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NYTimes.com Article: Dead Parrot Society (fwd)
by Boris Stremlin
26 October 2002 06:46 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by bc70219@binghamton.edu.

Krugman has become the one of the most astute commentators in the
mainstream US press.  Particularly interesting here is the last paragraph,
where he muses about Bush's long-term strategy.  The question remains, how
can the advantage is the president trying to lock in become long-term?


Dead Parrot Society

October 25, 2002

A few days ago The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote an
article explaining that for George W. Bush, "facts are
malleable." Documenting "dubious, if not wrong" statements
on a variety of subjects, from Iraq's military capability
to the federal budget, the White House correspondent
declared that Mr. Bush's "rhetoric has taken some flights
of fancy."

Also in the last few days, The Wall Street Journal reported
that "senior officials have referred repeatedly to
intelligence . . . that remains largely unverified." The
C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism was blunter:
"Basically, cooked information is working its way into
high-level pronouncements." USA Today reports that
"pressure has been building on the intelligence agencies to
deliberately slant estimates to fit a political agenda."

Reading all these euphemisms, I was reminded of Monty
Python's parrot: he's pushing up the daisies, his metabolic
processes are history, he's joined the choir invisible.
That is, he's dead. And the Bush administration lies a lot.

Let me hasten to say that I don't blame reporters for not
quite putting it that way. Mr. Milbank is a brave man, and
is paying the usual price for his courage: he is now the
target of a White House smear campaign.

That standard response may help you understand how Mr. Bush
retains a public image as a plain-spoken man, when in fact
he is as slippery and evasive as any politician in memory.
Did you notice his recent declaration that allowing Saddam
Hussein to remain in power wouldn't mean backing down on
"regime change," because if the Iraqi despot meets U.N.
conditions, "that itself will signal that the regime has

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 plan.

More generally, Mr. 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 the

It's tempting to view all of this merely as a question of
character, but it's more than that. There's method in this
administration's mendacity.

For the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique
trying to maintain a populist facade. Its domestic policies
are designed to benefit a very small number of people -
basically those who earn at least $300,000 a year, and
really don't care about either the environment or their
less fortunate compatriots. True, this base is augmented by
some powerful special-interest groups, notably the
Christian right and the gun lobby. But while this coalition
can raise vast sums, and can mobilize operatives to stage
bourgeois riots when needed, the policies themselves are
inherently unpopular. Hence the need to reshape those
malleable facts.

What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite
Mr. Bush's control of the bully pulpit, he has had little
success in changing the public's fundamental views. Before
Sept. 11 the nation was growing increasingly dismayed over
the administration's hard right turn. Terrorism brought Mr.
Bush immense personal popularity, as the public rallied
around the flag; but the helium has been steadily leaking
out of that balloon.

Right now the administration is playing the war card,
inventing facts as necessary, and trying to use the
remnants of Mr. Bush's post-Sept. 11 popularity to gain
control of all three branches of government. But then what?
There is, after all, no indication that Mr. Bush ever
intends to move to the center.

So the administration's inner circle must think that full
control of the government can be used to lock in a
permanent political advantage, even though the more the
public learns about their policies, the less it likes them.
The big question is whether the press, which is beginning
to find its voice, will lose it again in the face of
one-party government.


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