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Contempt for the Truth

February 26, 2005
By Ken Sanders

During 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 people.

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 to Congress.

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 America.

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 ones."

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.

Lies.

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.

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