Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Wednesday, October 29, 2003  

Everyone seems to know, instinctively, that the President has a troubled relationship with the truth. Trouble is, no one has caught him in a lie. Could it be that it will be the little things that undo him? That audible he called yesterday in which he claimed his staff had not put up the "Mission Accomplished" sign might be the first verifiable lie. First, Bush's words:

The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from staff. They weren't that ingenious, by the way.

Already the White House is dissembling:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told CNN that in preparing for the speech, Navy officials on the carrier told Bush aides they wanted a "Mission Accomplished" banner, and the White House agreed to create it.

"We took care of the production of it," McClellan said. "We have people to do those things. But the Navy actually put it up."

Well, maybe. On the other hand, as Jess Berney points out, very little was left up to the Navy. Digging around in the Times archives, he found this:

Media strategists noted afterward that Mr. Sforza and his aides had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the "Mission Accomplished" banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot. The speech was specifically timed for what image makers call "magic hour light," which cast a golden glow on Mr. Bush.

I'm not really sure if this should be a big deal--it's a petty lie about the pettiest of Presidential PR promotions. On the other hand, the man lied about the rationale for going to war. That last one isn't likely to be proven (it's probably unprovable), but the "Mission Accomplished" lie is much clearer. I wouldn't be surprised to see evidence in the next couple days that details how the White House planned and paid for the banner. Then we'll see what happens. Maybe it's not the big lies that get you.

posted by Jeff | 11:28 AM |
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