Bush administration flip flops

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The most recently documented of Bush administration flip flops concerns the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame and her alleged outing by Karl Rove, White House advisor to President George W. Bush.

On September 29, 2003, CNN reported that, although the Bush administration would not seek an independent investigation into the matter, it vowed help in CIA leak probe. CNN reported that

"'The president believes leaking classified information is a very serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest extent by the appropriate agency and the appropriate agency is the Department of Justice,' White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters."

The following day, September 30, 2003, when it was reported that an inquiry would include Rove, the Washington Post's Mike Allen and Dana Milbank, wrote that

"President Bush's chief spokesman said yesterday that the allegation that administration officials leaked the name of a CIA operative is 'a very serious matter' and vowed that Bush would fire anybody responsible for such actions."

However, now that Karl Rove has been outed as the source of the leak regarding Plame's covert status, William Branigin of the Washington Post reported July 18, 2005, that

"President Bush today appeared to raise the threshold for firing any White House official who leaked the identity of a covert CIA agent, saying he would dismiss anyone who 'committed a crime' in the case."

David Stout of the New York Times quoted Bush as saying

"'If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration,' Mr. Bush said in response to a question, after declaring, 'I don't know all the facts; I want to know all the facts.'"

Additionally, also posting July 18, 2005, the Associated Press's Pete Yost wrote

"Bush said in June 2004 that he would fire anyone in his administration shown to have leaked information that exposed the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame. On Monday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a crime was committed."

Even so, Bush dealt his last political opponent, John Kerry, considerable politcal damage by highlighting Kerry's flip flops.

Related Articles

History of Reversals

The mainstream press finally "caught on", as they say, to Bush administration flip flops. The Associated Press ran the March 30, 2004, headline "A look at Bush's reversals", with the underlying reason obvious in the article's introduction: "President Bush's decision Tuesday to allow his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to testify publicly before the commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks reversed earlier White House insistence that she would only appear privately."

The AP cited five other related examples that are not unfamiliar to those outside "mainstream" media: [1]

  • Bush "argued a federal Department of Homeland Security wasn't needed, then devised a plan to create one."
  • Bush "resisted a commission to investigate Iraq intelligence failures, but then relented." See National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
  • Bush "also initially opposed the creation of the independent commission to examine if the 2001 attacks could have been prevented, before getting behind the idea under pressure from victims' families." See Just Four Moms from New Jersey.
  • Bush "opposed, and then supported, a two-month extension of the commission's work, after the panel said protracted disputes over access to White House documents left too little time."
  • Bush "at first said any access to the president by the commission would be limited to just one hour but relaxed the limit earlier this month."

David E. Sanger captions this as "When Goals Meet Reality: Bush's Reversal on 9/11 Testimony."

Sanger says that Bush's "decision to reverse course, dropping his claim of executive privilege preventing public, sworn testimony by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was part of a distinct pattern that has emerged inside this highly secretive White House. [2]

"The first reaction to most demands for outside inquiries, or for details about energy policy decisions or intelligence concerning Iraqi weapons or Nigerian uranium, has been to build walls: Mr. Bush, or more often Mr. Cheney in his stead, asserts a clear, inviolate principle that the president and his advisers need the freedom to gather information, develop policy and exchange ideas in private. [3]

"But eventually other forces come into play. Gradually pressure builds until Mr. Bush's advisers — including Ms. Rice herself in this case, several officials said — determine that the cost is too high." [4]

"'They wait until a gallon of blood has been shed,' one administration official said." [5]

Also see March 31, 2004, Center for American Progress' web page "President Bush: Flip-Flopper-In-Chief," which provides links to articles documenting Bush's "before" and "after" positions on fifteen key topics.


  • Matthew Yglesias, "Another Bush Flip-Flop," The American Prospect, March 11, 2004: "Looks like the unprincipled waffler in the White House still can't decide what his position is on the 9-11 Commission: The White House said Tuesday that President Bush would privately answer all questions raised by the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks and suggested that the interview might go beyond the one-hour limit originally offered to the panel. ... 'He's going to answer all the questions they want to raise,' said the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, whose remarks indicated that the White House was softening its negotiating stance toward the bipartisan commission. ... First the president only has an hour to spare, no 'Nobody's watching the clock.' Well, which is it? Is Mickey Kaus going to write a piece accusing Bush of being 'extra-cautious, playing it safe instead of taking gung-ho risks in a doomed cause.' And then, just a little bit further down, Bush flops again: Mr. McClellan said the White House still hoped to abide by the one-hour limit, calling it 'a reasonable period of time to set aside for a sitting president of the United States.'"
  • Matthew Yglesias, "A Day of Flip Flops," The American Prospect, March 12, 2004: "Here's a few more for the Bush flip-flop file. First, the administration proposes creating a 'manufacturing czar' to try and help out the hardest-hit sector of the U.S. economy. Then, they don't appoint anyone for months. Then, we finally hear that they've chosen Jason Raimondo to fill the job (which turns out not to be a new job after all). At the same time, the president is in Ohio, denouncing Democrats as 'economic isolationists' for their opposition to outsourcing. Then it turns out that Raimondo's company had shifted jobs abroad and, under attack, Bush withdraws his nomination. It's enough to make your head spin. Today we also learn that the administration is backing down from an already inadequate plan to push for democracy in the Greater Middle East Initiative, instead promising to work with the existing autocrats. No WMD stockpiles, no ties to al-Qaeda, and now no 'forward strategy of freedom.' We're flopping all over the place. The new vogue in the Gulf is for a 'Chinese model' of economic reforms combined with strict political controls, and GMEI version 2.0 would seem to fit well into that pattern. In view of the Bush family's longstanding ties to the Saudi monarchy, it's really not so surprising."
  • "Pentagon Bankrolls Swedish Stem Cell Study," Reuters, March 17, 2004: "The Pentagon has granted $240,000 to a Swedish team for embryonic stem-cell research linked to Parkinson's disease, the researchers said on Wednesday, despite U.S. government limits on stem-cell research.
  • Russ Baker, "Bush's war exercise: the backpedal," Newsday, March 17, 2004: "Anniversaries are a time of remembrance. We look back at an event and recall what was. Or, in the case of the invasion of Iraq, which began one year ago, we look back at what wasn't. ... What wasn't turns out to be almost anything George W. Bush and his associates said was. First, there were 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq, then there weren't. First, Saddam Hussein was a 'grave and growing danger,' then the war was really about 'regime change.' First, we were going to go it alone in postwar Iraq, without UN help; now we aren't. First, the United States opposed real elections in Iraq; now it doesn't."
  • Dana Milbank and Robin Wright, "Off the Mark on Cost of War, Reception by Iraqis," Washington Post, March 19, 2004: "The invasion and occupation of Iraq, his administration predicted, would come at little financial cost and would materially improve the lives of Iraqis. Americans would be greeted as liberators, Bush officials predicted, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein would spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East. ... Things have not worked out that way, for the most part."
  • Dexter Filkins, "Iraq Council, Shifting Stance, Invites the U.N. to Aid Transfer," New York Times, March 18, 2004: "In a morning meeting on Wednesday, Mr. L. Paul Bremer warned the Iraqi leaders that they risked isolating themselves and their country if they continued to snub the United Nations. According to Iraqi and American officials, Mr. Bremer pointedly warned them of a 'confrontation' with the United States if the Iraqis failed to invite the organization back."
  • Lauren Weber, "Bush campaign gear made in Burma. His campaign store sells a pullover from nation whose products he has banned from being sold in the U.S.," Newsday, March 19, 2004.
  • Nathan Newman, nathannewman.org, March 19, 2004: "Bush told educators he'd spend real money to improve schools, then backed out on the funds promised for No Child Left Behind. ... Bush promised environmental protection, appointed Christy Todd Whitman, then behind the scenes overrode any vestige of pro-environmental policy she might try to support. ... Bush promised 'compassionate conservatism' even as he's attacked a range of programs for the poor."
  • Walter Pincus, "$27 Million Sought for Nuclear Arms Study. Funding Contrary To Nonproliferation Stance, Critics Say," Washington Post, March 20, 2004: "At a time when President Bush has made nuclear nonproliferation a major goal, the administration is seeking $27.6 million to continue a study next year of a possible new nuclear weapon and projecting that it could cost $485 million over the next five years if it goes into development."
  • Kevin Drum (formerly Calpundit) begins the first in a series of articles on March 21, 2004, at the Washington Monthly: "What Bush Says vs. What Bush Does".
  • 1995: The Texas legislature passes "Patients Bill of Rights" legislation. Bush vetoes it.
  • 1997: PBOR comes up again, but Bush declines to support it. "The governor is concerned about opening a Pandora's box of new lawsuits," says Karen Hughes. The Texas legislature passes it anyway by a veto-proof majority. It doesn't really matter at this point, but Bush specifically refuses to sign the right-to-sue portion of the law anyway. ... Got it? Bush is against PBOR. It's bad for business. Now let's fast forward.
  • 2000: Bush ads declare, "While Washington was deadlocked, he passed a patients' bill of rights. Under Gov. Bush, Texas enacted some of the most comprehensive patient protection laws in the nation." Bush himself brags, "We are one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage." ... Hey, suddenly Bush loves PBOR, especially the part about suing HMOs! In fact he showed leadership on the issue while he was governor. Now let's fast forward again.
  • "2004: Gregg Bloche writes today that Bush has apparently changed his mind yet again: 'The Texas law he championed is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, and this week the administration will ask that the justices strike it down. More broadly, the administration will ask the court to abandon a body of recent precedents that expose the managed-care industry in many states to negligence suits for withholding of coverage and care. Legal accountability for denying coverage, it contends, could prevent the creation of 'innovative health plans'."

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