Bushs standing with the public has fallen because every aspect of trust has eroded.
The parody newspaper, the Onion , recently wrote a fictitious news story that started, WASHINGTON, DCDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that escalating violence in Iraq demonstrates that the Iraqi population is now capable of waging the Iraq war without outside military aid, and pronounced the American mission there a complete success. What makes this satire especially funny is that such an inane statement from Rumsfeld is imaginable.
Mr. Bush and Vice President Cheney came into office and cracked down on leaks to the press. Yet, when it suited their political whim, they both personally authorized leaks of classified intelligence information about Iraq, according to testimony given by I. Lewis Libby before a federal grand jury. What makes this especially disturbing is that Bush told reporters in 2004, If theres a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said in July 2005, No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States . McClellan didnt tell us that getting to the bottom of it means exposing the man at the top who said that he wanted to get to the bottom of it.
It isnt only the war; the pattern for this Administration in every aspect is to lie and bait-and-switch, in order to cement their plan. Such was the case with tax-cuts. When signing the first tax-cut, on June 7, 2001, Mr. Bush said, Tax relief is an achievement for middle class families squeezed by high energy prices and credit card debt. Now, the middle-class pays twice as much for energy and credit card debt is at record levels. The 2003 Bush tax-cuts were sold as the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Bushs Council of Economic Advisors projected that from 2003-2004, the tax cuts would generate enough growth to add 300,000 jobs each month. Those job numbers didnt surface but the real beneficiaries of those cuts has come to light. An analysis of Internal Revenue Service data by The New York Times found that the benefit of the lower taxes significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000 Americans with annual incomes of $1 million or more, about one-tenth of 1 percent all taxpayers, reaped 43 percent of all the savings on investment taxes in 2003.
Wait, it gets worse, wages growth halted also. Another Times article reports, the last few years have been bad ones for most peoples paychecks. The average hourly wage of rank-and-file workers a group that makes up 80 percent of the work force is slightly lower than it was four years ago, once inflation is taken into account. Thats right: Most Americans have taken a pay cut since 2002.
If that wasnt enough, a newly acquired confidential memo written by David Manning, Mr. Blairs top foreign policy adviser, about a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003 underscores official dishonesty. The record of the meeting concludes that although the President publicly stated that the administration was continuing to pursue a diplomatic solution in Iraq, Mr. Bush had already decided to invade. To restate, even though in March 2003 the President was giving Saddam public last chance ultimatums, he already decided to attack two months earlier. Bush wasnt truthful? (In the words of Iago [the sarcastic Parrot from Disneys Aladdin,] I think I'm gonna have a heart attack and die from surprise!)
The New York Times article goes on to say, The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups. Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment. Wow, did these guys get it wrong, or what?
On the topic of getting it wrong, who could forget former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitzs Senate testimony during the lead up to the war, when he said, Iraqi people would see the United States as their liberator and that Iraq could finance its own reconstruction. Further, Wolfowitz ridiculed Gen. Eric Shinsekis estimate of several hundred thousand troops as outlandish. Hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars later we are still waiting for the rose pedal parade that he promised our troops. One couldnt get it wronger than Wolfowitz.
One thing is getting it wrong; its quite another thing to just make up facts as one goes along. When it comes to making up facts, Dick Cheney is da man. Long after the CIA discredited the claim that Iraqi intelligence met with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in Prague Cheney repeatedly said that the meeting was pretty much confirmed. If thats not enough, Cheney later denied it. Rumsfeld was caught on Face the Nation denying his the threat was imminent statement. Dont they know about video tape?
In June 2005, Dick Cheney proclaimed that the insurgency is in its last throes and that he expects the military to be out of Iraq by the end of Bushs term. Recently, his boss said that Iraq will be the next presidents problem. Well, its got to be one of those; its going to end before Bush leaves office or after he does.
Lyndon Johnson won re-election in a landslide but that landslide could not save him from a pessimistic electorate; pessimistic about a drawn out war that seemingly had no end. The public became distrustful of a leader whose rosy predictions never materialized. National Security Adviser, Walt W. Rostow, may have seen light at the end of the tunnel but the American public did not. Likewise, todays public is skeptical of their president. Theyre skeptical of a president who demands trust but repeatedly proves untrustworthy. Theyre skeptical of an administration that governs by deceit.
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. When the bombs and missiles started to fall on Baghdad, over three-quarters of the American people favored invasion. Three years later, two-thirds acknowledge the fools errand we launched. Yet, it isnt just that Bush got it wrong; he was so confident that he lied, distorted and exaggerated to win the countrys consent. America will forgive a mistake. It will not forgive trickery.
President Bushs approval ratings have fallen because Americans have (finally) awakened. What Bushs critics have been warning since 2000, America has discovered anew. The latest Pew Research poll reveals that the most frequent word to describe our president is incompetent (29%) with liar at 17%. What some were ridiculed in 2000 for suggesting is now considered self-evident.
Joel Peskoff lives and works in New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.