This man needs a factchecker


Geraldine Sealey
May 5, 2004 1:29AM (UTC)

It's time to revise the president's stump speech. We wouldn't want anyone out there to be misled, and surely, he wouldn't either.

We found, in just a handful of sentences from a speech Bush gave on his "bus tour," several misleading comments that would not pass the muster of even a junior factchecker. Even saying Bush is on a "bus tour" isn't quite right. Apparently, the president is taking the kind of bus tour that involves flying in an airplane.

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Here are seven consecutive sentences from Bush's speech at a Michigan rally on Monday. We counted four factual problems. If we had more time, we'd fact-check the whole speech. But you get the idea.

"My opponent admits that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He just didn't support my decision to remove Saddam from power. (1) Maybe he was hoping Saddam would lose the next Iraqi election. (Laughter.) We showed the dictator and a watching world that America means what it says. (Applause.) Because -- because we acted, Saddam's torture chambers are closed. (2) Because we acted, Iraq's weapons programs are ended forever. (3) (Applause.) Because we acted, nations like Libya got the message and renounced their own weapons programs. (4) (Applause.)

1.) Actually, Kerry voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. He disagreed with the president's rush to use force. As Kerry wrote in an op-ed in September 2002: "Regime change in Iraq is a worthy goal. But regime change by itself is not a justification for going to war. Absent a Qaeda connection, overthrowing Saddam Hussein -- the ultimate weapons-inspection enforcement mechanism -- should be the last step, not the first."

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2.) Saddam's torture chambers may be closed, but the president should be embarrassed to even mention the phrase "torture chamber" and Iraq in the same sentence this week. One Iraqi prisoner allegedly abused at the U.S.-run prison Abu Ghraib say he preferred Saddam's brand of torture to what the American troops meted out.

3.) Since no one, not even the scores of U.S. agents scouring bombed-out Iraq, has found evidence that Saddam had active WMD programs just prior to the invasion last year, it is not right to say they were ended "because we acted." In fact, they "ended" well before Bush rushed to war with shoddy proof. The UN says Iraq hadn't had WMD of any significance since 1994.

4.) Libya again. He continues to mention the Iraq War as the reason Muammar Gaddafi got religion and gave up pursuit of WMD programs. To get a different, correct view on this topic, read Brookings' Martin Indyk's piece, called The Iraq War did not Force Gadaffi's Hand.

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This man is dangerous with the facts -- and he's relying on the hope that most people coming to see him speak won't do some independent research to figure out what's right and wrong. But really, when there are this many bungled truths being tossed about in such rapid succession -- who has the time?


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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