January 15, 2003
Pathology?

From Dwight Meredith:


P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism: What Is Wrong With A Little Spin Among Friends?

Newsweek reports on a small piece of spin put out by the White House:

Bush wanted some answers from his team: the then Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, the then economic adviser Larry Lindsey, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and chief economist Glenn Hubbard. In the instant history that the White House put out last week, Bush’s question elicited a “universal consensus,” even from O’Neill and Lindsey, who would both shortly be fired. According to a senior administration official, all the men said their top priority was to end the double taxation of dividends. Not just to cut the tax on dividends paid by individuals. To end it.

The “universal consensus” touted by the White House took a hit today. The Pennsylvania Post Gazette reports the following:
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, in his first public comments since being forced out of the Bush administration in December, said money from the president's $674 billion tax-cut plan would be better spent on shoring up the nation's ailing Social Security system.

In an interview Friday for the KD/PG Sunday Edition television show and in comments afterward, O'Neill said he saw minor value in eliminating taxes on corporate dividends as proposed by Bush but added, "I would not have done it."


We guess it depends on the definition of “universal.”


I used to think that the frequency with which the Bush Administration lies about its economic policies was the result of a cynical administration-wide bet on the laziness of the Washington media. But this particular lie--that Paul O'Neill thought that dividend tax relief was the most important thing to do--has no such explanation. It seems to be completely and totally pointless: the kind of lie that is told only by people for whom telling the truth is never seen as a possibility...

Posted by DeLong at January 15, 2003 10:41 AM | Trackback

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I'd say that telling the truth is a possibility, but only incidentally.

Posted by: Matt on January 15, 2003 11:27 AM

Every statement released by the Bush White House is made for the purpose of political image maintenance. The truth or falsity of any of these statements is incidental, and was not factor in their composition. Time we acknowledged this.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan on January 15, 2003 11:45 AM

Indeed. And if a journalist questions the White House's "truths" then he is cut off the official news loop, and lumped together with those "stupid" "libural" NYT reporters.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 15, 2003 11:49 AM

I liked this exchange with Ari Fleischer about a week ago:

MR. FLEISCHER: ... We intend food aid to be viewed and seen and received as a humanitarian gesture of the people of the United States around the world. ...

Q Did you recall any instance where we did this over Germany or Japan in the second world war?

MR. FLEISCHER: I wasn't alive then, Lester. So check --

Q But you have a good memory.

MR. FLEISCHER: How can you have a memory if you weren't alive back then?


Ari mootifies the question(i.e. interprets it incorrectly in order to make it moot) and why? No reason so far as I can tell. Just because he can, I guess.

Posted by: Nick on January 15, 2003 11:51 AM

The European press is growing visibly disdainful of the American press. Two recent quotes:

"America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember... As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate [on Iraq] that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press."
-- John LeCarre, Telegraph 1/15 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,482-543296,00.html

>>In the American press, day after day, the White House controls the agenda. The supposedly liberal American press has become a dog that never bites, hardly barks but really loves rolling over and having its tummy tickled. Indeed, there is hardly any such thing as the liberal press. ... And political courage is especially rare. Reporters in Washington are kept in line by the standard threat: annoy us, and your stories dry up. In normal times this matters less, because there may be enough dissidents to produce alternative information. But the Bush White House's sophisticated news management has given them control. ... If there is a Watergate scandal lurking in this administration, it ... will probably come out on the web. That is a devastating indictment of the state of American newspapers. --Matthew Engel, 1/13, London Guardian http://media.guardian.co.uk/mediaguardian/story/0,7558,873395

Lie about O'Neill? That's a small lie, almost irrelevant. Consider that the entire national press corps, with the exception of The Boston Globe (and, to a lesser extent, half a dozen other papers) has shut out any mention of George Bush's desertion from the National Guard. Over 10,000 stories about Clinton's draft ducking, fewer than 100 about Mr. Bush's abandonment of post.

We are not facing a case of the White House lying-- all Administrations prior to this one do so, and are exposed. We are facing the situation in which the media *as a whole* will not report on certain stories. While I don't think this phenomenon is centrally coordinated, it could be-- one simply doesn't know what is going on. But I tend to believe that reporters, as in all businesses, tell the boss what he wants to hear. Since media are dominated by half a dozen large corporations, all of whose owners are conservative, that means that diversity of voices in the news has been all but extinguished. Lying about O'Neill is just one more manifestation of the loss of a free press.

Posted by: Charles Utwater II on January 15, 2003 09:49 PM

The European press is growing visibly disdainful of the American press. Two recent quotes:

"America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember... As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate [on Iraq] that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press."
-- John LeCarre, Telegraph 1/15 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,482-543296,00.html

>>In the American press, day after day, the White House controls the agenda. The supposedly liberal American press has become a dog that never bites, hardly barks but really loves rolling over and having its tummy tickled. Indeed, there is hardly any such thing as the liberal press. ... And political courage is especially rare. Reporters in Washington are kept in line by the standard threat: annoy us, and your stories dry up. In normal times this matters less, because there may be enough dissidents to produce alternative information. But the Bush White House's sophisticated news management has given them control. ... If there is a Watergate scandal lurking in this administration, it ... will probably come out on the web. That is a devastating indictment of the state of American newspapers. --Matthew Engel, 1/13, London Guardian http://media.guardian.co.uk/mediaguardian/story/0,7558,873395

Lie about O'Neill? That's a small lie, almost irrelevant. Consider that the entire national press corps, with the exception of The Boston Globe (and, to a lesser extent, half a dozen other papers) has shut out any mention of George Bush's desertion from the National Guard. Over 10,000 stories about Clinton's draft ducking, fewer than 100 about Mr. Bush's abandonment of post.

We are not facing a case of the White House lying-- all Administrations prior to this one do so, and are exposed. We are facing the situation in which the media *as a whole* will not report on certain stories. While I don't think this phenomenon is centrally coordinated, it could be-- one simply doesn't know what is going on. But I tend to believe that reporters, as in all businesses, tell the boss what he wants to hear. Since media are dominated by half a dozen large corporations, all of whose owners are conservative, that means that diversity of voices in the news has been all but extinguished. Lying about O'Neill is just one more manifestation of the loss of a free press.

Posted by: Charles Utwater II on January 15, 2003 09:49 PM

FYI, it's the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Posted by: Steven Husted on January 16, 2003 06:24 AM

Ari Fleischer's primary skill is not lying. It is answering without answering -- that is, responding to a question by emitting a series of words grammatically resembling sentences, but maximally devoid of semantic content and essentially unquotable. Anyone who conducts press conferences needs to know how to do this on occasion, but Fleischer does it all the time. I rarely recall seeing a transcript in which he has had to resort to anything so overt as lying. First, and with the slippery ease of one who does it routinely, he evades the question.

Posted by: Canadian Reader on January 16, 2003 09:50 AM

Don't worry: Powell jr. is going to fix all these problems...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 16, 2003 10:12 AM
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