consortiumnews.com

Bush's Life of Deception

By Sam Parry
November 4, 2002

The Washington press corps has come grudgingly to the recognition that George W. Bush is “malleable” with the truth, as the Washington Post delicately put it. Pressing for war with Iraq, Bush has been exaggerating his case so much that even CIA analysts are complaining, as a number of newspapers have now reported.

But the underlying reality about Bush’s honesty is far worse. Throughout his adult life, Bush has dodged the truth along with personal responsibility for his actions. Indeed, a remarkable feature of his presidency is the gap between Bush's public image as a straight-talking everyman and the behind-the-curtain Bush whose imperial impulse sometimes flashes into public view.

Like a boy emperor convinced of his infallibility, Bush rarely admits errors, ‘fesses up to misstatements or apologizes for inappropriate behavior.

Especially since the Sept. 11 attacks and his soaring “united-we-stand” poll numbers, Bush has behaved as an imperious leader, treating others rudely when he’s crossed. In a recent example, at a summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Bush cut short a press conference with Mexican President Vincente Fox before the Spanish-to-English translation of Fox’s last answer was completed.

Upset over Fox’s refusal to get behind the Iraq war, the U.S. president “glowered during Fox’s windup and looked annoyed at the unruliness of the camera crews,” the Washington Post reported. “The last straw was when a cell phone went off, which infuriates Bush … In a breach of protocol, Bush cut off the translator before Fox’s answers could be rendered into English” and walked away. [Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2002]

Bush displayed his pique again when he felt frustrated over a legislative dispute on the homeland security bill. In a campaign speech, he declared that the Democratic-controlled Senate "is not interested in the security of the American people" and stuck by that charge although a number of Democratic senators had served their country in war and two, Daniel Inouye and Max Cleland, were maimed in combat. Bush rebuffed calls for an apology.

Bush’s self-certainty appears unshaken despite obvious and costly misjudgments, including his failure to heed warnings about the al Qaeda terrorist threat in the first months of his presidency and his rejection of advice that his tax cut would throw the government into deficit. Rather than admit to flaws or reassess situations, Bush digs in his heels (as with the tax cut) or moves to block public disclosure of the full story (as with stopping the proposed independent commission on the Sept. 11 attacks).

Iraq Exaggerations

While the signs of Bush’s imperial presidency have been growing for months, only recently have his tendencies to exaggerate, cover up and lie come into sharper focus for much of the national news media.

For instance, it's now recognized that Bush tried to scare the American people with notions that Iraqi drone aircraft might fly to the United States despite their range of only a few hundred miles. In a national address, he also cited a brief medical stay of an al Qaeda operative in Iraq as proof of an Iraqi-al Qaeda connection, though there’s no evidence the Iraqi government even knew of the man’s presence.

"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," Bush said in his Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati. But what Bush left out of his one-sided risk equation was the possibility that his administration’s actions may increase the danger to Americans, not reduce or eliminate it.

On the day of Bush’s speech, the CIA made that exact point in a letter to Congress. CIA analysts judged the likelihood of Iraq attacking the United States without U.S. provocation as "low" but rising dramatically if the U.S. prepared for a preemptive strike. "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or C.B.W. [chemical or biological warfare] against the United States," wrote CIA director George Tenet. "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions." [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Misleading the Nation to War.”]

While the CIA analysis might seem obvious – when people are threatened, they'll take counter-measures – Bush reacted like a monarch who despises contradiction. He authorized a special intelligence group under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to find evidence that would support the president's conclusions.

Still, when Bush’s recent false statements about Iraq are mentioned in the U.S. press, they are couched in euphemisms and placed in rationalizing context. In the Post’s story entitled “For Bush, Fact Are Malleable,” the subhead reads “Presidential Tradition of Embroidering Key Assertions Continues,” as if Bush is carrying forward some historic mission.

Direct language about lying also is avoided in favor of gentler language. “As Bush leads the nation toward a confrontation with Iraq and his party into battle in midterm elections, his rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy,” the Post wrote. [Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2002]

Bush’s “flights of fancy,” however, are not limited to his determination to fight a war with Iraq. They have been a lifelong trait, enabled by a press corps that seems to buy into the Bush family’s special status as American royalty, much like medieval courtiers averted their eyes from missteps by the king and queen. With his family name and his father’s establishment ties, Bush has always been shielded from the accountability most Americans face.

The contrast with the treatment of the lowly born Bill Clinton could not be more glaring. Nearly every rumor circulating about Clinton was fair game and the editorial boards demanded apologies for his mistakes.

Al Gore, too, was excoriated for supposedly exaggerating details about his life and his achievements, even when many of Gore’s “exaggerations” turned out to be tendentious interpretations of Gore’s words or misquotes by the press (such as Gore’s supposed claim he “invented the Internet” and his supposed statement about the Love Canal toxic waste clean-up that “I was the one that started it all” – neither of which Gore actually said.) [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Al Gore vs. the Press."]

Double Standards

This journalistic double standard, combined with the Bush family’s obsession with secrecy, has left key periods of Bush’s life cloaked in mystery. The pattern dates back to the wild days of Bush’s early adulthood, a period that swirled with rumors of drug and alcohol abuse.

Rather than demanding straight answers, the New York Times and other leading newspapers chastised those who jumped to conclusions about Bush’s cocaine use based on anonymous allegations and Bush’s refusal to address the issue directly. Rather than putting the onus on Bush to go beyond clever formulations, such as his claim that he could have met his father’s personnel requirement against recent drug abuse, the Times and other news outlets stressed the lack of on-the-record confirmations about Bush’s behavior.

Most news outlets were equally protective of Bush’s response to questions about his Vietnam War duty in the Texas Air National Guard. Bush has never given convincing or comprehensive answers to questions about how he slipped into and held onto a cherished Guard spot, allowing him to avoid service in Vietnam.

“My first impulse and first inclination was to support the country,” Bush recalled in an interview about his backing for the war effort. [NYT, July 11, 2000]. Yet Bush said no one to his knowledge helped him get into the National Guard. “I asked to become a pilot,” Bush said. “I met the qualifications, and ended up becoming an F-102 pilot,” The Associated Press reported. [AP, July 5, 1999]

The Bush family has denied that political strings were pulled, though the available evidence suggests they were. Despite having the lowest acceptable score for entry, Bush jumped over other young men waiting to get into the National Guard.

In sworn testimony in a civil lawsuit, former Texas Speaker of the House Ben Barnes explained how Bush won his Guard slot. At the request of a Bush family friend, Houston businessman Sid Adger, Barnes testified that he referred Bush’s name to a high-ranking Guard official, Gen. James Rose.

Barnes was questioned under oath about the issue in connection with suggestions that Gtech, a company Barnes lobbied for, was allowed to keep a Texas state contract in exchange for Barnes’s silence about Bush and the Guard, an allegation that Barnes denied. [Dallas Morning News, Sept. 28, 1999, and Washington Post, Sept. 21, 1999]

After getting into the Guard, Bush’s service record became another source of mystery, which attracted far less press scrutiny in 2000 than Clinton’s draft records did in 1992. Bush appears to have skipped duty for up to a year.

“In his final 18 months of military service in 1972 and 1973, Bush did not fly at all,” the Boston Globe reported. “And for much of that time, Bush was all but unaccounted for: For a full year, there is no record that he showed up for the periodic drills required of part-time guardsmen.” [Boston Globe, May 23, 2000]

Bush responded through a spokesman that he had “some recollection” of attending drills that year, “but maybe not consistently.” This dubious response satisfied the bulk of the national press corps.

Business Ties

During the campaign, Bush also escaped tough scrutiny of his business career, which amounted to a string of high-paying corporate jobs arranged or backed by his father’s friends usually ending in financial disaster, before Bush moved on to the next sweetheart deal. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "The Bush Family Oiligarchy: The Third Generation."]

In 2000, the heady days of the bull market, little press attention was devoted to the sorts of corporate insider deals that gained notoriety in the past year after Enron Corp.’s collapse. Many campaign reporters saw Bush’s intricate business deals as mind-numbing and thus of marginal interest, though again this attitude didn’t protected Clinton from years of investigative reporting about his failed Whitewater land deal.

By contrast to the media’s Whitewater obsession, facts about Bush’s role on the board of Harken Energy Co. have only dribbled out over the past several years. Following his family’s traditional pattern, Bush has rejected calls for full disclosure and insisted that enough evidence is already available.

The picture that is emerging is not pretty. Bush managed to unload $850,000 worth of stock in a mysterious transaction in 1990, while Harken was facing a cash crunch and was planning to sell shares in two subsidiaries to avert bankruptcy.

Outside lawyers from the Haynes and Boone law firm advised Harken officers and directors on June 15, 1990, that if they possessed any negative information about the company’s outlook, a stock sale might be viewed as illegal trading. Bush, who had attended a meeting four days earlier on the plan to sell off the two subsidiaries, went ahead anyway.

On June 22, 1990, Bush sold 212,140 shares to a still-unidentified buyer who spared Bush the trouble of selling on the open market, which likely would have tanked Harken’s lightly traded stock and meant less money for Bush. The sale also preceded Harken’s disclosure of more than $23 million in losses for the second quarter, which caused the stock to fall 20 percent before recovering for a time.

To make matters worse, Bush missed deadlines by up to eight months for disclosing four stock sales to the Securities and Exchange Commission. After the missed deadlines were noted in published reports in 1991, the SEC opened an insider-trading investigation. At the time, Bush’s father was president of the United States and the person who appointed the SEC chairman. 

George W. Bush denied any wrongdoing in the Harken stock sales. He insisted that he had sold into the “good news” of Harken landing offshore drilling rights in Bahrain. Bush’s lawyers also argued that he had cleared the stock sale with the Haynes and Boone lawyers, a claim that proved to be important in the SEC’s decision to close the investigation on Aug. 21, 1991, without ever interviewing Bush.

But what the SEC didn’t know at the time was that the Haynes and Boone lawyers had sent Bush and other Harken officials that letter warning against selling shares if they knew about the company’s financial troubles. One day after the investigation was closed, Bush’s lawyer Robert W. Jordan delivered the warning letter to the SEC. Asked recently about the letter, the SEC investigators said they had no memory of reading it.

“The SEC investigation apparently never examined a key issue raised in the memo: whether Bush’s insider knowledge of a plan to rescue the company from financial collapse by spinning off two troubled units was a factor in his decision to sell,” the Boston Globe reported. [Boston Globe, Oct. 30, 2002; also, see Washington Post, Nov. 1, 2002]

Missing Paperwork

Bush also has been less than forthcoming about why he missed the deadlines for reporting that stock sale and three others. For years, he claimed publicly that he had sent the reports in on time and the SEC had lost them, a sort of the bureaucrats-ate-my-stock-sale-reports argument.

The issue resurfaced again this year when Bush positioned himself as a friend of embattled shareholders and demanded that corporate officers reveal their stock sales almost immediately. Asked why he had not lived up to his own admonition, Bush shifted the blame to Harken’s lawyers for the late filings, before changing his story again to say that he simply didn’t know what had happened. He never apologized for claiming falsely for years that it had been the SEC’s fault.

Bush used $606,000 of his Harken profits to buy a stake in the Texas Rangers. After Bush helped engineer public financing for a new baseball stadium, he sold his interest in the team for $14.9 million. [See Bill Minutaglio's First Son.] The Harken shares that Bush sold for $4 each in 1990 are now worth the equivalent of two cents each.

Bush’s pattern of glossing over the truth continued during his tenure as Texas governor and into the 2000 presidential campaign.

As Texas governor, Bush boasted that he knew how to work in a bipartisan manner. One of his examples was the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP]. “In 1999, Governor Bush and the Texas Legislature worked together to implement the CHIPs program for more than 423,000 children,” the Bush campaign said.

Yet, according to the Houston Chronicle, Bush tried to block the Democratic initiative in the Texas Legislature to expand the CHIP program to children of parents earning up to twice the federal poverty level (about $33,600 for a family of four). Bush favored instead covering parents up to only 150 percent of poverty (about $25,200 for a family of four). [Houston Chronicle, Aug. 30, 2000].

After losing the legislative battle, Bush turned around and claimed credit for the CHIP expansion and his success in working with Democrats.

`Dignity'

A centerpiece of his 2000 campaign was the theme that Bush would change the “tone” of Washington and restore “dignity” to the White House.

Yet, during the Republican primaries, the Bush campaign targeted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for personal attacks. By fall 1999, McCain, who spent five years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, had narrowed Bush’s lead and the Bush assault began.

In October 1999, McCain said, “'Apparently the memo has gone out from the Bush campaign to start attacking John McCain, something that I'd hoped wouldn't happen.”' [AP, Oct. 26, 1999]

Bush’s negative attacks intensified after McCain won the New Hampshire primary. To undercut, McCain, Bush’s campaign ran a misleading ad attacking the senator for not supporting breast cancer research. The ad cited an omnibus spending bill, which McCain voted against not because of the breast cancer research but because of the enormous spending included in the entire package. McCain complained, but the Bush attack strategy worked.

To bolster his conservative credentials heading into the key South Carolina primary, Bush spoke at Bob Jones University and avoided criticizing the school's racist and anti-Catholic policies. After nailing down South Carolina, Bush shifted gears again, issuing a rare apology for not having criticized prejudice at Bob Jones, a contrition that played well in the upcoming primaries in the North.

After securing the Republican nomination, Bush renewed his pledge to run a positive general election campaign, but that didn't stop him from making veiled personal attacks on Clinton and Gore.

Stressing the "dignity" theme in the first presidential debate, Bush tried to make an issue out of President Clinton’s practice of allowing his friends and supporters to sleep over at the White House. “I believe they've moved that sign, ‘The buck stops here,’ from the Oval Office desk to ‘The buck stops here’ on the Lincoln bedroom, and that's not good for the country. It's not right” Bush said.

Bush didn't mention that since he had taken office as Texas governor in 1995, he had 203 guests stay over at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas. More than half of them had contributed to his campaign, amounting to $2.2 million. [The Public I] The news media, however, took little note of Bush's hypocrisy.

Global Warming

Similarly, the press let Gov. Bush escape any serious attention over false and misleading statements about his record on the environment. In the Oct. 11, 2000, debate, Bush offered conflicting statements within the space of a few minutes, but the big-time press took no notice.

Bush’s first swing at the issue of pollution-causing industrial plants went this way: “We need to make sure that if we decontrol our plants that there's mandatory -- that the plants must conform to clean air standards, the grand-fathered plants. That's what we did in Texas. No excuses. I mean, you must conform.”

Just minutes later, he had shifted toward what sounded like a voluntary program. “Well, I -- I -- I don't believe in command-and-control out of Washington, D.C. I believe Washington ought to set standards, but I don't -- again, I think we ought to be collaborative at the local levels. And I think we ought to work with people at the local levels.”

Beyond the question of coherence, Bush’s statements seemed contradictory. Either the national government sets standards with compliance required or local governments can be allowed to set their own environmental rules, possibly in cooperation with business. Bush seemed to be having it both ways.

In Texas, Bush’s record suggested that he opposed mandatory standards even at the local and state levels. Bush cited as his most significant environmental accomplishment the setting of new rules for grand-fathered industrial plants, previously exempt from Texas clean air laws – what he apparently was referring to in his debate remarks.

But those plants were asked only to voluntarily comply with the clean air rules. The 1997 law carried no penalties for industries that didn’t seek a permit under the law. It was the kind of standard that polluting industries might have written for themselves. And as it turned out, they had.

Bush’s Texas administration had drafted the new rules in close collaboration with representatives of the industries being regulated. The role of industry representatives was discovered in confidential memos obtained by the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. [Sierra Magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1999]

Once in the White House, Bush followed a similar pattern, inviting Enron's Kenneth Lay and other energy executives to secret meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force. The Bush White House is still battling legal demands that the records of those meetings be made public.

Greening Earth

Bush also has muddied the waters on the global-warming debate, suggesting at different points that the science was inconclusive, even though U.S. and international scientists have long concluded that the threat is real.

Even industry front groups, such as the Greening Earth Society, which supplied Bush some of his data for his presidential campaign, no longer deny the global-warming trends, though they argue that global warming might be beneficial. The Greening Earth Society, which was created by the Western Fuels Association, argues that higher levels of carbon dioxide will spur plant growth. [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush, Coal & the Internet."

At another point in the Oct. 11 presidential debate, Bush said the Clinton-Gore administration “took 40 million acres of land out of circulation without consulting local officials. … I just cited an example of the administration just unilaterally acting without any input.”

Bush was referring to a Clinton-Gore proposal to protect 40 million acres of roadless areas in national forests from more road building and logging. As the Sierra Club noted in a press release, Bush’s statement was false.

“In fact, the Forest Service conducted 600 public meetings about the proposal nationwide and more than one million Americans urged the administration to strengthen the proposal,” the Sierra Club said. “There was ample opportunity for local officials and others to comment on the proposal.”

Defending his own record in Texas, Bush also asserted that “our water is cleaner now.” False again, the Sierra Club said. “The discharge of industrial toxic pollution into surface waters in Texas increased from 23.2 million pounds in 1995 to 25.2 million pounds in 1998, the last year with data available,” a Sierra Club press release said.

'Sound Principles'

On a more personal note, Bush contended that he was not a man who needed a focus group or polls to tell him what to think. "We've got too much polling and focus groups going on in Washington today," Bush said. "We need decisions made on sound principles.”

Left out of Bush's anti-polling remark was that his campaign had spent roughly $1 million on polls and focus groups, about equal to the Gore campaign’s spending, according to a report by NBC News. [Oct. 6, 2000]. Indeed, Bush changed his campaign slogan from “Compassionate Conservative” to “Real Plans for Real People” because of poll analysis done by his campaign.

In perhaps Bush’s most obvious whopper in the first presidential debate, the Republican claimed that the Gore campaign had “out-spent me,” Bush said.

In fact, Bush had raised and spent more than twice as much money in the election as Gore had raised and spent. There was no explanation from the Bush campaign about this inaccurate claim and the national news media did not press for one.

If Gore had made a similar misrepresentation, media pundits would have filled the air waves for days about Lyin' Al – as happened when Gore mistakenly recalled traveling to a disaster site with the director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, when he had actually gone with the deputy director.

But Bush had that image of a straight-talking guy. So his misstatements were given a pass or treated as innocent mistakes. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Protecting Bush-Cheney."]

Florida Recount

This pattern of protecting Bush when he lied or changed position continued into the 36-day Florida recount battle. Bush, the opponent of federal intervention in state affairs, was the one who rushed to the U.S. Supreme Court to get it to overturn a state court ruling in favor of a full recount.

The "strict constructionists," who long had decried federal courts making law, called on the Supreme Court's conservative majority to adopt new legal theories, initially to delay the counting of votes and then to impose an impossible deadline of two hours for the state to refine its recount plan and complete the tally. When the deadline couldn't be met, Bush was declared the winner.

In the recount fight, Bush also flip-flopped on his longtime contempt for "trial lawyers." Though Al Gore was portrayed as the one who would do or say anything to win, it was Bush who turned to the hated lawyers to nail down the White House.

Bush’s recount committee paid $4.4 million for lawyers to block a full counting of the votes in Florida, according to financial records filed with the Internal Revenue Service. That was more than the total budget of Gore's recount effort, which spent $3.2 million on various expenses, the IRS records showed. Bush's total recount spending was $13.8 million, about four times Gore's total. [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush's Conspiracy to Riot."]

On to Washington

Moving into the White House seems to have emboldened Bush in his confidence that he can virtually shape reality with his words and the words of his spokesmen.

For instance, when Enron plunged into bankruptcy in December 2001, Bush minimized his relationship with Enron's disgraced chief, Ken Lay, whom Bush used to refer to affectionately as "Kenny Boy."

Responding to a reporter's question on Jan. 11, Bush acted as if he barely knew one of biggest and most loyal backers. Bush said Lay "was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994" for the Texas governorship. Bush implied that he had gotten to know Lay as a Richards holdover appointee to a Texas business council.

In reality, the Bush-Lay relationship could be traced back at least a half decade before the 1994 race. It grew out of the Houston social circle where oil tycoons have long rubbed shoulders with political players – and where Ken and Linda Lay had grown close to George H.W. and Barbara Bush in the 1980s. Since then, Lay and other Enron executives have written big checks for one Bush initiative after another. [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush & Ken Lay: Slip Slidin' Away."]

Bush's defenders also argued that Bush's refusal to bail out the sinking energy trader was proof of Bush's integrity. The story line was that all of Ken Lay’s millions couldn’t buy George W. Bush. For that reason, Enron has been called a financial scandal, not a political scandal.

The evidence, however, showed that prior to Nov. 8, 2001, when the SEC delivered subpoenas to Enron, the Bush administration did what it could to help Enron replenish its coffers with billions of dollars. Enron desperately needed that money to prevent the exposure of mounting losses hidden in off-the-books partnerships, a bookkeeping black hole that was sucking Enron toward bankruptcy.

As Enron’s crisis worsened through the first nine months of the Bush presidency, Ken Lay got Bush’s help in three principal ways:

--Bush personally joined the fight against imposing caps on the soaring price of electricity in California at a time when Enron was artificially driving up the price of electricity by manipulating supply. Bush’s rear-guard action against price caps bought Enron and other energy traders extra time to gouge hundreds of millions of dollars from California’s consumers.

--Bush granted Lay broad influence over the administration’s energy policies, including the choice of key regulators to oversee Enron’s businesses. The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was suddenly replaced in 2001 after he began to delve into Enron’s complex derivative-financing schemes.

--Bush had his National Security Council staff organize an administration-wide campaign to pressure the Indian government to accommodate Enron, which wanted to sell its generating plant in Dabhol, India, for $2.3 billion. Bush administration pressure on India over the Dabhol plant continued even after Sept. 11, when India’s support was needed for the war on terrorism. The administration’s threats against India on Enron’s behalf didn’t stop until Nov. 8, when the SEC's formal investigation was announced and Enron admitted overstating earnings by $586 million. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush Did Try to Save Enron."]

Fibbing

Other examples of Bush being "malleable" with the facts are less serious, though perhaps as troubling.

Last May, for instance, Bush pretended to have read a 268-page report by the Environmental Protection Agency on global warming. The report concluded that human consumption of fossil fuels was to blame for rising global temperatures and would have serious consequences for the planet.

That was not the result that Bush wanted, a fact he made clear to reporters by demanding more study of the subject. "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy," Bush said dismissively. However, the White House was later forced to amend the definition of  "read." Spokesman Ari Fleischer explained that "whenever presidents say the read it, you can read that to be he was briefed." [AP, June 10, 2002]

Another case of Bush stretching the truth came in his explanation of why the federal budget had gone from record surpluses back into deficit, estimated at about $160 billion for the first full fiscal year of Bush's presidency. In speech after speech this year, Bush told Republican audiences that he had stated during the 2000 campaign that he would keep the budget balanced except in event of war, recession or national emergency.

Bush then offered his punch line: "Little did I realize we'd get the trifecta." The joking reference to the Sept. 11 tragedy – and to a term for a horseracing bet on the correct order of finish for three horses – always got a laugh from his listeners.

Beyond the questionable taste of the joke, however, Bush's claim about having set the criteria for going back into deficit appears to have been fabricated. Neither the White House nor independent researchers could locate any such statement by Bush. Researchers did find, however, that during the campaign, Gore had used the cautionary examples of what might force the government back into deficit spending.

A Life of Deception

Bush's supporters may argue that Bush's presidential whoppers are not unusual, that all presidents and probably all politicians exaggerate or twist the truth now and then. That was the point the Washington Post was making in describing Bush's malleability with the truth as part of a long presidential tradition.

But Bush's growing record of lies, both big and small, suggest something perhaps more troubling. His personal history of heavy drinking, likely drug use, carousing, disappearances from military duty, repeated business failures and political hypocrisies – combined with his ability to avoid ever paying a significant price for his deceptions – may have given him this sense of his own infallibility.

That view of invulnerability to consequences at a time the nation is facing an array of complex dangers could prove a hazardous mix. The pressure on Bush to revert to a lifelong pattern of telling lies and half-truths – and getting away with it – will almost certainly lead to more bending of reality to his political needs.

That danger is twofold: Bush may compensate for his lack of foreign policy experience by trying to make regional realities fit with his limited knowledge, and he may misrepresent key information to the American people to simplify his challenge of keeping the U.S. public onboard.

Yet at the core of any democracy is the right of the voters to know the facts. That is especially true for a democracy facing a world of crises.

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