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January 27, 2006

No Trust? No Effective Government
Posted by Morton H. Halperin

Co-Authored with Michael Fuchs

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll reveals that 47% percent of the country does not believe that Bush is “honest and trustworthy,” against 46% that believe he is.   

Forget for a moment that the Bush administration has broken the law by disregarding FISA in its domestic spying program.  The efficacy of government is being threatened because we can no longer believe the administration when it speaks in public.

Effective policies can only be maintained when the public and Congress trust the government.  On Iraq’s WMD, on torture and now on domestic spying, Bush administration officials have been caught lying again and again, eroding that trust. 

Even after he authorized the warrantless domestic spying, President Bush continued to state publicly that warrants were required for all spying activities (check out Brendan Nyhan’s list of Bush statements on this point).  While the administration was secretly spying on Americans, Deputy National Intelligence Director Michael Hayden claimed that he had no authority to execute the illegal actions in which the NSA was already engaged (see our post on Think Progress about how Hayden broke the law).    

Administration lies paralyze government and destroy public trust.  Nixon’s intelligence abuses and secret expansion of the Vietnam War boomeranged and knocked him out office.  The 1970’s were filled with the committees and investigations of administration abuses as the public lost faith in its government.  If the administration cannot be trusted, the legs are cut out from underneath effective policies because neither Congress nor the public will support them. 

Before the invasion of Iraq, most of Congress and the public trusted that the Bush administration was being forthright in its claims that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD.  Only after the invasion and a failed policy did we truly learn the extent of the administration’s lies.  Now they’re back at it with the NSA domestic spying program – what they say publicly is the opposite of what they do. 

It’s clear that the administration lies to the public and to Congress in order to conduct illegal operations.  No matter how reasonable a particular policy sounds, there is no way for the public or Congress to know whether the administration’s actions will live up to its rhetoric.  How can we trust anything the Bush administration says or does?   

FISA was enacted because Congress and the Ford and Carter administrations came together with the support of outside experts to develop a procedure that met national security needs and was consistent with civil liberties.  Congress and the public believed (correctly, until recently) that the administration would follow those rules even if the President claimed an inherent right not to.  Now, even if a new agreement were reached, we could not be sure that it would be followed.   

There is no credibility left in this White House.  But that doesn’t merely hinder Bush’s agenda and personal popularity – it also threatens the government’s ability to run the country.

Before Iraq, torture, and warrantless spying, during Bush’s acceptance speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention, he proclaimed, “If you give me your trust, I will honor it.”  Clearly that promise was just as big a lie.   


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Considering that the credibility of the mainstream media is also in jeopardy, one has to doubt their veracity on such a topic.

I have been waiting for several years for the press to take this administration
by its ear and haul it off to the woodshed for the whupping it so richly deserves.

Finally, day by day, more and more posts like yours are printed in the dailies, their
on-line cousins and, of course, the blogsphere. Not enough, mind you, and most of them taking a “tsk tsk” approach to young george’s “foibles”. Frankly, it has always amazed me: I mean, what would you NOT put past this Administration…

A. Stacking the deck on SCOTUS in order to i) reverse Roe v Wad, ii) revisit Brown v Board of Education, iii) teach religion as given word in schools, iv) revoke property rights from women and those pesky negroes?

B. Seating a toady as the head of the DOJ so i) someone other than your usual parrots can squawk it’s “okay” if you break the law, ii) head off investigations into your illegal behavior, iii) emend the laws to retroactively clear you (should the impossible occur and you actually sit an impeachment or civil/criminal trial), iv) declare the 22 Amendment null and void in time of “war”?

Personally, I see nothing beyond the pale with this WH.

And yet…

Nothing happens.

No subpoenas. No independent investigations. No NEWSPAPER investigations. No impeachment talk. No rallying around Murtha when he stood up and shook his big brass ones at the WH. No alternative plans for Iraq. Nothing. Just dutiful reporting of the Administrations’ evasions, elisions, outright lies, wasting of our youth’s lives and our national treasury, stupid fumbling at assisting the diaspora of NO…

Is everyone scared? Are folks waiting for the Thought Police to come round and ticket them for saying the “wrong” thing while on the phone, watching the “wrong” thing on the tube or browsing the “wrong” site on the web and then say, “Oh, now that’s too much” ? Because that’s historically too late, don’t you know.

- Messrs Halperin and Fuchs – keep fighting the good fight.

- Keith: the mainstream media's credibility is in jeopardy precisely because they've sat on their collective hands throughout youg george's reign.

Excellent post. The fallout from all this will be further erosion of executive credibility at a time when we already have a crisis of trust.

Re: the poll: I didn't see -- in the poll that was linked to -- the figure that 47% percent do not believe that Bush is “honest and trustworthy”? However, Google turned up a 11/2005 ABC News poll that showed 58% negative when asked the "honest and trustworthy" question (that's sure a lot of independents!) Of course, if he was 58 then and 47 now, then he's actually improved since the wire-tapping scandal emerged...

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