Joe Conason's Journal

Bush's latest lie, blaming the USS Lincoln crew for that embarrassing "Mission Accomplished" banner that was stage-managed by his aides, isn't surprising. The entitled always blame the enlisted.

Published October 28, 2003 6:32PM (EST)

The entitled and the enlisted
When George W. Bush is prevaricating, he often utters a little wisecrack. At today's press briefing, when he was asked about that now-embarrassing "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Lincoln, he pinned that premature boast on the crew and then delivered his quip.

"I know [the banner] was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff," said Bush. "They weren't that ingenious, by the way." Heh heh. Over at John Kerry's headquarters, the rapid response team quickly fired off a rebuke to Bush, scolding him for trying to "blame" the sailors for the sign. The Kerry press release includes this paragraph from Elizabeth Bumiller's report on White House image-making in the New York Times May 16:

"The most elaborate -- and criticized -- White House event so far was Mr. Bush's speech aboard the Abraham Lincoln announcing the end of major combat in Iraq. White House officials say that a variety of people, including the president, came up with the idea, and that [White House communications deputy Scott] Sforza embedded himself on the carrier to make preparations days before Mr. Bush's landing in a flight suit and his early evening speech. Media strategists noted afterward that Mr. Sforza and his aides had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the "Mission Accomplished" banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot."

There's nothing surprising about this cheap little lie. The entitled always blame the enlisted. It's the American aristocratic way.

Our shocked Mr. Brooks
David Brooks wants you to know that he is just terribly shocked by the awful, awful pork-barreling indulged by some of his fellow Republicans up on Capitol Hill. The case he mulls today is a multibillion-dollar Pentagon scheme to lease refueling planes from Boeing -- and as usual the Times sage feels an urge to philosophize:

"Congressional Republicans need to schedule a meeting with the mirror this morning. The agenda item is their soul, and the questions to be addressed are: Why did I run for Congress? Was it to engage in the same pork barrel politics that marked the last decadent days of the Democratic majority?"

After explaining the Boeing deal Brooks frets: "More broadly this Republican majority is beginning to lose the idealism of youth and settle for the spoils of middle age. John Kasich used to rail against corporate welfare. Has that fire burned out entirely?

"If this deal goes through, it will be a sign that all those fine young crusaders who campaign as fearless fighters against the ways of Washington are slowly but corrosively turning into the sort of creatures they despise."

Those despised "creatures" are "decadent" Democrats, of course. (Wasn't Brooks lecturing us all about meanness a few weeks ago?) Either this longtime Washington journalist is utterly clueless about what the Republican revolutionaries have really been up to for the past decade, or he thinks his readers are. It is an indisputable fact that pork-barrel spending has skyrocketed since the Gingrich gang took over in 1995 -- and they have been shoveling it into their own districts with unprecedented greed.

For details see "Big Lies," pages 83-85. Or consult this remarkable letter, sent on Oct. 24 by Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, to its chairman, Ralph Regula, R-Ohio.

Obey says he is "deeply disturbed" by press reports that Regula plans to add a billion dollars in "earmarked" pork projects to the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill -- with every dime destined for Republican districts. The purpose, according to him, is retribution against Democrats who voted against Regula's appropriations package this year, which slashed spending for the No Child Left Behind Act and other education programs, as well as medical research and Meals on Wheels for the destitute elderly.

Obey reminds Regula of recent budgetary history that may enlighten Brooks:

"As you know, I have repeatedly opposed the earmarking of funds in the Labor-HHS-Education bill. In the 22 years that I served on this subcommittee prior to the Republican takeover of the House, there was rarely an earmark of any kind in this bill, and on the rare occasions when earmarks did appear, they were inserted by the Senate over the strong opposition of House Democrats. During that period, I never earmarked one dime of Labor-HHS-Education funding for my district. Significant earmarks did not begin to appear in the Labor-HHS-Bill until after 1995. In the fiscal year 1996 appropriation, after the Republican takeover, $33 million was earmarked. Two years later, earmarks jumped to $97 million and the following year (fiscal year 1999) earmarked Labor-HHS funds jumped to $300 million. In fiscal year 2000 they jumped to $453 million and the following year to $911 million. In fiscal year 2002 they hit $1 billion."

That lovely Republican revolutionary flame hasn't burned out, David. They're just burning tax dollars, as always.
[3:30 p.m. PDT, Oct. 28, 2003]

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