Bush Campaign Lies

Friday, February 27, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #3: John Kerry has a Record of Voting Against the Weapons Systems that are Winning the War on Terror 

In an open letter to John Kerry dated February 22, Bush campaign chair Marc Racicot reels off a list of specific weapons systems and intelligence spending which he says Kerry voted against. I've broken his statement down into numbered items to clarify the discussion below.

  1. Your proposal to cut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion for the five years prior to 2001 (S. 1290, Introduced 9/29/95),
  2. Your 1996 proposal to cut defense spending by $6.5 billion (S. 1580, Introduced 2/29/96), and your support for canceling or cutting funding for
  3. The B-2 Stealth Bomber,
  4. The B-1B,
  5. The F-15,
  6. The F-16,
  7. The M1 Abrams,
  8. The Patriot Missile,
  9. The AH-64 Apache Helicopter,
  10. The Tomahawk Cruise Missile,
  11. And the Aegis Air-Defense Cruiser.
Although this seems like an extensive litany of Kerry obstructionism, the GOP got most of the items on that list from just three of Kerry's votes. In none of these instances did Kerry specifically vote against any weapons system. Rather, he voted against bills of which those weapons systems were a very small part. For example, all items marked in green were included in the Fiscal Year 1991 Defense Appropriations Act, which 5 Republicans and 10 other Democrats also voted against. It may be appropriate to ask why Kerry voted against the defense appropriations bill in 1991, but it's completely dishonest to cite that single vote in support of a claim that Kerry voted against eight different weapons systems. In fact, it's a lie.

In the case of the AH-64 Apache helicopter (item 9), what Kerry really voted against was a conference committee report, which apparently included funding for the helicopter.

As for Racicot's charge about Kerry's 1996 "proposal to cut defense spending by $6.5 billion" (item 2), that's true. Kerry introduced legislation which asked the Secretary of Defense to cut $6.5 billion from programs for which the president had not specifically requested funding, and use the money 'to provide funding for community-oriented policing', more commonly known as the COPS program. Kerry's bill died in committee.

Finally, there's Racicot's first charge, that Kerry proposed to cut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion for the five years prior to 2001. This charge is true, but misleading. In September 1995, the New York Times broke a story about massive fraud at the National Reconnaissance Office. Four days later, Kerry introduced a deficit-reduction bill, and it seems likely that the $1.5 billion cut was targeting the fraud in the intelligence agencies, not the agencies themselves. The whole story is a bit complicated; my brother-in-arms edwardpig examines it in sickening detail.

Fred Kaplan at Slate also debunks this lie, with a slightly different explanation of item (1).

1:48 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #2: John Kerry has Accepted More Special Interest Money Than Any Other Senator 

In a video ad on the Bush campaign web site, a woman browsing the internet for information about John Kerry learns that Kerry has received 'more special interest money than any other senator'. This claim is based on an article from the January 31 edition of the Washington Post titled 'Kerry Leads in Lobby Money'.

First, lobbyists are only one kind of 'special interest'. For most politicians (though not Kerry), the vast bulk of 'special interest' money they receive comes from Political Action Committees (PACs), not lobbyists. When PACs are included, Kerry drops to 92nd place among all current senators in special interest money collected.

Second, the Post article itself is suspect. The first sentence of the article ends ". . . [Kerry has] raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years, federal records show." That may be true, but Kerry has been in the Senate for 19 years. By limiting the discussion to the past 15 years, it seems that the Post is cherry-picking its data in order to get a bigger headline. Also, the total amount of lobbyist money cited ($640,000) is a cumulative total for those 15 years. Most senators haven't collected that much because they haven't been in the senate that long.

Brooks Jackson gives an even more thorough refutation of this lie, as well as another link to the Bush ad in case his campaign takes it down from their site.

And I know the point of this blog is to document Bush campaign lies, not hypocrisy, but it's worth pointing out that if the woman in the Bush ad is really upset about a candidate who accepts money from 'special interests', then she certainly won't be voting for Bush.

4:50 PM

Monday, February 23, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #1: Bush Volunteered to go to Vietnam 

On the NPR program Morning Edition, on February 23, 2004, Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot said:

"John Kerry served his country very honorably, and we salute his service. We would never, for a moment, diminish his service to the country. At the same point in time, the President served his country very honorably too. He signed up for dangerous duty, he volunteered to go to Vietnam, uh, he wasn't selected to go, but nonetheless, served his country very well."
It is well known that there are some unanswered, and potentially embarrassing questions floating around George Bush's record of National Guard service. What is beyond dispute, however, is that George W. Bush never seriously attempted to fight in Vietnam.

Bush explicitly checked the box marked 'Do Not Volunteer For Overseas' on his 'Application for Extended Duty with the United States Air Force' (scroll to page 22 of the document). In his not-so-memorable interview on Meet The Press with Tim Russert on February 8, 2004, Russert stated the facts: ". . . you didn't volunteer or enlist to go [to Vietnam]", to which Bush replied "No, I didn't. You're right." In fact, The Nation reports that Bush's primary motivation for entering the Guard was to avoid a trip to Vietnam. The Nation quotes a 1994 Houston Chronicle article in which Bush allegedly said "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." This quote may apocryphal, as different sources cite it from the 1990 Houston Chronicle or the 1990 Dallas Morning News. On the other hand, when given the opportunity to do so, White House spokesman Scott McClellan didn't deny the accuracy of this quote.

But Bush's campaign chairman somehow forgot this critical element of Bush's controversial military record. He decided not only that Bush volunteered, but that his service "compares very favorably" to Kerry's.

Bush's defenders will likely argue that although Bush did not volunteer for active-duty military service, in 1970 he did volunteer for the "Palace Alert" program, which sent qualified F-102 fighter pilots from the National Guard to Vietnam. But it's quite unlikely that Bush really expected to get sent to southeast Asia. According to an extensive piece in the Washington Post published prior to the 2000 election, Bush volunteered for the program just weeks before it was closed down, and anyway hadn't logged enough flight time to qualify for it.

Josh Marshall is most likely right when he says: "if he did sign up, he did so to sign up, not to go." So Racicot's statement may have been technically accurate, but was meant to deceive or give the wrong impression. By our ground rules, that makes it a lie.


Update: Via Josh Marshall, we've learned that on February 27, NPR did a follow-up report on the original interview with Racicot, which confirms everything written here. Racicot refused to be interviewed for this story, but the Bush campaign explained Racicot's statement by referencing media accounts of the Palace Alert program.

8:50 PM

Ground Rules 

The Second College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary provides the following definitions of the noun lie:

  1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; falsehood.
  2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression
It would be an ambitious project to catalog and thoroughly debunk all the lies coming from America's conservatives these days --- Al Franken has provided merely a Whitman's sampler of them in his exquisite book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right --- and frankly, I don't have that kind of time (though if there are any liberals out there, like perhaps the nice folks at the Center for American Progress, who want to attempt to lure me away from my current job, I'm ready to listen). So I thought that instead, I would focus my efforts specifically on lies emanating from the Bush campaign in their effort to slime Bush into office in 2004.

Now, I don't mean to throw around the term 'lie' too lightly. It is my goal to make sure that every instance of Bush campaign 'lying' which I post here adheres to one or both of the aforementioned definitions. If I can't document that a given statement meets this standard, then I won't discuss it here.

I expect that even with my mission narrowed in this manner, I'll still find I have more than enough material to work with. After all, all of the Bush campaign literature, commercials, web site content and statements from campaign officials are fair game; not just statements from the Shrub himself. And to be honest, the impetus for this project came from the fact that I did a quick search through the blogosphere one day when I was staying home from work to look after my sick son, and there were already two such lies getting prominent coverage.

So, go ahead and give me a shout if you know of a story which should be included here, but don't get upset if your suggestions aren't published right away, or ever. A lot of submissions won't meet the high bar I've set.

And many more, I'm sure, will meet the standard described above; I'll just be too darn busy to include them.

7:00 PM