Tell a Lie" vs. "Cannot Tell the Truth"
By Kevin J. Shay
I recently celebrated my 45th birthday on the same day that
John F. Kennedy presumably would have turned 87 had his life
not tragically ended way too soon at age 46.
My family left our toy-littered, roach-infested, two-bedroom,
$1,000-a-month castle - hey, we do have a scenic view from
our balcony of some pine trees that block the parking lot
- in the Washington, D.C., area to spend my birthday at Berkeley
Springs, W.V. It's a relaxing, artsy spa town not unlike Hot
Springs, Ark., where George Washington and others visited
more than 200 years before.
Despite my attempts to clear my mind of things political
for a day, it did not work. There were actually fewer pro-Bush
stickers and other material displayed in this small West Virginia
town than I expected. Some vehicles even bore Kerry stickers.
But when we came upon a small natural spring hole designated
as Washington's 18th century bathtub, I had to remark to my
son, "This was where a much better president than our current
one went to take a bath a long time ago. A loooonnnnggg time
"What's a president?" he asked, in the automatic questioning
mode of an inquisitive four-year-old.
I thought for a moment. "It's someone who leads the country
and lives in that big White House we saw in Washington."
He stared at the spring, obviously with other things on
his mind than presidents. "Can I take a bath here, too?"
As my son and his younger sister played in an adjacent larger
spring, I couldn't help but compare the "cannot-tell-a-lie"
reputation of the country's first president to the "cannot-tell-the-truth"
philosophy of the current one.
And I'm not alone in believing that Bush is the biggest
liar who has occupied the White House, if not all-time, then
in modern times.
Princeton University professor and New York Times
columnist Paul Krugman, who was once a junior economics staffer
in the Reagan administration, is among the leading voices
detailing the daily lies of the Bush administration. Here
is one excerpt from a 2002 Krugman column:
The Bush administration lies a lot.. He is as slippery
and evasive as any politician in memory... The recent spate
of articles about administration dishonesty mainly reflects
the campaign to sell war with Iraq. But the habit itself
goes all the way back to the 2000 campaign, and is manifest
on a wide range of issues. High points would include the
plan for partial privatization of Social Security, with
its 2 - 1 = 4 arithmetic; the claim that a tax cut that
delivers 40 percent or more of its benefits to the richest
1 percent was aimed at the middle class; the claim that
there were 60 lines of stem cells available for research;
the promise to include limits on carbon dioxide in an environmental
Krugman also noted that "Bush ran as a moderate, a "uniter,
not a divider." The Economist endorsed him back
in 2000 because it saw him as the candidate better able to
transcend partisanship; now the magazine describes him as
A 2003 Washington Monthly survey of conservative
and progressive pundits and journalists concluded that Bush
is a bigger liar than Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton. Among
Bush's lies they chose was announcing the U.S. had found weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq in May 2003, saying his tax cuts
would give middle-class Americans more than $1,000 each when
the super-wealthy's cuts were factored in to that equation
and average payers barely got $200, saying he'd "been to war"
when he used his family connections to get into the National
Guard during the Vietnam War and went AWOL during more than
a year, and promising to expand AmeriCorps in his 2002 State
of the Union speech before cutting that program's budget.
The Washington Post's political beat reporter Dana
Milbank, who takes on Democratic politicians as voraciously
as Republicans, wrote that Bush's "rhetoric has taken some
flights of fancy." To show you how vindictive and petty the
Bush clan is, Milbank became the target of a White House smear
campaign for that relatively light criticism. Even the conservative
Wall Street Journal reported that "senior [Bush] officials
have referred repeatedly to intelligence... that remains largely
unverified." Even Paul Sperry, Washington bureau chief for
the more conservative WorldNetDaily.com, wrote in 2003 that
Bush lied about the threat of Iraq before that invasion.
Politicians, including former Nixon aide John Dean and Sen.
Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada who has supported Bush
on many issues, have publicly called him a "liar." In Reid's
case, he made the statement in 2002 after Bush approved Nevada's
Yucca Mountain as the site for long-term disposal of tons
of radioactive nuclear waste. During the 2000 campaign, Bush,
who shows little evidence of having even a superficial interest
in science, had said he would base such a decision on "sound
science, not politics." Other individuals and groups - from
celebrated writer E.L. Doctorow and The Nation's David
Corn to Bushlies.net and MoveOn.org - have documented many
The lies of Bush Jr. are so numerous they not only fill
countless articles and columns, but several books. I contributed
to one, Big Bush Lies, a 270-pp. collection of essays
from academics, legal experts, financial leaders, activists,
and journalists. Published by RiverWood Books of Ashland,
Ore., and edited by BushWatch.com founder Jerry "Politex"
Barrett, Big Bush Lies is the most recent of such books, reaching
bookstores in June 2004. I believe it's also the most complete
and meticulously documented collection, covering Iraq, foreign
policy, national security, the environment, healthcare, religion,
education, women and minority policies, drunk driving, the
National Guard, and other topics in separate chapters. But
then, I have to admit to being a bit biased - although at
least I admit it, unlike Bush & Co.
The book covers not just the aforementioned lies, but ones
many people seem to forget, ones that occurred before he took
the White House amid lies that he actually won that election
and he and Dick Cheney actually lived in different states.
The lie that Bush won in 2000 has been covered in many places;
for the latter more obscure lie, on Election Day 2000, Cheney
still owned his home in the exclusive Dallas suburb of Highland
Park, had a Texas driver's license, listed himself as a Texas
resident on income-tax returns, and worked most recently as
CEO of oil company Halliburton's Dallas office.
Cheney got around the Constitution's 12th Amendment, which
states that the president and vice president have to reside
from different states or forfeit that state's electoral votes,
merely by switching his voter registration to Wyoming, where
he once lived, in July 2000. He continued to live in the Dallas
area; I observed television news reports recording Cheney
coming out of his Texas home several times after Nov. 7, 2000.
Furthermore, Cheney did not sell his $2.2 million, 4,700-square-foot
home until Nov. 30, 2000, well after the election, to Dianne
T. Cash, a wealthy Republican Party and high society donor,
Dallas County records showed. Cash owned another $2.4 million,
6,400-square-foot home in Highland Park at the same time.
From Sept. 2000 until Jan. 2001, Cash gave a whopping $204,433
to national Republican organizations, in addition to buying
Cheney's house, according to federal records.
Another lie told by Bush that you probably haven't heard
showed that his falsehood record extended beyond his years
in the White House. Several family members of African American
James Byrd, who was murdered in 1998 by three white men who
chained him to a truck and dragged him to death in Jasper,
Tx., said Bush lied when he told Salon.com that he called
family members to offer condolences as Texas governor. Family
members said none of them received a phone call from Bush,
that Bush declined to attend Byrd's funeral, and he only met
with one family member after much public pressure.
Such deceit goes beyond a few simple misstatements or stretching
the truth done by most politicians. With Bush and other administration
officials, lying has become a long-documented pattern, a policy
as sure as tax cuts for the rich, blood for oil, and world
Conservatives like to harp on Clinton's "Big Lie" that he
had sexual relations with a woman who was not his wife; beyond
the fact that Republicans, including many of the same ones
who condemned Clinton like impeachment committee members Henry
Hyde and Bob Barr, have lied about extramarital affairs, Clinton's
lie killed no one. The lies that Bush and others told to con
us into invading Iraq have resulted in thousands of deaths
and probably permanent damage to the country's international
reputation. Bush continues to lie to this day about the threat
that Iraq posed before our invasion, despite evidence to the
contrary from the CIA and other sources that Hussein was contained
and did not have weapons of mass destruction, as the U.S.,
Israel, and many other countries have.
Americans today are bigger targets for the growing number
of terrorists because of the lies of Bush & Co. We are not
safer because of those lies.
If Clinton got impeached by the Republican-controlled U.S.
House over a lie that killed no one, Bush should be banished
from the country for life for his lies. But that won't happen
because Republican hypocrites control Congress. Such is among
the many problems when Americans allow one party to dominate
our political functions.
I'm old enough to clearly remember the lies of Reagan and
Bush Sr., many of which were more "honest" lies - if there
is such a thing - than the present filth emanating from the
White House. Reagan Iran-Contra player Oliver North was honest
enough to admit he lied to Congress during that scandal. Today's
Bush administration not only refuses to admit its lies but
spins them around as a positive course for our nation and
world. John Dean, White House counsel under Nixon, wrote in
2003 that Bush's lies "are almost never justifiable... They
are typically of the most serious kind - lies that misinform
the public in such a way as to disrupt the proper functioning
of the democratic process."
I lived through Nixon and Reagan and Bush Sr., and I'm sure
I'll live through Bush Jr., even if he steals another election.
But I refuse to observe the lies told by Bush and not raise
my voice against them. I refuse to go along with this policy.
I will risk being branded unpatriotic and worse by Bush-supporting
liars and hypocrites.
The future of my kids playing in the tub where the president
who reportedly could not tell a lie bathed depends on it.
Kevin J. Shay is a Washington, D.C.-area journalist/writer.
The latest book to which he contributed, Big Bush Lies,
is available from RiverWood Books of Ashland, Ore., at http://www.riverwoodbooks.com/books/Big-Bush-Lies.html.