I was stunned to read this in Alan Abelson’s column today in Barron’s. With humor and a gentle touch, Abelson clucks about the unnecessary dissembling — leading up to the war, on economic matters, and on “theatrics.”

When the conservative financial media start calling the President to task for lying, it has potentially far reaching implications — for economic planning, for foreign diplomatic relations, and of course, for electoral politics.

The Prevaricator

“. . . You would think, of course, that to describe someone as a prevaricating politician would be redundant, if only because perennial practice should make perfect. But even if the truth-slayer survives exposure during his many years feeding at the public trough and passes on to that big, smoke-filled room in the sky, his reputation remains at risk. And history is a hanging judge.

Nor, alas, has this fair land proved immune to civil servants at the highest level employing smoke and mirrors to obscure the truth. For shining examples, you don’t have to go back any further than Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and — need we add? — the Pinocchio President, himself, Bill Clinton. Now, it emerges, a seemingly reflexive redactor, George W. Bush, is striving mightily to prove himself worthy of this equivocative company.

Unlike his immediate predecessor, whose impulse toward evasion was manifest long before Monica, Mr. Bush ostensibly displayed a refreshing preference for openness early in his tenancy at the White House. But that engaging quality has gradually given way to something more familiar and less admirable. In the run-up to Iraq, in the confusions that followed our triumphant rout of Hussein & Gang, in his blatantly theatrical landing on the aircraft carrier, and in the treatment of the report, released last week, on 9/11, he has too often let “image” and politics trump probity.

That same regrettable aversion to the truth and reality when the truth and reality aren’t lovely or convenient have been glaringly in evidence on the economic front, as well. Mr. Bush didn’t cause the recession or the dismal lack of vibrancy in the economy. He had absolutely zilch to do with the punctured bubble at the root of the current economic malaise . . .

. . . Not the least of the troubles with prevaricating, whether spousal or political, as the investment banker learned and the president’s softening poll ratings demonstrate, is the obvious one: It inexorably diminishes credibility. It fosters suspicion even when there’s no reason to be suspicious, as witness the refusal of the locals to believe that the Hussein brothers were gone for good.

The tendency to duck and weave, to elide what’s discouraging and exaggerate what’s hopeful, in no way, as noted, distinguishes Mr. Bush from many of the more than two-score men who occupied the presidency before he did. But more’s the pity. Even for an incorrigible cynic like us, who believes staunchly that the only way to look at an office holder is down, it would have been a nice change.”

The complete editorial is available here, but requires a subscription.

This bears watching closely . . .

Category: Media, Politics

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