As you know, it's now been revealed that the White House threatened the top government Medicare actuary that he'd be fired if he revealed the true costs of the Medicare reform passed last year.
What struck me most about this story was how generally muted the reaction to it was.
I don't think this was because it wasn't reported widely or because people didn't take note. I think people just aren't that surprised that this administration would practice deceit in such a casual, even routine, manner.
It's just not surprising anymore. It's expected. (Pat Moynihan died too soon to see the most bracing example of defining -- governmental -- deviancy down.)
In any case, now we have another example from the latest Bush campaign ad.
This one uses last year's $87 billion Iraq supplemental, and the fact that Kerry voted against it, to accuse him of voting against each of the various line items for troop funding included in the bill.
Now, this is inherently misleading since I believe Kerry, like many other Dems, voted for an alternative bill which would have funded these needs by rescinding part of Bush tax cuts. So to say he voted against these particulars is really a distortion of the legislative process.
(Admittedly, it's not quite as bad as what they tried to pull last week, but still pretty bad. In that case, the President charged Kerry with a reckless plan to cut Intelligence spending in 1995, without mentioning that the agency targeted was was mismanaging the funds in question or, much more importantly, that the Congress, then under Republican control, voted a substantially larger cut than the one Kerry had proposed.)
What's more, the commercial highlights three budget items, each of which were ones the president opposed and had to be bullied into supporting -- by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The text narration says: ""No body armor for troops in combat. No higher combat pay. No to better health care for reservists and their families. No -- wrong on defense."
What's most bracing about this narration is that this is actually a pretty factual statement if the target is the president, not Kerry.
Now, one claim really stands out here. The ad says Kerry voted no to "higher combat pay."
This is truly a milestone in the long bilious history of gall.
If you watched this debate at the time you'll remember that last summer the Bush administration went to great lengths to cut combat pay for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to save money for other priorities. They only relented when Democrats, Republicans and most of all military-oriented publications like Army Times expressed so much outrage that they had no choice but abandon the effort.
Here's a snippet from an article which appeared on August 15th, 2003 in the San Francisco Chronicle which gives a brief glimpse of their ignominious retreat ...
The White House quickly backpedaled Thursday on Pentagon plans to cut the combat pay of the 157,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan after disclosure of the idea quickly became a political embarrassment.
The Pentagon's support for the idea of rolling back "imminent danger pay" by $75 a month and "family separation allowances" for the American forces by $150 a month collapsed after a story in The Chronicle Thursday generated intense criticism from military families, veterans groups and Democratic candidates seeking to unseat President Bush in 2004.
And so the White House which was pushing to save money by reducing combat pay for troops currently serving in two combat zones is now challenging Kerry's national security bona-fides by alleging that he opposed increases in combat pay.
Sometimes you try to dress it up or package it in some artful way. But the truth is irreducibly blunt: lying and indifference to a factual record often no further away than the google web site is the hallmark of this administration.
Up is down.