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ZippyTheChimp
June 30th, 2004, 06:36 AM
June 30, 2004

OP-ED COLUMNIST

Calling Bush a Liar

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

So is President Bush a liar?

Plenty of Americans think so. Bookshops are filled with titles about Mr. Bush like "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," "Big Lies," "Thieves in High Places" and "The Lies of George W. Bush."

A consensus is emerging on the left that Mr. Bush is fundamentally dishonest, perhaps even evil — a nut, yes, but mostly a liar and a schemer. That view is at the heart of Michael Moore's scathing new documentary, "Farenheit 9/11."

In the 1990's, nothing made conservatives look more petty and simple-minded than their demonization of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who were even accused of spending their spare time killing Vince Foster and others. Mr. Clinton, in other words, left the right wing addled. Now Mr. Bush is doing the same to the left. For example, Mr. Moore hints that the real reason Mr. Bush invaded Afghanistan was to give his cronies a chance to profit by building an oil pipeline there.

"I'm just raising what I think is a legitimate question," Mr. Moore told me, a touch defensively, adding, "I'm just posing a question."

Right. And right-wing nuts were "just posing a question" about whether Mr. Clinton was a serial killer.

I'm against the "liar" label for two reasons. First, it further polarizes the political cesspool, and this polarization is making America increasingly difficult to govern. Second, insults and rage impede understanding.

Lefties have been asking me whether Mr. Bush has already captured Osama bin Laden, and whether Mr. Bush will plant W.M.D. in Iraq. Those are the questions of a conspiracy theorist, for even if officials wanted to pull such stunts, they would be daunted by the fear of leaks.

Bob Woodward's latest book underscores that Mr. Bush actually believed that Saddam did have W.M.D. After one briefing, Mr. Bush turned to George Tenet and protested, "I've been told all this intelligence about having W.M.D., and this is the best we've got?" The same book also reports that Mr. Bush told Mr. Tenet several times, "Make sure no one stretches to make our case."

In fact, of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies. Indeed, there's some evidence that Mr. Bush carefully avoids the most blatant lies — witness his meticulous descriptions of the periods in which he did not use illegal drugs.

True, Mr. Bush boasted that he doesn't normally read newspaper articles, when his wife said he does. And Mr. Bush wrongly claimed that he was watching on television on the morning of 9/11 as the first airplane hit the World Trade Center. But considering the odd things the president often says ("I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family"), Mr. Bush always has available a prima facie defense of confusion.

Mr. Bush's central problem is not that he was lying about Iraq, but that he was overzealous and self-deluded. He surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues, and they all told one another that Saddam was a mortal threat to us. They deceived themselves along with the public — a more common problem in government than flat-out lying.

Some Democrats, like Mr. Clinton and Senator Joseph Lieberman, have pushed back against the impulse to demonize Mr. Bush. I salute them, for there are so many legitimate criticisms we can (and should) make about this president that we don't need to get into kindergarten epithets.

But the rush to sling mud is gaining momentum, and "Farenheit 9/11" marks the polarization of yet another form of media. One medium after another has found it profitable to turn from information to entertainment, from nuance to table-thumping.

Talk radio pioneered this strategy, then cable television. Political books have lately become as subtle as professional wrestling, and the Internet is adding to the polarization. Now, with the economic success of "Farenheit 9/11," look for more documentaries that shriek rather than explain.

It wasn't surprising when the right foamed at the mouth during the Clinton years, for conservatives have always been quick to detect evil empires. But liberals love subtlety and describe the world in a palette of grays — yet many have now dropped all nuance about this president.

Mr. Bush got us into a mess by overdosing on moral clarity and self-righteousness, and embracing conspiracy theories of like-minded zealots. How sad that many liberals now seem intent on making the same mistakes.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Schadenfrau
June 30th, 2004, 10:56 AM
Thanks for posting that, Zippy.

I haven't gone to see Farenheit 9/11 yet and am now wondering if I should at all.

It's very important to point out that Michael Moore is not bound by the same obligations to the truth as a politician or journalist would be. He's first and foremost an entertainer, despite the fact that people seem to hold his films up as gospel.

Jasonik
June 30th, 2004, 11:25 AM
As I often say, politics, or any popular trend, depends on the adoption by the dim and non-thinking segment of society. As a purely strategic move, the film will serve to indoctrinate this group, you know, the earnest non-politicals who want to get involved/informed so they go to the multiplex...

NYatKNIGHT
June 30th, 2004, 12:03 PM
It's not a film purely dumping untruths on the audience, as right-wingers would have everyone believe. He interviews real people, real soldiers, and shows real footage. He shows many things that have been hidden from the public. The slant is that it's Michael Moore's perspective of the Bush administration, which is that there are a lot of things we have been told that aren't true, and there are a lot of things we haven't been told that we ought to know. In his anger, M. Moore lashes out at Bush showing his less-than-flattering moments. Though it is partisan, this doesn't make everything in the film as a "lie".

If people start talking about the issues raised, even if they conclude that they disagree with Michael Moore, then the documentary is still a success.

Schadenfrau
June 30th, 2004, 12:19 PM
That's very true.

I think Moore is held up to such stringent inspection now because of the liberties he took with facts in "Bowling for Columbine" and "Stupid White Men". Even if this new film is entirely accurate, now is Moore's time to pay the piper in more ways than one.

I have to wonder if the effort he put into this film is some sort of penance for being Nader's biggest booster in 2000.

krulltime
June 30th, 2004, 12:27 PM
Bush is a Liar. There I said it.

I am going to see the film too but I will wait a week until it has calm down.

I knew he was before the film anyway. :roll:

ZippyTheChimp
July 1st, 2004, 05:26 AM
Americans Debate Role of Movie on White House Race

Wed Jun 30, 2:40 PM ET

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Just weeks after Americans mourned the death of a president who began as a Hollywood actor, many are debating whether a movie can change the outcome of a presidential election.

Opening to packed theaters and record sales in the midst of a heated White House race, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" seems certain to energize the liberal wing of the Democratic party, analysts say. Far less certain is how the movie, a scathing critique of the presidency of George W. Bush and the Iraq war, might affect the swing vote of the nation's fence-sitters in the November race.

Political scientists and campaign strategists say that will hinge on the movie's commercial success and how it plays to young adults -- a group that usually shies away from the polls.

"There's no question that because of the war and because of 9/11, we as a nation have become far more politically conscious," said Xandra Kayden, a UCLA political scientist. "I don't know whether the film in itself will be the critical factor, but it will be among the critical factors as people look into the broader issues."

Stephen Hess, a senior fellow of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said the film would "engage and enthuse those who are already committed to vote against George W. Bush."

"Maybe they'll give a little more money, or maybe they'll work a little harder. But the people who are going (to the film) now are about as activated as you can be. ... If it goes beyond the true believers, that's the real test," he said.

Republican political consultant Allen Hoffenblum said few Bush supporters would bother seeing the movie.

"It's really a piece of political propaganda ... and it has replaced (former Democratic Vermont governor) Howard Dean as the catalyst of the hate-Bush crowd," he said. "The question is: Does it go beyond preaching to the choir? And no one knows the answer to that yet."

MIXED REACTIONS

A receptive crowd at a recent celebrity screening hissed and cheered. But reactions at other theaters have been more mixed.

Coming on the heels of a national tribute to former President Ronald Reagan , Moore's use of graphic war footage and images of Bush as a bumbling and smug commander-in-chief has struck some moviegoers as manipulative.

"I would be more inclined to really think about his points if he did it in a fair and objective way, and I don't think he does," said Mike Flanagan, 26, a Los Angeles-area moviegoer who described himself as leaning toward Bush and leaving the theater more angry at Moore than the president.

"It was disturbing, all those graphic images," said Kim Bradford, a Wichita, Kansas, school teacher who considers herself a political independent. "I just don't know what to believe. It's hard to know what to think about it all."

Distributors have said the film has played strongly in Democratic and Republican states alike.

But Hess said even Bush-leaning "red states" have sizable pools of Democratic movie-goers that likely accounted for the lion's share of the film's initial audience.

The film's core age group -- 25 to 34 -- also could be a factor, overlapping as it does the volatile demographic of 18- to- 30-year-olds, many of whom sat out the last election.

Thomas Patterson, a political scientist at Harvard University, said his research shows young adults are more interested in the presidential race than they were four years ago.

He cited his own research showing 42 percent of adults 18 to 30 years old said they were paying close attention to the campaign this spring, up from 13 percent in 2000.

Surveys, he said, show that at the outset of the Iraq invasion, "this age group (18 to 30) was the most pro-Bush, the most pro-war of any age group. And now they're the most anti-Bush and the most anti-war of any age group."

"If I were John Kerry's campaign, I'd have people outside the theaters with registration tables," he said.


Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

BigMac
July 1st, 2004, 08:09 AM
Newsday
July 1, 2004

Families push 9/11 movie

Associated Press

Poll: Have you seen 'Fahrenheit 9/11'? (http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/manhattan/nyc-faren0701,0,1007337.story?coll=nyc-manheadlines-manhattan)
Slide Show: Fahrenheit 9/11 Rally (http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/manhattan/nyc-fahrenheit911rally,0,1695154.photogallery?coll=nyc-moreny-headlines)
Video: WB11 - A Challenge (RealPlayer) (http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/manhattan/nyc-wb9110701,0,973856.realvideo?coll=nyc-moreny-headlines)

President Bush and everyone in Washington should screen Michael Moore's controversial anti-Bush film "Fahrenheit 9/11," a group of military and 9/11 families said Wednesday.

"What we want to say is how important Michael Moore's movie is ... in bringing back the ability to have a dialogue" about the issues surrounding the war," said Nancy Lessin of the group Military Families Speak Out, whose stepson is a Marine.

"What we're trying to do here is to tell the administration ... not only see it but then come out ... and explain why this happened, why we went to Iraq and why 9/11 happened," said Ivan Medina, a former Marine from Middletown, N.Y., who served in Iraq and whose twin brother Irving was killed there.

Moore's movie is highly critical of Bush and the decision to go to war in Iraq. It took in $23.9 million last weekend to become the first documentary to debut as Hollywood's top weekend film.

The movie won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May. But its release here has been anything but smooth sailing. New distributors had to be found after Disney refused to let its Miramax subsidiary release it, claiming it was too politically charged. The documentary was later bought by Miramax heads Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who found Lions Gate Films and IFC Films to help distribute it.

Conservative groups have tried to mobilize the public against the film, arguing that Moore's portrayal of the Bush administration is inaccurate. Speakers at Wednesday's news conference were critical of those efforts.

"I'm disappointed that the movie would be attacked just because (Moore) wants to consider the questions," said April Gallop, a Pentagon employee injured in the 9/11 attacks.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

NYatKNIGHT
July 1st, 2004, 09:50 AM
July 1, 2004

A Credibility Gap in Washington (6 Letters)


To the Editor:

Nicholas D. Kristof ("Calling Bush a Liar," column, June 30) set foot on dangerous ethical ground when he said, "The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies."

Would he argue that numerous half-truths made with the intent to deceive do not add up to a "flat-out" lie?

If what the administration has stated and overstated about the war in Iraq is not one big lie, then the word "lie" has no meaning.

ANDREW J. PATRICK
Portland, Me., June 30, 2004

•

To the Editor:

Nicholas D. Kristof is far too generous in his treatment of the president.

Of course this administration is too clever to say anything that could be pinned down in the press as an outright falsehood. That doesn't mean that the justifications for this country's rush into unnecessary war are not lies.

There was no link to Sept. 11; there were no weapons of mass destruction; there was no threat to the security of the United States. And thousands are now dead.

CHRIS REYNOLDS
Brooklyn, June 30, 2004

•

To the Editor:

Nicholas D. Kristof takes umbrage with those who would call President Bush a liar because, in so doing, the political cesspool is polarized and understanding is impeded.

Isn't it possible that Mr. Bush is a good and honest man and that such charges are simply wrong and unfair?

EDWARD WEINERT
Melville, N.Y., June 30, 2004

•

To the Editor:

Nicholas D. Kristof asks liberals to raise the tone of public discourse by not calling President Bush a liar.

In the president's defense, Mr. Kristof notes that because Mr. Bush has a sufficiently difficult time speaking English, it may at times be difficult to know exactly what he means to say.

Mr. Kristof then makes a distinction between lying and being "overzealous and self-deluded" because Mr. Bush "surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues" who themselves cannot distinguish fact from fantasy.

Is this meant to make me feel better about the man who is supposed to be running the country?

KEVIN R. McNAMARA
Houston, June 30, 2004

•

To the Editor:

Nicholas D. Kristof accuses liberals of using the same questionable tactics ("overdosing on moral clarity and self-righteousness, and embracing conspiracy theories") as George W. Bush used to get the United States involved in the Iraq war.

Last time I checked, nobody had died from the making of "Fahrenheit 9/11." How can he possibly compare the two?

SANDI SCHIFFMAN
New York, June 30, 2004

•

To the Editor:

I wish that Americans (liberals and conservatives and, yes, Dick Cheney) would read Nicholas D. Kristof's June 30 column and heed its warning: polarization caused by "insults and rage" is "making America increasingly difficult to govern."

Our careless and clumsy use of words is pushing us beyond the point where we can have a rational and decent public discourse.

We had all better be concerned that this kind of environment, which focuses more on form than on substance, will adversely influence the young, who are now participating directly in the governance of America.

EARL T. NAKASATO
Hilo, Hawaii, June 30, 2004

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Ninjahedge
July 1st, 2004, 09:57 AM
I don't think he is a liar.

I think he is an idiot.

He says what he is told to say. He was a C average Ivy leaguer that got in on his parents scholarship fund and spent his time drinking and CHEERLEADING.

He then got out, got a secure position as a military-nobody and did not even show up for that.

From there he went on to be the head/CEO of several companies that did bad, whether by his mismanagement or just bad luck, and then was pushed into politics just like his father and brother.

I do not consider him to be an evil man, but just not in touch. He can't think on his feet, he does not have the charisma to be considered a "leader" and he is just the hood ornament on the GOP's SUV.

As for the "lefties", as soon as I read that comment in the original post, I lost respect for the writer (not you Zip). Name-calling never wins me over in a debate or discussion. The FAR left may have some interesting conspiracy theories, and most of them are just that. Theories. I do not believe that Osama's family had any connection to Osama, but I do believe that they were connected to Bush and Co. and because of that, were hurried out of the country as a "favor".

Bottom line. This administration was not put in there to handle a world terrorist threat. It was put in to give it's supporters a chance to divest it's earnings into other areas with an impending recession on the horizon.

With tax breaks and all the goodies, they got what they wanted.

Then, with 9-11, guys like Cheney and Rumsfeld had the opportunity they were looking for. An incident that, however unrelated, would give them the chance to go into Iraq and make the changes they were planning since they first aided Saddam against the Iranians.

THEY scare me more than Bush. They are the ones with more of an active hand in things both inside and outside the White House. They would have done, or tried, the same thing no matter who was in there, but I think they would have found it harder if men like McCain or even Dole was the one they had to get to support their plans.

So, to get back to the original subject. Bush a liar? Not really. His administration? Yeppers! MM a liar? Wellll, maybe. Slanted? Yep!


Go see the flik and decide for yourself. If one film can change your entire stance on everything, either that is one GREAT film, OR you are just weak minded.

Most intelligent people will take it for what it is worth and either use it to ferment change from within their party OR ferment the reasons to change the leadership come next election.

Kris
July 2nd, 2004, 10:41 AM
July 2, 2004

OP-ED COLUMNIST

Moore's Public Service

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Since it opened, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases. Last Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his Nascar crew to see it. The film's appeal to working-class Americans, who are the true victims of George Bush's policies, should give pause to its critics, especially the nervous liberals rushing to disassociate themselves from Michael Moore.

There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job.

For example, audiences are shocked by the now-famous seven minutes, when George Bush knew the nation was under attack but continued reading "My Pet Goat" with a group of children. Nobody had told them that the tales of Mr. Bush's decisiveness and bravery on that day were pure fiction.

Or consider the Bush family's ties to the Saudis. The film suggests that Mr. Bush and his good friend Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the ambassador known to the family as Bandar Bush, have tried to cover up the extent of Saudi involvement in terrorism. This may or may not be true. But what shocks people, I think, is the fact that nobody told them about this side of Mr. Bush's life.

Mr. Bush's carefully constructed persona is that of an all-American regular guy — not like his suspiciously cosmopolitan opponent, with his patrician air. The news media have cheerfully gone along with the pretense. How many stories have you seen contrasting John Kerry's upper-crusty vacation on Nantucket with Mr. Bush's down-home time at the ranch?

But the reality, revealed by Mr. Moore, is that Mr. Bush has always lived in a bubble of privilege. And his family, far from consisting of regular folks with deep roots in the heartland, is deeply enmeshed, financially and personally, with foreign elites — with the Saudis in particular.

Mr. Moore's greatest strength is a real empathy with working-class Americans that most journalists lack. Having stripped away Mr. Bush's common-man mask, he uses his film to make the case, in a way statistics never could, that Mr. Bush's policies favor a narrow elite at the expense of less fortunate Americans — sometimes, indeed, at the cost of their lives.

In a nation where the affluent rarely serve in the military, Mr. Moore follows Marine recruiters as they trawl the malls of depressed communities, where enlistment is the only way for young men and women to escape poverty. He shows corporate executives at a lavish conference on Iraq, nibbling on canapιs and exulting over the profit opportunities, then shows the terrible price paid by the soldiers creating those opportunities.

The movie's moral core is a harrowing portrait of a grieving mother who encouraged her children to join the military because it was the only way they could pay for their education, and who lost her son in a war whose justification she no longer understands.

Viewers may come away from Mr. Moore's movie believing some things that probably aren't true. For example, the film talks a lot about Unocal's plans for a pipeline across Afghanistan, which I doubt had much impact on the course of the Afghan war. Someday, when the crisis of American democracy is over, I'll probably find myself berating Mr. Moore, who supported Ralph Nader in 2000, for his simplistic antiglobalization views.

But not now. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Jasonik
July 2nd, 2004, 04:31 PM
CAUGHT ON FILM:
THE BUSH CREDIBILITY GAP (http://www.house.gov/appropriations_democrats/caughtonfilm.htm)

Kris
July 5th, 2004, 06:28 AM
July 5, 2004

Michael Moore and the Media's Job (4 Letters)

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman ("Moore's Public Service," column, July 2) is absolutely right to say that, whatever its flaws, Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" appeals to Americans of all political stripes because it offers an alternative to the homogenized and sanitized news coverage of the major television networks.

In an age when it is more important than ever for the press to fulfill its watchdog function as a check on government abuses of power, it is indeed clear that "the respectable media haven't been doing their job." One does not need to be a populist to see that corporate broadcasters have serious conflicts of interest between their duty to inform the public and their business goal of getting this administration to support further deregulation of their industry.

PAUL HICKEY
Fairfax, Va., July 2, 2004

•

To the Editor:

Thanks to Paul Krugman for pointing out the forest and not focusing on the trees. Sure, some of Michael Moore's claims were dubious, perhaps even ridiculous. But the overarching reality of "Fahrenheit 9/11" is that the portrayal of President Bush as someone who cares for the average American is wholly false.

SAM BARR
Metuchen, N.J., July 2, 2004

•

To the Editor:

Which public does Paul Krugman suppose that Michael Moore serves? I am a Democrat disgusted by the Bush administration, but Mr. Moore does not serve me.

The utilitarian logic of Mr. Krugman's article is that even if the movie contains "flaws," Mr. Moore advances the cause of an alternative view of events that the media abandoned. But who really benefits from cheap arguments? If it was a disturbingly childish moment for the president to continue reading "My Pet Goat" after learning America was under attack, then it is an equally childish moment for Mr. Moore to develop a polemic in response.

But Mr. Krugman asks why a polemicist should be held to a higher standard than the president. The better question is, Who will emerge from the sandbox ready to fight lies, not with polar opposite lies, but with the hard work of sound, moral and well-reasoned arguments — in a word: truth?

NICOLE HANLEY
Bronx, July 2, 2004

•

To the Editor:

Long used to enthusiastic agreement with Paul Krugman's analyses of the post-9/11 world, I was puzzled to come across this sentence toward the end of "Moore's Public Service":

"Someday, when the crisis of American democracy is over, I'll probably find myself berating Mr. Moore."

While the past three years have certainly been the most globally turbulent of my lifetime, I cannot bring myself to see our current situation as the crisis of American democracy. "The latest crisis," "these highly fraught times," yes, these seem appropriate. But hasn't the history of American democracy been one of perpetual crisis? Ultimately, isn't our democracy's proven ability to respond to, change through and absorb crisis the clearest testament to the enduring greatness of our country? In times like these, it's devotion to that belief that gives me hope.

BEN ROBBINS
Los Angeles, July 2, 2004

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Schadenfrau
August 5th, 2004, 03:21 PM
Here's one time when Bush actually spoke the truth:

Bush Cites U.S. Readiness to Harm U.S.*

Thursday, August 05, 2004 2:15 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush told a roomful of top Pentagon brass on Thursday that his administration would never stop looking for ways to harm the United States.

The latest installment of misspeak from a president long known for his malapropisms came during a signing ceremony for a new $417 billion defense appropriations bill that includes $25 billion in emergency funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we," Bush said.

The Republican incumbent, who is in a tight race for reelection against Democrat John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, used the 11-minute presentation to underscore his commitment to U.S. troops.

On hand for the ceremony were Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.