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GOP Deploys Team Bush to Accuse Obama of Lying

November 5, 2013

For Republicans, nothing succeeds like failure. For proof, look no further than your television screen or the pages of the Washington Post. There, you will find George W. Bush's Iraq war salesman Andrew Card and speechwriter turned torture enthusiast Marc Thiessen calling President Obama a liar over his pledge that Americans could keep their current health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
To be sure, Obama cut corners in not stressing often enough that employers (as they have for years) might choose to alter their workers' coverage or that insurers selling substandard individual policies not grandfathered by the ACA in March 2010 would have to amend, replace or drop them. But for former Bush chief of staff Andy Card, Obama's was an effort "to mislead the American people for so long":

"So I do think words matter when they come out of the President's mouth, and people at the White House understand that and they should be helping to make sure his words are taken for what they are, the truth."

That's an amazing claim for Card to make, given his vital role in helping George W. Bush sell the Iraq war to the American people. It was Card, after all, who famously declared late in the summer of 2002:

''From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.''

That product was the invasion of Iraq. And Team Bush introduced it with a flourish that fall. In an October 7 address in Cincinnati, President Bush warned, "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." That echoed the talking point National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice mouthed a month earlier, when she fretted, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Addressing the VFW nearly six months before Colin Powell would make his infamous presentation to the United Nations, Vice President Dick Cheney was unequivocal about the threat from Saddam Hussein:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors -- confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth."

Of course, it didn't turn out that way. Iraq didn't seek uranium in Niger. Saddam wasn't developing nuclear weapons. And years after its total debunking, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer insisted in March 2009:

"After September 11th having been hit once how could we take a chance that Saddam might strike again? And that's the threat that has been removed and I think we are all safer with that threat removed."

Amazingly, just days later former Bush National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Charlie Rose, "No one was arguing that Saddam Hussein somehow had something to do with 9/11." Of course, Condi had done just that as late as September 2006:

"There were ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime."

But in the Bizarro World inhabited by former Bush speechwriter turned Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, those things never happened. While Obama's is the "Dishonest Presidency," George W. Bush never lied about aluminum tubes or yellow cake. "Mission Accomplished" was the equivalent of an ill-timed fart. Bush was just wrong. As for the words that stumbled out of Dubya's mouth:

In the Bush White House, we speechwriters would often come up with what we thought were great turns of phrase to help the president explain his policies. But we also had a strict fact-checking process, where every iteration of every proposed presidential utterance was scrubbed to ensure it was both accurate and defensible. If the fact-checkers told us a line was inaccurate, we would either kill it or find another way to make the point accurately. I cannot imagine a scenario in which the fact-checkers or White House policy advisers would tell us that something in a draft speech was factually incorrect and that guidance would be ignored or overruled by the president's political advisers.

Thiessen would have done well to consult with Karl Rove before making that statement. As Peter Baker documented in the New York Times in March 2010 ("Rove on Iraq: Without W.M.D. Threat, Bush Wouldn't Have Gone to War"), Turdblossom's lament wasn't that he had undermined the veracity of President Bush's claims in the White House, but that he hadn't done it enough:

"Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it," he writes. "Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq's horrendous human rights violations."
He adds: "So, then, did Bush lie us into war? Absolutely not." But Mr. Rove said the White House had only a "weak response" to the harmful allegation, which became "a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency."

Now, as the Affordable Care Act is estimated to enable health coverage for seven million more Americans next year alone while the ACA's "lemon law" assure better policies for millions more, Marc Thiessen has a different conclusion:

"Obama lied and the individual market died."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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