Wednesday, December 3, 2008
He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual.
— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr
It is with a sense of loss that the columnist begins cleaning out files filled with examples of a corrupt administration that beg to be exposed to the light of day. After all, there will be little sense in demonstrating the corruptness of George Bush and Dick Cheney when they have been converted from constitutional terrorists to pathetic footnotes. However, a few weeks remain to take advantage of the saved clippings and this week we examine two examples of how lying was used in ways not heretofore widely noted. (Lying, of course, will be as much a legacy of George W. Bush as the use of torture to mangle the English language.) No description of Bush lies would be complete without at least one reference to Iraq.
Two days before the day on which the entire country was to give thanks that George Bush had less than two months left in the White House, we learned about the lie we were told as to which countries were in the group that Mr. Bush baptized “the coalition of the willing.” The list of coalition members that he presented to the country was, we have now learned, faked, not once, but repeatedly. The disclosure was the result of the work of two University of Illinois researchers whose findings were reported in the New York Times. Scott Althaus and Kalev Leetaru of the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign made the discovery when trying to figure out what countries the “Coalition of the Willing” comprised. Here is what they found.
They discovered that the list of nations that made up the Coalition of the Willing was repeatedly altered by the administration without disclosing the fact that it had been altered. In a real-life situation when a government list that is posted on the internet is altered, the fact of its alteration is obvious because the altered list has a different date from the original publication. In the make-believe world inhabited by George Bush there is no need to make such disclosure. Thus, Messrs. Althaus and Kalev discovered that description of the members of the Coalition of the Willing was published five times and each time it retained the date shown on the original list even though countries’ names had been added or removed.
The first list was published on March 21, 2003, the day after George launched his Crusade. According to the report, the coalition comprised 46 countries. One month later Angola and Ukraine wanted to be added hoping, one assumes, to win favor with George Bush even though by the time they joined the war had begun. The original list was revised to add them and retained the date of March 21,2003 so those countries would not appear to be Johnnys Come Lately. Each time the list was revised it retained the original publication date so that only someone really interested in the identity of the coalition partners would discover the fabrication that accompanied the publication.
On the same day that we learned of the fabricated lists we learned from the Washington Post and other sources that the Labor Department lied to Congress in order to lead it to believe that “competitive sourcing” was working.
Under George Bush something called “competitive sourcing” was begun. The process involved contracting to private firms, work that was ordinarily performed by government employees. In 2003 when the program was begun the White House believed that 858,000 federal jobs were commercial and roughly half should be “competitively sourced.” The program was described in a memorandum issued by the Office of Management and Budget.
According to the General Accounting Office, the Labor Department lied to Congress by understating the expense of contracting out work to the private sector. According to the GAO: “DOL’s savings reports are not reliable: a sample of three reports contained inaccuracies, and others used projections when actual numbers were available, which sometimes resulted in overstated savings.” As a result, said the GAO, it could not determine if the Bush way saved money. Commenting on the report, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin observed that the actions the department had taken had hurt workers’ morale and the department had “grossly overstated savings.” (Anyone wondering if the failure of private enterprise to perform better than government enterprise is unique to the Department of Labor is referred to reconstruction in Iraq.)
According to the GAO, competitive outsourcing has been used by the Forest Service, the Defense Department, Homeland Security Department and other agencies when reporting on the cost savings they believed they had achieved. Correctly identifying the savings is less important than creating the impression of savings. Impressions are, after all, more important than reality in the Bush world. One reality, however, does exist, even in the Bush world. In less than 6 weeks the nightmare that was George Bush will end and the country will awaken to a new day.