October 25, 2003


Has George W. Bush Met His Own Ken Starr? (John W. Dean, Findlaw's Writ, 10/24/2000)

The Washington editor of The Nation, David Corn, has written a powerful -- not to mention disquieting -- 324-page polemic addressing the pervasive mendacity of George W. Bush's administration. It is entitled The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.

Actually, calling the book a polemic is misleading. It may be more accurate to call it a bill of particulars -- the document that provides the specific charges underlying an indictment.

In this case, the charges are highly credible. Corn is an experienced and respected Washington journalist. His evidence is overwhelming ...

This is not a Bush-bashing book.

It would be interesting to know what, according to lefties, would qualify as a Bush-bashing book.

However, the important contribution of this article is that it helps us conservatives understand what lefties mean when they say, "He lied."

How should we judge Presidential lies?

Corn himself implicitly suggests a few criteria. He notes that it is not enough for a president and his principal aides to refrain from making knowingly false statements. Rather, they must find the truth, and if they can't, must say so. In addition, an error in a presidential statement, when discovered, is every bit equal to a false statement if not corrected immediately.

I agree. And that means that it is no defense that a President is unaware.... The obligation to find the truth remains.

In other words:
  • To fail to know the truth, and not pronounce one's ignorance, is a lie. [For "if they can't [find the truth], they must say so."]
  • To fail to know the truth, even if one pronounces one's ignorance, is a lie. [For "it is no defense that a President is unaware.... The obligation to find the truth remains."]
  • New knowledge which corrects old knowledge and is not revealed immediately, is a lie. [For "an error ... is ... a false statement if not corrected immediately."]

    These assertions become all the more remarkable when one considers that we are at war, and all the most famous "lies" have to do with the war. In a past war, the slogan was, "Loose lips sink ships!" Now the left would substitute, "Tell all or be condemned of lying!" For if the president accurately and immediately limns the extent of his ignorance, he necessarily reveals the scope of his knowledge; if he immediately corrects any misimpression, he necessarily reveals the content of his knowledge.

    In fact, especially in wartime, information is a President's chief asset, and it must be played out as carefully as a poker player's chips. Mr. Dean here is requiring George W. Bush to be incompetent at conducting the Presidency, or to stand condemned in his own eyes.

    In the Christian tradition, one must never lie; but a lie is merely, and only, the making of a knowingly false statement. Contra Dean and Corn, it is enough "to refrain from making knowingly false statements." In fact, one can and should release true information selectively in order to create a false impression if that will serve the cause of goodness. A famous case was St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria in a time of persecution, who set forth on a boat on the Nile trying to escape Roman soldiers who would kill him. Seeing that he could not outrow his pursuers, he turned his boat and rowed directly toward them. As they drew near, a Roman called out, "Where is the traitor Athanasius?" Athanasius gaily called back, "Not far away!" The Roman soldiers rowed on.

    The left, whose standard of honesty for the Clinton administration fell far short of this Christian position, is now proposing new standards of honesty for a Republican administration that are far more stringent than the Christian position. Yet leftists do not argue for these new standards in a way that would be persuasive to conservatives. Their writings seem to be directed solely at those who already agree with them -- at those who isolate themselves in the left's intellectual ghetto.

    Posted by Paul Jaminet at October 25, 2003 12:42 PM
  • Comments

    The liberal crack-up is hitting full stride. It may only be a matter of time. If this passes for anything other than a form of mild insanity...

    Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 25, 2003 3:11 PM

    Apparently it is OK to spend the income of the top 5%of wage earners 12 times over, or claim they know how much some putative government program will cost.

    And, certainly, it is telling the truth to not loudly proclaim when they got it wrong.

    What a load of bullsh[stuff]t.

    Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 25, 2003 3:35 PM

    And they will abandon completely these high standards when judging a Dean or Rodham or Gore administration. Because the motives justify the means.

    Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 25, 2003 3:36 PM

    I take this as an implicit recognition of their complete and total failure to lay a glove on the president and the administration when it comes to honesty and integrity.

    Posted by: David Cohen at October 25, 2003 4:59 PM

    Hmmm. Does the receiver of information have any obligation to listen to it?

    I mean, if Bush says the war on terrorism is going to be long and difficult, is even a leftist obliged to acknowledge that Bush says the war on terrorism is going to be long and difficult, or can he just keep saying that Bush said it was going to be quick and easy.

    David, I don't know that I'd agree that the left has failed to lay a glove on Bush as regards honesty. The notion that he is dishonest is pretty widespread among my acquaintance, and on subjects (like the one I opened with) where the facts are pretty easy to get at.

    Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 25, 2003 8:18 PM

    People want lies (outright deceit) to be easy to find - but they are not. Was LBJ lying about Vietnam (especially after the '66 elections)? Was Nixon lying about the economy (especially after the inflation worm turned in early '73)? Was Carter lying about the Soviets up until the winter of 1979? Did GHWB lie about the economy through the summer of 1990? Certainly each of these men made fatuous statements to support their administrations, but did they lie?

    It is extremely difficult to maintain a lie - many presidents have been stupid and believed (or claimed to believe) fantasies - Roosevelt, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton come to mind - but that is not lying. To my mind, only Nixon and Clinton went out of their way to lie to the press and the people (upon direct examination).

    But it is almost laughable that the Left is placing so much energy into the chants of "Bush LIED!", immediately after their soothing dismissals of Clinton's problems (and to a lesser extent, Al Gore's). The average American does not feel lied to, and won't unless Bush starts acting like Nixon. Too bad for David Corn that he won't. As I have said before, the Left would prefer a saccharine liar to Alvin York. Most of America feels differently.

    Posted by: jim hamlen at October 25, 2003 9:49 PM

    They keep moving those goal posts back, don't they?

    Anything for power, but they can make the same argument.

    Posted by: Sandy P. at October 25, 2003 10:09 PM

    How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Posted by: genecis at October 25, 2003 10:18 PM

    It is a absolute tragedy what those drugs can do to a formely sane person.

    Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 26, 2003 10:06 PM