The presidential campaign has made one thing clear: The Bush administration employs a strategy of lies and dirty tricks to stay in power.
This is well documented. The administration predicated its war in Iraq on false information. Bush campaign surrogate Swift Boat Veterans for Truth fictionalized Kerry’s service in Vietnam. And the Department of Homeland Security seemingly issues terror alerts with every Kerry uptick in the polls.
This venal strategy was at its most blatant when Dick Cheney told a crowd in Des Moines that a Kerry win would inexorably lead to another September 11: “It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”
Is the GOP actually suggesting that veteran John Kerry will herald the end times, while the lying George Bush is America’s savior? Apparently so.
Wayne Slater, Texas journalist and co-author of Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, notes that Rove has built a career on attacking opponents’ strengths, not their weaknesses. The Swift Boat campaign against Kerry recalls the Rove strategy against John McCain in 2000. After winning in New Hampshire, McCain tanked in South Carolina after voters “learned” that his wife was a drug addict, he was unstable and the two had a black child.
Dirty tricks underpin the Bush operation because winning is the only goal. Rove and Co. have internalized the teachings of political philosopher Leo Strauss, who maintained that deception and lies are necessary political tools. Take the administration’s response to the 9⁄11 investigations.
Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant and friend to two 9⁄11 terrorists, was withheld from investigators despite repeated requests. “The administration would not sanction a staff interview with [Shaikh]. Nor did the administration agree to allow the FBI to serve a subpoena or a notice of deposition on [Shaikh],” the FBI explained in a letter.
In his new book Intelligence Matters, task force co-chair Sen. Bob Graham (D‑Fla.) writes that this letter was the first time investigators saw in writing what they had long believed. “The White House was directing the cover-up,” writes Graham.
So why isn’t the media all over this story?
For journalists to admit they were duped over and over by this administration would require that they own up to their professional shortcomings. So that job was left to a self-described “fake news program.”
Take this dead-on exchange between “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart and correspondent Rob Corddry over Bush campaign claims about Kerry’s military record.
STEWART Here’s what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry’s record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the U.S. military and hasn’t been disputed for 35 years.
CORDDRY That’s right, Jon, and that’s certainly the spin you’ll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.
STEWART That’s not a spin thing, that’s a fact. That’s established.
CORDDRY Exactly, Jon, and that established incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.
STEWART But isn’t that the end of the story. I mean, you’ve seen the records, haven’t you? What’s your opinion?
CORDDRY I’m sorry, my opinion? I don’t have opinions. I’m a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called “objectivity” — might want to look it up some day.
STEWART Doesn’t objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what’s credible and what isn’t?
CORDDRY Whoa-ho! Sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.