State of the Union: George W. Bush and the "duty to speak with candor"

The president talks a good game. Someday, maybe he'll even tell the truth.

Published February 1, 2006 4:26AM (EST)

"With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor."

Those words came in the middle of George W. Bush's State of the Union speech, and we certainly can't disagree with them. We only wish the president would live up to them.

Again and again Tuesday night, the president said words aimed at obscuring hard truths and hiding the harsh reality that his administration has visited upon the American people. Bush talked about the importance of education for young people, ignoring the fact that his administration proposed the first cut in overall federal education spending in a decade. He talked of fiscal restraint and the need to be a good "steward" of taxpayers' money, ignoring the fact that government spending has exploded on his watch and that he hasn't once exercised his veto to stop it. He talked of the need to wean the nation from its "addiction" to foreign oil, ignoring the fact that that addiction has deepened as his administration resisted strict fuel-economy standards, proposed cuts in alternative energy programs and dismissed conservation as little more than "a sign of personal virtue."

Bush said that all elected officials must "never forget, never dismiss and never betray" their pledge to be "worthy of public responsibility," neglecting to mention that his administration lied to the American public about the Valerie Plame case and is stonewalling both Congress and the press on the Jack Abramoff scandal.

And as the president talked about the need for Congress and the White House to work "in a spirit of good will and respect for one another," he failed to mention the ways in which he's shown neither. He didn't mention the recess appointments he's made in order to circumvent the Senate confirmation process; he didn't mention the signing statements he's used to make it clear that he considers himself free to ignore Acts of Congress; he didn't mention the way that his administration has routinely stiffed members of Congress seeking information on everything from Katrina to Enron to the Downing Street memos. And Bush certainly didn't mention that his administration seems to have broken the law by failing to brief Congress on its warrantless spying program -- or that his attorney general not only failed to inform Congress about the program but may have affirmatively misled the Senate about its existence.

So "a duty to speak with candor," Mr. President? We're all for it, and we hope one day to hear a State of the Union address from someone who knows or cares about what those words mean.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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