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The Bush Top 10 Flip Flop List

October 1, 2004

Four years ago, George W. Bush accepted the Republican nomination for President, and famously set the moral tone - and expectations for his presidency:

"So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God."

It has not, of course, worked out that way. As we pointed out long ago, the Bush administration has been the most secretive, paranoid, deceitful and vengeful since the Nixon White House. To illustrate his sad record of deception, cowardice and vindictiveness, Perrspectives regretfully offers the "Bush Top 10 Flip-Flops" below:

Bush Top 10 Flip-Flops

1. Creation of 9/11 Commission

Opposed it.

Unlike Presidents Roosevelt and Johnson, Bush opposed an independent commission inquiry into the national disaster on his watch, 9/11.

"President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11."

CBS News, "Bush Opposes 9/11 Query Panel " (5/23/02)

Supported it.

Again, Bush's political cowardice was overcome by the demands of public opinion.  It is worth noting that his initial choice for panel head was Henry Kissinger, architect of the unconstitutional invasion of Cambodia in 1970.

"President Bush said today he now supports establishing an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

ABC News, "Bush Backs Independent 9/11 Commission(9/20/02)

2. Independent Iraq WMD Commission

Opposed it.

The Bush administration initially refused calls to establish and independent commission to investigate the pre-war intelligence and claims surrounding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

"The White House immediately turned aside the calls from Kay and many Democrats for an immediate outside investigation, seeking to head off any new wide-ranging election-year inquiry that might go beyond reports already being assembled by congressional committees and the Central Intelligence Agency."

NY Times (1/28/04)

Supported it.

Seeing the opportunity to deflect blame for his disastrous Iraq decision making, Bush backed a neutered WMD panel led by right-wing stalwart Laurence Silberman.  Silberman, who as a judge reversed Oliver North's Iran-Contra conviction, will not deliver the panel's findings until after the 2004 election.

"Today, by executive order, I am creating an independent commission, chaired by Governor and former Senator Chuck Robb, Judge Laurence Silberman, to look at American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction."

President Bush (2/6/04)

3. Creation of Homeland Security Department

Opposed it.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman took the lead in proposing the creation of a unified Homeland Security Department.  President Bush was staunchly opposed to such an expansion of the federal bureaucracy.

"So, creating a Cabinet office doesn't solve the problem. You still will have agencies within the federal government that have to be coordinated. So the answer is that creating a Cabinet post doesn't solve anything."

- White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer (3/19/02)

Supported it.

Once again, Bush snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  Not only did he flip-flop and support the new DHS, but brilliantly included a poison-pill ending civil service protections for DHS employees.  When Democrats balked, the GOP used this as a pivotal national security issue to bury the Dems in the 2002 mid-term elections.

"So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people."

- President Bush (6/6/02)

4. Prescription Benefit in Medicare

Opposed it.

President Bush's initially opposed the inclusion of a prescription drug benefit in Medicare; his proposed legislation specifically required seniors to opt out of Medicare in order to get drug coverage through private insurers.

"According to The New York Times, a recent description of the proposal in government documents envisions "no prescription drug coverage" for people in traditional fee-for-service Medicare."

- CBS News (1/24/03)

Signed it into law.

Facing overwhelming public support for the drug benefit in Medicare, Bush caved and signed the legislation.  He did, however, extract a price: the Medicare reform calls for privatization tests starting in 2006.  Worse still, the Bush administration sold the bill to Congress by lying about its true $550 billion (and not $395 billion) price tag.

"It's a good thing that Medicare pays when seniors get sick. Now, you see, we're taking this a step further -- Medicare will pay for prescription drugs, so that fewer seniors will get sick in the first place."

- President Bush (12/8/03)

5. Steel Tariffs

Supported them.

Bush, who campaigned as a free trade advocate, imposed protective steel tariffs of 30%.

"This relief will help steelworkers, communities that depend upon steel, and the steel industry adjust without harming our economy."

- President Bush (3/5/02)

Opposed them.

Facing sanctions from the WTO, the Bush administration quickly back-pedaled, and reversed the steel tariff regime.

"The Bush administration has decided to repeal most of its 20-month-old tariffs on imported steel to head off a trade war that would have included foreign retaliation against products exported from politically crucial states."

- Washington Post (12/1/03)

6. Engagement with North Korea

Opposed it.

Upon assuming office President Bush opposed negotiations with the North, including the 1994 Clinton deal, the South Korean "Sunshine" policy and U.S. economic incentives.  Bush added that he "loathed Kim Jung Il."  His rebuke of the Clinton policy occurred the very day of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung's visit to the White House, and helped lead to Kim's reelection defeat.

"We look forward to at some point in the future having a dialogue with the North Koreans but ... any negotiation would require complete verification."

- President Bush (3/7/01)

Supported it.

With North Korean nuclear weapons a fait accompli and U.S. forces overcommitted in Iraq, Bush now supports incentives to end North Korean economic and political isolation.

"Well, we will work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation. So there would be -- what you would see would be some provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefit after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs. So there would be some provisional or temporary efforts of that nature."

- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (6/23/04)

7. Engagement in Middle East Peace Process

Opposed it.

Upon taking office, Bush refused to continue the engagement of the Clinton administration in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Claiming that Clinton's failed diplomacy led to a new intifada, Bush refused to put his personal prestige on the line.

"Well, we've tried summits in the past, as you may remember. It wasn't all that long ago where a summit was called and nothing happened, and as a result we had significant intifada in the area."

- President Bush (4/5/02)

Supported it.

With undeniable chaos and mounting bloodshed in Israel and the occupied territories, the administration grudgingly made halting efforts to broker a deal.  Its "Road Map" was dead on arrival.

"If a meeting advances progress toward two states living side by side in peace, I will strongly consider such a meeting," Mr. Bush said. "I'm committed to working toward peace in the Middle East."

- President Bush (5/24/03)

8. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Caps

Supported them.

During the 2000 campaign, candidate George W. Bush advocated caps on carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. His campaign 2000 pledge offered legislation that would require electric utilities to:

"...reduce emissions and significantly improve air quality... [and meet] mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide."

- Candidate George Bush (cited 3/13/01)

Opposed them.

In 2001, President George W. Bush reversed course and staunchly opposed the imposition of CO2 limits.

"I do not believe, however, that the government should impose on power plants mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide, which is not a 'pollutant' under the Clean Air Act."

- President Bush (3/13/01)

9. Condoleezza Rice 9/11 Testimony

Opposed it.

In XYZ, President Bush and Vice President Cheney refused to allow National Security Advisor Rice to testify before the 9/11 Commission.  They claimed that important issues of executive privilege were involved, despite past testimony from NSAs including Clinton aide Sandy Berger.

"Again, this is not her personal preference; this goes back to a matter of principle. There is a separation of powers issue involved here. Historically, White House staffers do not testify before legislative bodies. So it's a matter of principle, not a matter of preference."

- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (3/9/04)

Supported it.

Bush once again courageously caved to public pressure, especially after Richard Clarke's damning testimony.  Rice appeared before the commission as part of what Bush advisor Karen Hughes called part of the President's "full cooperation" with the panel.

"Today I have informed the Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States that my National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, will provide public testimony."

- President Bush (3/30/04)

10. Assault Weapons Ban

Supported it.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush said he would seek renew of the Assault Weapons Ban, which was due to expire in fall 2004.

"It makes no sense for assault weapons to be around our society."

- Candidate George Bush (8/12/99)

"It is my understanding that the president-elect of the United States has indicated his clear support for extending the assault weapons ban, and I will be pleased to move forward with that position."

- Testimony of AG Nominee John Ashcroft (1/17/01)

Opposed it.

Bush followed the lead of Congressional leaders Frist and Delay, and letting the ban die on the vine.

"The President's position is very well-known on the assault weapons ban. Well, keep in mind that the Congress is the one that sets the legislative timetable, and Congress has made clear that it's not going to be coming up. I think you've had leaders in Congress state that."

- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (9/13/04)

Bush Flip-Flop Dishonorable Mentions

11. Identity of Person Who Outed CIA Agent Valerie Plame

Said would never be known.

Bush brushed off the seriousness of his White House breaking the law and jeopardizing the lives of a CIA operative and her contacts

"I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. I don't have any idea."

- President Bush (10/07/03)

Supported investigation.

Facing an overwhelming public outcry, Bush half-heartedly supported an investigation:

"The President has made it clear that he wants to get to the bottom of this investigation. The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter. The President directed everybody at the White House to cooperate fully in the investigation."

- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (2/10/04)

12. Creation of TSA,  Federal Airport Screeners

Opposed it.

As with DHS, Bush and the Republicans in Congress balked at the creation of the TSA and the take-over of private airport screeners by the federal government.

"The White House, however, opposes such a large expansion of the federal work force and has threatened to impose new aviation security measures by executive order."

- CNN, "Airport Security Debate Focuses on Government Role" (11/01)

Supported it.

Ever the political coward, George Bush concluded that discretion is the better part of valor.  Public opinion once again overcame his principled conservative opposition to the expansion of government.

"The law I will sign should give all Americans greater confidence when they fly...For the first time, airport security will become a direct federal responsibility."

- President Bush (11/19/01)

13. Release of Bush's National Guard Records

Opposed release.

The Bush administration opposed release of his Texas Air National Guard records.  First, the claim was that this was an old issue that had been vetted in the 2000 campaign.  Then, the White House claimed the records were destroyed.  Even as late as February 2004, White House spokesman insisted that the issue was settled:

"These documents outline the days on which he was paid. That means he served. And these documents also show he met his requirements. And it's just really a shame that people are continuing to bring this up."

- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (2/11/04)

Supported release, sort of.

Despite claiming repeatedly that all records involved in this "old" and "parsed" story had been released, documents continue to surface.  In addition to the White House's own releases of documents, more information has become public as a result of an Associated Press Freedom of Information Act suit.

"In 1999, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post that Bush finished his six-year commitment at a Boston area Air Force Reserve unit after he left Houston. Not so, Bartlett now concedes. 'I must have misspoke,' Bartlett, who is now the White House communications director, said in a recent interview."

- Boston Globe, "Bush Fell Short on Guard Duty" (9/8/04)

14. Extension of 9/11 Commission

Opposed it.

The 9/11 panel's mandate was set to expire at the end of May 2004.  Chairman Kean made it clear that additional time would be needed, especially as the administration initially withheld critical documents.  The Bush White House opposed his call for the extension, wanting the final  report delivered well before election day.

"President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) have decided to oppose granting more time to an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

- Washington Post, "9/11 Panel Unlikely to Get Later Deadline " (1/19/04)

Supported it.

With a building public outcry, the administration caved once again. House Speaker Hastert took the heat for the initial opposition.

"The White House announced Wednesday its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work."

- CNN, "White House Backs 9/11 Commission's Plea for More Time" " (2/4/04)

15. Bush's Own  Testimony at 9/11 Commission

Time Limit of One Hour.

At first, Bush bravely said he would "talk" with the commission for an hour.

"President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that they will meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning, commission members said Wednesday."

- New York Times, "Bush to Limit Testimony Before 9/11 Panel " (2/26/04)

No Limit  on Time on Bush's  Appearance as Cheney's Sock Puppet.

Facing growing public disgust, Bush decided instead to appear for three hours, but only in tandem with VP Cheney and not under oath.

"The president's going to answer all of the questions they want to raise. Nobody's watching the clock."

- White House Spokesman Scott McClellan (3/10/04)



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

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