views? No? Good, because you're not supposed to.

Republican pundits who in 2003 scolded the intelligence community as soft on Saddam now claim that the sleuths' false certitude misled a trusting President Bush. Caught comically out of step was American Enterprise Institute "scholar" Laurie Mylroie, whose book "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror" (Regan Books, 2003) was published last July.

Remember the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States? The president appointed that one after the White House's claims that it had "no warning" of the 9/11 attacks were proven false.

For months, the administration balked at letting the commission read the "President's Daily Briefing" for Aug. 6, 2001 - the day Bush was warned of possible Al Qaeda airline hijackings and seemingly did nothing. After compromising to avoid a subpoena, the White House now says four commission members who read the document can't have their own notes. It also objects to extending the commission's May deadline while the dispute's being settled.

Domestically, honest conservatives are dismayed to learn that the administration deliberately underestimated the cost of new Medicare drug benefits by 5 billion to win passage. Even congressional Republicans are openly scornful of the White House's latest "Alice in Wonderland" budget estimates. "It is all fantasy," a GOP staffer told the L.A. Times.

Even Bush's lost months in the Texas Air National Guard back in 1972-3 are getting a skeptical look by journalists who bought his half-baked evasions in 2000.

How much does it matter today? Not much. By last week, empty feed buckets were pretty much all the Bush administration had to offer.
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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 10 posted about this article.
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
The White House did lie (but not this one) BbusshAddmirer Saturday, Feb. 07, 2004 at 6:20 PM
Bush Admirer IQ assessment in. PhD, Psych. Saturday, Feb. 07, 2004 at 7:31 PM
I like Bush Admirer Admirer of Bush Admirer Sunday, Feb. 08, 2004 at 5:14 PM
Well thanks for the accolades guys BuushAdmirer Monday, Feb. 09, 2004 at 5:33 AM
I know I'm impressed Bush Licker Monday, Feb. 09, 2004 at 8:27 AM
Reply to Bush Licker BA. Monday, Feb. 09, 2004 at 4:39 PM
wow, I didn't know! Bush Licker Monday, Feb. 09, 2004 at 5:01 PM
Hate to be the one to break the news to you licker B.A.. Monday, Feb. 09, 2004 at 5:59 PM
fresca fresca Monday, Feb. 09, 2004 at 6:22 PM
i take issue with point 5 more rational Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004 at 3:57 PM

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