June 12, 2002
By Joseph Arrieta
will the insanity ever end?” Secretary Paul O’Neill asked
Congress plaintively last month. The beleaguered Secretary
was in the extremely uncomfortable position of pleading for
more debt ceiling so the government had the cash to pay its
Poor Paul. He did indeed shift some retirement accounts around
so the US didn’t default, but the budget insanity for 2002
is only just beginning.
“Follow the money,” Deep Throat famously said. Although one
can’t learn everything about US politics from watching the
federal budget process, it still gives an excellent annual
opportunity to watch politicians in action, and also to see
how they tangibly back up—or don’t back up—their rhetoric
with cold hard cash.
Fair warning to the concerned citizen who follows the 2002
budget process closely: have at least 2 mental escape routes
concretely planned. Doesn’t matter if it’s prozac, exercise,
sex, alcohol, research, thorazine, gardening, whatever—diversions
that last for at least 48 hours are absolutely necessary or
one will become as insane as the federal budget process itself.
“I want freedom, but I don’t want to pay for it,” whined
Representative Watts (R-OK), giving alert budget-watchers
a Maalox moment late last month. The republicans had attached
the debt ceiling measure to a popular defense bill, hoping
to speed its passage. Citizens of principle desperately reached
for the antacid, knowing full well that Republican tax cuts
had wiped out the surplus and forced the country into debt.
Watts was browbeating a point he was precisely responsible
for, oblivious to the irony and the hypocrisy. Those among
us who truly care about fiscal discipline took Xanax.
But before the republicans are humiliated over raising the
debt ceiling (Daschle will make sure of it) or Congress even
takes on its first appropriations bill, another matter must
be solved first. Until it is, there is zero chance of any
presidential leadership available for the 2002 budget process.
"I want to remind you what I told the American people, that
if I'm the president--when I was campaigning, if I were to
become the president, we would have deficits only in the case
of war, a recession, or a national emergency." President Bush
used this line frequently over the last year at partisan speeches,
usually as a prelude to a very-unfunny joke. (1)
The only problem is that it’s a complete lie. Bush never
said any such thing campaigning or anywhere else. As far as
presidential lies go this one is a little unusual: it was
never provoked. A politician is most likely to lie only when
being cornered by circumstance or cleverly trapped by the
questioner. For whatever reason Bush felt it necessary to
make up a complete fantasy in front of friendly audiences
in order to rationalize his inept leadership in trashing the
Reporters, of course, researched the issue and found nothing—everything
the President says publicly is recorded in many ways and formats.
Trapped, Bush minions lied some more, only to be caught in
a viciously downward spiral of lying to cover the lies. (2)
Tim Russert brought up the whole sorry affair yet again this
last Sunday. More lying from haplessly inept Bush lieutenants
followed. For a television reporter to pick up on the story
should have raised a huge red flag for Andy Card—Bush is often
caught lying in print (3), but for some strange reason the
twisted creatures of television journalism disdain technical
dishonesty on “arcane” government matters and won’t report
it. But when lying tries to cover something racy like sex
or mental fantasy, television is all over it.
That’s the Republicans' problem. The Bush budget fantasy
story is not going to go away. ABC Notebook commented on the
Russert stab Monday, stating that sooner or later, one way
or another, somebody will have to admit that Bush just made
the whole thing up.
Credibility and strength of dogma must come from somewhere
to implement budgetary strategies. Congressional republicans
of course look to the president to provide it. But there is
absolutely no way the Republicans have any credibility or
political cover to play their budget games if the story is
out there that the president made budgetary statements proving
he’s a liar, and perhaps delusional.
Yes, it has indeed come to this. Before the Congressional
Republicans can fund a useless missile defense system that
doesn’t work (test results now kept secret), cut taxes for
the rich, fund sexual education that just says Don’t Do It,
pass a debt ceiling so the government can go 6.5 trillion
into debt (which they will then use to lard out innumerous
smelly pork rinds of cash to campaign donors)—well, we all
just have to come square with the fact that the President
lied about his budget philosophy. Very badly. Once that’s
done, why, we can get back to the sort of lying television
For Republicans used to ripping off the public with tax cuts
for the super-wealthy, such an admission will only mean a
Maalox moment for most of them. For the principled among us,
only a good stock of prozac will do for that day.
The New Republic. The joke
then goes to state Bush hit the "trifecta," meaning that he
got incredibly good luck in being able to wiggle out of all
the lies he told the year before in getting his tax cut passed.
The President of the Untied States invoked humor over 9/11
and the recession just after publicly fantasizing a process
he made severe errors with. God Bless America.
3. “I read the report that came out of the bureaucracy,” Bush
said, referring to the now infamous EPA report that stated
humans did indeed influence global warming. He
lied. He never read it.
Joseph Arrieta is a writer and web producer living in San