A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
July 9, 2002
Lie Father, Lie Son: With the Bushes, Lying is a Family Tradition
By Dwayne Eutsey
The spate of recent revelations that our selected resident of the White House has been (gasp!) less than truthful should come as no surprise to anyone.
After all, presidents, even the elected ones, lie. It's part of the job description: "The incumbent will swear to uphold the US Constitution while simultaneously selling it out to wealthy elites and corporate interests. Ability to lie through teeth a must so that no one can tell the difference. Some travel, occasional weekend and evening work required."
That's probably why the reports about Bush’s contradictory explanations for possible insider trading back in the '80s haven’t caused much of a stir among the punditry (that, and the fact that despite their best efforts, investigators have found no evidence linking this story in any way to Bill Clinton’s penis).
It also explains why news that Bush’s often repeated lie about his alleged campaign promise to keep the budget balanced except during a war, recession, or national emergency has generally been met with a yawn. Al Gore, of course, was the one who actually made the promise, but since he shaved his beard we don’t hear much about him anymore among those in the chattering class (he's back on that "Let’s-talk-about-the-issues-that-really-affect-the-American-people" kick again. How gauche.).
In all fairness to Bush, though, he did turn Gore's campaign promise into a joke. Somehow Bush has made it the set-up for his hilarious "Lucky me, I hit the trifecta" punchline that has them rolling in the aisles at GOP fundraisers. Bush must have been quite the card during those late-night bull sessions at Skull and Bones. I can just see him now cracking up his fellow Bonesmen as they sat around Geronimo's skull musing about what they were going to do after they finally inherited the world from their dads.
There have been plenty of other lies from Bush (e.g., "Kenny-Boy Lay? Um. Never heard of him"), but what makes his lying different from previous presidents is that with Bush, lying isn't just one of his strongest political skills; it’s a family tradition. For the Bushes, the art of lying is a code of dishonor handed down from father to son the way other families pass down cherished family heirlooms.
I'm not the first to point out the long, rich history of mendacity in the Bush family. Most recently, Mark Crispin Miller touches on this trait in The Bush Dyslexicon, part of which examines the impact Nixon’s ruthless truthlessness had on his young protégé, George H.W. Bush. Likewise, there is Neal Bush's deceit in the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s and Jeb Bush's lame excuses for "accidentally" disenfranchising thousands of African Americans in Florida during the 2000 election. And then there's that murky granddaddy of all Bush lies: Prescott Bush did not (NOT, I tell you) make his fortune with a little help from his Nazi friends during World War II.
The best overview that I've read of Poppy Bush’s vampire-like aversion to the light of truth was in an article by Weston Kosova in the August 16, 1991, Washington City Paper. Entitled "Whoppers! Reeling in George Bush’s Pathetic Lies," the article gave an insightful analysis of the way, as Kosova put it, "Bush has advanced himself by lying when telling the truth might have proved politically risky. The expedient lie has paved Bush's upwardly mobile path, from the 1980 campaign trail, to the vice-presidential mansion, to the White House."
As Kosova points out in the article, it isn't so much that Bush Senior was the first politician ever to flip-flop on issues when it was politically beneficial to do so. What was so creepy about Bush was his Orwellian ability to flip-flop drastically and then deny with a straight face that he had ever believed otherwise.
For example, prior to running with Reagan in 1980, Bush ridiculed Reaganomics as "voodoo economics." After joining the Reagan ticket, however, Bush was not only a sudden convert to Reaganism, he denied ever doubting the eternal verities of supply-side economics at all. He even went so far as to make certain no footage existed of himself uttering the phrase "voodoo economics" (he checked with his contacts in network newsrooms, including his nephew at NBC).
Confident that no evidence of his remarks existed, Bush told a crowd in Houston (speaking in fluent Doublespeak): "Number one, I never said it. Every network has searched for it and none can find it. So I never said it." If it's gone down the memory hole, it never existed, right? Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Only in this case, a clip of Bush calling trickle-down theory "voodoo economics" did in fact exist and Bush was caught in one of many of his doubleplusgood untruths.
Kosova goes on to present a number of other Bush-lies, including:
-- Poppy claiming that he, like Reagan, had always opposed Roe v. Wade (despite his long history of supporting abortion rights);
-- Poppy saying he was completely out of the loop on the Reagan Administration's arms-for-hostages deals with Iran. Caspar Weinberger contradicted Bush’s Sgt. Schultz-like insistence that he knew nothing, nothing about selling weapons to America’s enemies. As president, Bush pardoned Weinberger of any wrongdoing before he could give all the details...what a generous guy;
-- The time when Bush's DEA lured a drug-dealer to sell drugs to them in front of the White House just so Bush could hold up a bag of crack on national TV and bemoan how the drug epidemic was raging right outside the gates of the First Family’s home. (I wonder if Dubya personally "disposed" of that bag of crack afterward).
-- When the US indicted Manuel Noriega in 1988 on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, people started wondering what Poppy, a former CIA director who had met with Noriega, knew about Noriega’s drug activities. Bush denied knowing anything at all, of course, Hardly even knew the guy. Reminiscent of his "voodoo economics" lie, Bush even challenged anyone to produce evidence that he knew anything whatsoever about Noriega's drug trafficking. Shortly after issuing the challenge, the New York Times printed an article in which the US Ambassador to Panama said he had met with Bush in 1985 and discussed Noreiga’s drug activity.
With the increasing number of reports exposing Bush the Lesser's difficulty with telling the truth, it seems that with the Bushes the lies of the father have become the lies of the sons. But, a liar is merely a delusional crank if no one buys into his lies. I agree to an extent with Kosova and Mark Crispin Miller’s accusation that Bush-family deceit has often been swallowed whole by the American people. As Kosova pointedly remarked about Americans in 1991, "No one cared (about Bush's lies). Bush had learned from long experience that the national memory was short, and poor."
According to Kosova, Poppy Bush made the same tacit agreement with the country that I believe Dubya made with it in 2000: He agreed to lie to us, and we agreed to be lied to. Like Diane Keaton and Al Pacino at the end of The Godfather, the American "sheeple" don’t really want to know the truth if it's going to upset their pleasant domestic fantasies, and the Bushes all too willingly manipulate that self-deception.
Still, I don’t know. While there's some merit to that argument, I have a little more confidence in the American people than that. After all, Keaton's character ends up leaving Pacino in the Godfather sequel. Kosova's cynicism may have reflected the times when he wrote the article: Summer, 1991 when Bush’s post-Gulf War approval ratings were still as large as Reagan’s deficits were deep.
lest we forget, it was only a year later when Americans went to the polls
and dropped Poppy down the memory hole.
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