Contempt for the Truth
February 26, 2005
By Ken Sanders
her confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice feigned
offense when Senator Barbara Boxer questioned Rice's integrity.
Regardless of Rice's declarations of honesty and integrity, it is
clear that she and the Bush administration have nothing but contempt
for the truth, for democracy, and for the intelligence of the American
As has been much ballyhooed in recent weeks, the Bush administration
likes to keep "journalists" on retainer. The Department of Education
hired conservative commentator and columnist Armstrong Williams
to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind Act on his television program.
The Department of Health and Human Services paid conservative columnist
Maggie Gallagher to write brochures and to ghost-write a magazine
article promoting heterosexual marriage. Ms. Gallagher also promoted
Bush's marriage initiative in her syndicated columns. Likewise,
Michael McManus, another conservative syndicated columnist, was
paid to promote Bush's Community Healthy Marriage Initiative and
did so in his columns.
Then comes the story of Jeff Gannon, or James Guckert, or whatever
his name really is. Gannon, a "reporter" for Talon News and GOPUSA,
was consistently granted day passes to White House press briefings
despite the fact that the White House knew "Jeff Gannon" was a false
name. He continued to receive such passes, and was even selected
to question the President at a recent press conference, even after
Ari Fleischer suspected back in 2003 that Gannon was a GOP shill.
Fleischer's suspicions were dispelled, however, after Gannon's boss,
Texas GOP activist Bobby Eberle, assured Fleischer that everything
was legit. Apparently, Mr. Eberle's word was good enough.
Further blurring the already thin line between news and propaganda,
Bush's Office of National Drug Control Policy produced video news
releases (VNRs) that looked like actual news segments and discouraged
the use of illegal drugs. These VNRs were distributed to local news
stations which "mistakenly" aired them as actual news. Bush's Department
of Health and Human Services produced its own VNRs, which included
newscasts and interviews, to promote Bush's Medicare reforms. The
Government Accountability Office recently ruled that both VNRs violated
statutory propaganda prohibitions.
Dissatisfied with merely misleading the public, Bush has resorted
to lying to Congress, as well. During the debates on Bush's Medicare
reforms, Medicare's Chief Actuary, Richard Foster, lied to Congress
about the estimated costs of the proposed reforms. As was later
revealed, Mr. Foster was ordered by his superiors at Health and
Human Services, under threat of reprisals, to withhold the cost
estimates from Congress. Indeed, HHS officials claimed they had
the legal right to prevent the communication of truthful information
Aside from completely subverting the principles of democracy by
forcing Congress to base a monumentally important decision on false
information, the Bush administration also violated federal law.
Not surprisingly, the Medicare legislation passed and the popping
of champagne corks could be heard from corporate boardrooms across
Within the last month, the Bush administration revealed that the
"new" estimated cost of Medicare was hundreds of billions of dollars
more than it had originally claimed.
In the days immediately following the collapse of the Twin Towers
on September 11, 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency lied
about the air quality and the dangers it posed to rescue and recovery
workers. As concluded by EPA's Inspector General, the White House
"influenced" the EPA to "add reassuring statements and delete cautionary
Leading up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush included in
his State of the Union address knowingly false information about
Iraq's attempts to acquire yellowcake from Niger. Secretary of State
Colin Powell presented to the United Nations patently false claims
about Iraqi mobile labs which were known to be mere weather-monitoring
vehicles supplied by the British (a fact later acknowledged by Powell
on April 2, 2004).
The Bush administration claimed Iraq had aluminum tubes used for
uranium enrichment despite the fact that the Department of Energy
concluded the tubes could not be used for such a purpose. As a general
matter, the Bush administration repeatedly accused Iraq of harboring
weapons of mass destruction despite the fact that neither the IAEA
nor UNMOVIC found evidence of prohibited weapons programs.
Of course, President Bush and his administration are not the first
to lie and manipulate information. Bush & Co. are, however, taking
the practice of information manipulation to new heights. For instance,
in 2004 the Bush administration spent 128 percent more on public
relations than it did in 2000. In his first term, Bush spent nearly
twice as much on public relations as Clinton, the previous champion
of spin and manipulation.
While our government's penchant for lying to satisfy its political
ends does not bode well for our so-called democracy, the media's
complicity and the public's apathy bode far worse.