Skip to comments.How to manipulate public opinion: William Rusher shows how Democrats have smeared President Bush
Posted on 10/09/2003 4:07:11 AM PDT by JohnHuang2
As most people know, the objective of the political opposition in a democracy is to attack the political leader by raising "issues" that gradually chip away at his image until he is reduced to bite-sized bits suitable to be fed to fishes.
The Democrats were making slow but reasonable progress at deconstructing George Bush in this way until Sept. 11 came along and rendered him as a strong war leader practically unassailable. Now, however, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, the failure (thus far) to find weapons of mass destruction has opened up a new and fruitful line of attack. The opening salvo was fired by congressional Democratic leaders, who demanded to know "whether George Bush lied to us" by asserting the existence of such weapons as a principal reason for war. Note that protective word "whether."
The liberal media promptly piled on adding, for good measure, the anonymous comments of former Clinton administration officials and cashiered CIA agents, all attractively billed as "experts" on the subject. The word "whether" somehow got lost in this process, and all that remained in the public memory were the three words "George Bush lied." In due course, pollsters began reporting that the percentage of people who suspected George Bush of lying had increased significantly, and this itself became a story generating gratifying headlines.
Never mind that President Clinton himself had said, on Feb. 17, 1998, "One way or another, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction." Or that Sandy Berger, his national security adviser, had added the next day, Saddam "will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983." Were they deceiving the American people too? Nobody thought to ask.
That was the state of play as the moment approached when David Kay, the universally respected former arms inspector whom President Bush had assigned to find out the truth about the weapons of mass destruction, was to issue a preliminary report. Obviously, what Kay said was going to be enormously important to the success of the Democrats' "George Bush lied" campaign. Bush's opposition solved the problem brilliantly.
What they did was obtain a leaked copy of the Kay report about a week in advance of its issuance, and announce that it reported finding "no weapons of mass destruction." This version was repeated daily until the report was actually issued, and it seemed to reinforce the perception that "George Bush lied."
Now, what poor Kay actually reported (and tried valiantly to restate when his report finally came out) was considerably more nuanced. To quote the New York Times, long after the damage had been done by the false characterizations, "The burden of Mr. Kay's report is that while searchers have not found any weapons of mass destruction so far, they have found evidence that Iraq still intended to build them and had retained equipment and personnel that could be used to do it."
Quite a difference! But the Democratic politicians were ready with their fallback position: The Kay report demonstrated that "Saddam Hussein represented no imminent threat to the United States that would justify war." The weasel word in that sentence is "imminent." The Bush administration had never said that Saddam represented an "imminent" threat. On the contrary, Bush and his advisers had quite explicitly argued that we dared not wait until the threat was "imminent" that, when dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, that would be too late. Hence the need to attack sooner.
But such subtleties were predictably lost on many people. For all practical purposes, the Democratic attempt to show that "George Bush lied" has been a brilliant success, as such things go. Polls suggest that most Americans still don't believe it, but they also show a distinct upsurge in the number of people who do. You can't ask more of a smear than that.
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