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No better example of this kind of purely confectionery Bush lie-for-sport exists than the president's fabricated near run-in, as he would have it, with an actual drug dealer.
"This is crack cocaine seized a few days ago by Drug Enforcement Administration agents across the street from the White House," Bush declared in a television address to the nation on September 5, 1989. Ominously, the president held up a clear plastic bag with crack in it. By God, Bush was saying, if you can buy drugs practically on the front lawn of the president's very own house, what borough or burg in the nation can possibly be safe from the infestation?
Days later the Washington Post's Michael Isikoff revealed that the DEA had actually lured an unsuspecting, low-rent dealer to Lafayette Park, just so the president could make his ludicrous claim. Bush could have made his point a thousand different ways. He could have held up crack seized in every major city in the country. He could have held up crack from anywhere in D.C. and said, "Look, even the nation's capital is filled with this evil crack thing." He could have just held up crack, period. The only people he stood to scare anyway were people who'd never seen it before. It would have been easier. It would have been just as effective. And, hang on for this one, it would have been the truth.
But really, what stock does George Bush have in the truth? Never in his political career has anyone given him a reason not to lie. Bush, like any politician, conducts his life by a rather rudimentary code: What profits him most, he does most. What profits him least, he does least. And Bush has profited most from lying. Consider it from his point of view: In 1980 he lied about his stand on abortion; he lied about his opposition to Reaganomics; and he won the vice presidency. In 1988 he lied about his knowledge about arms sales to Iran; he lied about his involvement with Noriega; he made a reckless pledge not to raise taxes; and he was handed the presidency.
Naturally, then, where he must lie to save face or to conceal a blunder, he does so willingly. Where the truth will do nicely, he will sometimes lie anyway.
Thus, the Supreme Court rules that burning the American flag is protected speech under the First Amendment, and Bush rallies behind the decision, saying that as president, it is his duty to uphold the law. One week later he is lobbying angrily against the ruling, demanding a Constitutional amendment to supersede it.
Bush informs the nation one day that we must grant most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status to China, so that we can begin to see signs of democratic reform. That same week he rebukes Cuba, warning Fidel Castro that Cuba will never be granted MFN until he begins to see signs of democratic reform.
Since moving into the Oval Office, lies like these, lies that have maintained soaring deficits, expedited wars, and supported dictators have made Bush the most popular president in history. So why shouldn't he lie, when we have made lying so good for him? Upon taking office, Bush made a tacit agreement with the country. He agreed to lie to us, and we agreed to be lied to. So far both of us have held up our ends of the deal.
Ultimately, any indictment of the president's lies is an indictment of ourselves. In the case of Bush vs. the United States, perhaps it is we who should be jailed.