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Why Bush is impeachable
The president has lied about so much, not just Iraq

IT’S TIME TO TALK impeachment. In January’s State of the Union speech, George W. Bush lied about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in Africa. Unlike the long list of other lies uttered by our current president, this one seems to have captured the press’s — if not the public’s — attention. If our last president could be impeached by the House of Representatives for having lied about getting a blowjob, well, it seems that lying to the public in order to drum up support for sending troops to war should warrant even harsher sanctions. But with so much of the nation seemingly sedated, there is little chance that any meaningful action will be taken against Bush and his enablers, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

This past Tuesday, pundits fulminated over the 16 words in Bush’s speech — "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" — and how it represented just one of many lies Bush told to bring this country to war. "So the problem is not those 16 words, by themselves, but the larger pattern of abuse of intelligence," Nicholas D. Kristof wrote in the New York Times.

He’s right, of course. But only partially. Bush doesn’t confine his lies to "abuse of intelligence." This president lies about everything. But first, let’s deal with the lie that everyone’s talking about. On January 28, Bush delivered his annual State of the Union speech. In it, he spoke the 16 words quoted above. It turns out that intelligence analysts knew that the information was false. Instead of taking the reference out altogether, Bush fudged it by attributing the information to the British. So even though Bush was conveying false information, what he said in the speech was technically correct. Eight days later, on February 5, when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his dramatic presentation to the United Nations Security Council, in which he tried to show that Iraq was violating United Nations Resolution 1441, he didn’t even bother to include the Africa-uranium information. Last Thursday, during a news conference, Powell explained his decision to leave that information out: "[W]e really went through every single thing we knew about all of the various issues with respect to weapons of mass destruction, we did not believe that it was appropriate to use that example anymore. It was not standing the test of time."

Not standing the test of time? After just eight days? In fact, the administration had known for at least a year in advance of Bush’s State of the Union speech that the uranium information was false. In a July 6 op-ed for the Times, former ambassador and foreign-service officer Joseph C. Wilson reported that he had been asked by Central Intelligence Agency officials in February 2002 to check out the Iraq-Africa-uranium claims in order to satisfy a request from Vice-President Cheney’s office. "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place," Wilson wrote.

The cynicism required to manipulate intelligence data to drum up public support for a pre-emptive war is truly breathtaking. And worthy of impeachment. Yes, it’s true that this isn’t the first time a president has twisted the facts to suit an agenda. Just think of President Lyndon Johnson’s manipulation of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to our tragic expansion in Vietnam. But Bush’s lies must be considered in the context of how he became president — through an intervention by the US Supreme Court. His mandate is a dubious one at best. Relying on half-truths, sins of omission, and outright lies to lead the country, as our appointed president does, shows a shocking contempt for the public.

Take Bush’s approach to dealing with the economy. As Slate’s Russ Baker clearly showed in a July 11 column, the Bush administration makes it a habit to "stifle data that had been widely released and to politicize data that used to be nonpartisan." Some examples? The administration’s attempts to stop publishing monthly Bureau of Labor statistics that track factory closings. The decision to stop releasing this information was made public in a footnote to the November 2002 report, released on Christmas Eve. The Washington Post noticed the footnote and asked about it; the reports resumed. When the president was campaigning for his last tax cut, his "administration deep-sixed a study commissioned by then Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that predicts huge budget deficits well into the future." Indeed, the Associated Press reported Tuesday that the White House had revised its budget-deficit estimates to a record-breaking $455 billion for this year and $475 billion for next year.

Two months ago, during his weekly radio address, as Slate’s Timothy Noah recently noted, Bush stated: "My jobs and growth plan would reduce tax rates for everyone who pays the income tax." Of course, as many immediately noted after Congress passed Bush’s most recent tax plan, many lower-income families — who pay taxes — will not see their taxes reduced because the newly generous child-care tax credit does not apply to families making less than $26,625.

The Democratic staff of the House Appropriations Committee has compiled a list of many such lies by Bush. (See for yourself at Some highlights: in January, at the one-year anniversary of the passage of Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, Bush said, "This administration is committed to your effort.... We will continue to work to provide the resources schools need to fund the era of reform." Of course, Bush’s 2003 budget, the first that he crafted after signing No Child Left Behind into law, proposed a $90 million cut to No Child Left Behind programs. Also in January, at a high-profile visit to the Walter Reed Army Hospital, Bush touted the need for quality health care for veterans: "We are — should and must provide the best care for anybody who is willing to put their life in harm’s way." That same day, January 17, the Bush administration announced that it would no longer provide health care to 164,000 veterans.

While much attention has been paid to the lie in the State of the Union speech — and Bush’s cheap willingness to let CIA director George Tenet take the blame for it — little has been said about Bush’s many other falsehoods. And scarcely anyone has been willing to state boldly that Bush is, in fact, a liar. As Eric Alterman observed in the Nation last November, this is due in part to the "culture of Washington — where it is somehow worse to call a person a liar in public than to be one."

Well, people are dying because of Bush’s lies. Because the president lied to Congress and the public, US troops are putting their lives on the line in a war that was avoidable. Meanwhile, our economy remains depressed and fragile as we cut domestic programs and taxes and increase our deficits to unilaterally pay for a war that is becoming a frightening quagmire. It’s time Bush is held accountable. America needs to wake up.

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Issue Date: July 18 - 24, 2003
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