LeftOut: The Bush Administration

One inconvenient truth after another.

No one would accuse Dubya of being well read, but he must have read a little Mark Twain. It was Twain who said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

Dubya and his administration can sure distort a fact when it pleases them. And it often pleases them.

With 18 months to go in his presidency, Dubya is suddenly faced with a lot of bad facts: Almost 3,700 American troops have died in Iraq and almost 30,000 American troops have been wounded.

Financially, the war in Iraq is costing Americans approximately $10 billion a month. Iraqi civilians are blown up daily. And more American troops have died in the months since the surge began than in the months leading up to the surge. There seems to be no end in sight to the violence, and no successful result seems likely.

The facts in Iraq would daunt most politicians and administrations, but not Dubya and not this administration. Rather than deal in and portray reality, the Bush administration simply issues another report that floats somewhere between exaggeration and hallucination. Of the 18 benchmarks set to measure whether the surge is working, the administration’s self-professed scorecard is: eight successes, eight failures, and two draws.

Eight of 18. Only this administration could grade its own paper and then call its 44 percent success rate “a success.”

Add to the 3,700 lost American lives one more casualty: the truth. This isn’t the first time the administration has sacrificed the truth for political purposes. A brief overview of the last six years of the Bush Administration reflects its repeated willingness to manipulate, ignore, or simply rewrite the facts when they do not support the administration’s political position.

For example, in 2001, Bush appointed Philip Cooney as chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that devises and promotes administration policy on environmental issues. Before joining the White House Council, Mr. Cooney was the head lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, which represented the oil industry’s interest.

Cooney, a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in economics and no scientific training, took it upon himself to edit scientific reports regarding global warming. Just by adding an adverb here and an adjective there, Cooney realized he could change the entire meaning of the reports. For example, he would insert the word “extremely” before the word “difficult.” He would change the word “is” to “may.” Words are powerful, and a few minor alterations by Cooney to scientific reports resulted in major changes in what information they conveyed.

Then, in October 2002, the Centers for Disease Control replaced an online fact sheet about condom use to appease social conservatives who opposed birth control and safe-sex education. The original fact sheet included information about proper condom use and cited evidence that reflected that sex education did not promote increased sexual activity among young people. The revised sheet deleted instructions on condom use and focused instead on sexual abstinence and the frequency of condom failure, rather than the 98 percent effectiveness rate.

Next, the administration suggested that having an abortion could be a risk factor for breast cancer. Under the administration, federally funded crisis-pregnancy counselors consistently told those who inquired that, if they underwent an abortion, they would be at an increased risk for breast cancer. No matter that the National Cancer Institute has repeatedly found that there is no correlation between an increased risk of breast cancer and abortion.

While all presidential administrations spin the truth, this administration’s willingness to ignore or change specific scientific facts has been so pronounced that, in February 2004, more than 60 leading scientists issued a joint statement that the Bush administration had suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and had taken actions repeatedly that undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels.

Those concerns were reiterated in June 2004, when 48 Nobel laureates signed an open letter to the administration, charging that “the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific evidence in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare.”

Now, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D., who recently ended his four-year tenure under Bush as America’s top doctor, comes forward and describes the administration’s quest to squelch the truth to advance its political agenda. During an interview on PBS’s NewsHour , Dr. Carmona explained how the administration politicized the facts on subjects from stem-cell science to sex education. He gave specific examples, recalling that he couldn’t get his report on second-hand smoke out timely because of “political vetting,” and that global health reports were “stymied because people wanted it to be a political document and not a scientific document.”

He also revealed that he was instructed to use Bush’s name at least three times every time he gave a speech.

And now the administration releases its benchmark report on Iraq. In the report, the administration claims the surge is “working.” In support of its claims, the administration reports that “unemployment has eased slightly and inflation is currently abating.”

Really? On June 1, the Pentagon issued a report estimating an annual inflation rate in Iraq of 33 percent and the Iraqi government estimated an unemployment rate of 17 percent.

Only this administration could call an annual inflation rate of 33 percent one that is “abating.” Only this Administration could call a 17 percent unemployment rate “easing.”

But then again, only Dubya could land on an aircraft carrier in May 2003 and proclaim the Iraq War, “Mission Accomplished.” Tell that to the families of the 3472 soldiers who have died since Dubya accomplished his mission, whatever that was.

Writing from the liberal side, Houston attorney Daryl Moore has a general practice and is board certified in civil appellate law.

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Daryl Moore

Daryl Moore is a former contributor to OutSmart magazine. 

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