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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Moving lips

I am certain it comes as little surprise to any of our readers that politicians are, by nature, liars. Still, it is a bit of fun to see them blatently caught at it, especially when the lying is potentially putting the lives of their own citizenry at risk.

This Republican film clip shows the moving lips and indeed proves our belief in a multi-party system being the best thing next to a no-party individualist system. Competition makes the antagonists apply resources to counter 1984 style rewrites of history,

Of all the Democrats shown, only the Clintons are truthful enough to admit and some extent hold to their past sentiments. They represent the most honest and upstanding individuals the Democratic leadership has to offer.

Take that as you may…

30 comments to Moving lips

  • J

    Yes, some choice quotes of self-satisfied Democrats there – out of which they’ve made a fantastically dull video. Even I, as a self described Democrat, do a better job than that. Good to see Albright taking some flak though, never did like her.

  • Verity

    I never liked her either, and it worries me that the Secretary of State was taught by her father at Stamford.

  • Dale Amon

    Whether the video was ‘exciting’ or not is not what I found interesting about it; nor did I care one way or the other about the bits of Bush speaches on the end. All that matters to me is the material: these are very definitely the same people who are today making claims 180 degrees out of sync with reality and their own prior statements.

    I’d love to see clips back to back of them saying first one thing and then its exact opposite.

  • Jacob

    “…only the Clintons are truthful …”

    Clintons truthful ?
    I don’t think Clinton ever gave a damn about truth. But maybe he is smart enough no to let himself be caught easily, this time.

  • James

    I don’t get how this is pro-Republican/anti-Democrat.

    All it proves is that the Democrats as well as the Republicans were wrong about WMD. The Bush administration derived and justified policy on the basis of false information. Are we supposed to excuse them because some other people used the same false information? Or are we supposed to ignore incompetence and mendacity so as to be fruitlessly partisan? Because, yeah, that helps us deal with things so well.

  • I don’t get how this is pro-Republican/anti-Democrat

    It isn’t and it demonstrates that although the information was incorrect, mendacity has nothing to do with it. Likewise, just being wrong does not make you incompetent.

  • James

    ‘just being wrong doesn’t make you incompetent’

    So what else is needed? Or is being wrong not necessarily a part of incompetence?

    If a minister forgets to declare some special interest or thinks he does not have to when he does – is he wrong or incompetent or both?

    When does it matter enough for us to call for someone to resign?

    If an administration bases a major plank of its policy approach (say, foreign and defence policy) on facts and details that turn out to be completely wrong do we forgive them because they were merely wrong not actually incompetent?

    Isn’t part of their competence meant to be doing things to establish the certainty of their grounds for going to action?

    Or do we just find lots of other people who were also wrong, stick them all on one video and excuse ourselves from ever having to admit that we were wrong?

  • Josh

    So what else is needed? Or is being wrong not necessarily a part of incompetence?

    The non-existence of WMD has yet to be proven either. Unless you have the proof. I know that no one is looking for WMD in Iraq right now.

    As for the concept of “incompetence” that is a step backward from “deception.” What happened to that?

  • “I don’t get how this is pro-Republican/anti-Democrat.”

    It isn’t. It’s just “anti-Democrat.” If you think that makes it automatically pro-Republican, that’s up to you. :)

    It’s inherently meaningless to pro-war Republicans, because they already believe in the war — this is just more ammunition to beat up on the Democrats. And it’s meaningless to anti-war Democrats, because they are either already critical of pro-war Democrats, or are willing to ignore 180 degree policy shifts.

    The only people it means anything to are non-major party anti-war people. What it says to them is “getting rid of Republicans isn’t the solution” because anti-war sentiment from the Democrats is only skin deep. They only oppose it for political reasons, and would likely have done the exact same thing had they been in power.

    Does anyone believe that the party who invading Haiti, Bosnia and Somalia and bombed Iraq and Sudan would have hesitated to invade Iraq? Especially after light bombings got such good ratings during the Clinton admin?

    No, the message here to honest anti-war individuals is clear: you’re screwed.

  • Joshua

    ‘just being wrong doesn’t make you incompetent’

    So what else is needed? Or is being wrong not necessarily a part of incompetence?

    I would say not. I think being wrong frequently is a symptom of incompetence. The point of calling someone “incompetent” is to imply that they’re incapable of performing the task in question consistently well. They may get the right answer sometimes, but it will be for the wrong reasons or else a matter of chance – and in any case they cannot be relied upon to consistently get right answers.

    If a minister forgets to declare some special interest or thinks he does not have to when he does – is he wrong or incompetent or both?

    Probably he is incompetent insofar as it is his responsibility to know when he should declare such interests.

    If an administration bases a major plank of its policy approach (say, foreign and defence policy) on facts and details that turn out to be completely wrong do we forgive them because they were merely wrong not actually incompetent?

    Probably yes, but it depends on the circumstances. The most brilliant and informed people in the world can and do make mistakes. Asking perfection of people will not get you far (esp. asking it of government officials!). Questions of responsibility and competence come into play with how well people deal with their mistakes. President Bush is right to point out that his opponents are not being fair. Their behavior is a relevant clue to how responsible and competent they are likely to be if we vote them in as an alternative. The current picture does not look promising…

    That said, I agree that calling attention to the failings of one’s opponents as a way of deflecting attention from one’s own failings is irresponsible.

    Isn’t part of their competence meant to be doing things to establish the certainty of their grounds for going to action?

    Yes. If they failed to do this, they are incompetent. But there is never a guarantee of certainty in the intelligence game. If they thought they had established certainty and in fact had not, then I don’t think it’s evidence of incompetence that they turned out to be wrong.

    Or do we just find lots of other people who were also wrong, stick them all on one video and excuse ourselves from ever having to admit that we were wrong?

    If that’s what they’re doing, it’s irresponsible. But I think the point of the video is that the people pictured also want a free pass from ever being wrong. More to the point, the media seems to be giving them just such a pass. That can hardly be healthy for policial discourse.

    Fine, let’s hold Bush accountable for his mistakes. But let’s please not be so eager to do so that we fail to adequately scruitinize our alternative. No blank checks for either side!

  • Or is being wrong not necessarily a part of incompetence?

    You obviously need some lessons in basic logic. Being wrong is indeed a necessarily a part of incompetence but incompetence is not a necessarily part of being wrong.

  • James

    ‘The non-existence of WMD has yet to be proven either. Unless you have the proof’.

    So now we have to prove negatives before we can be critical of politicians. This is what Samizdata is coming to? Perhaps you think that the case for ID cards should be considered sound until such time as we prove there is no need for them. Because the burden of proof is on us right, never the politicians?

    I agree with Brian’s point – ‘the message here to honest anti-war individuals is clear: you’re screwed’ As also are honest pro-war individuals, indeed honest individuals of all kinds. And why? Because all of this is about domestic national and party self-interest. None of it has anything to do with wanting responsible and competent government, a free Iraq or a secure world. The sad thing is that in promoting it Dale falls into the trap with them.

    PS: I thought it was meant to be pro-republican because it was made by the republicans.

  • Euan Gray

    The non-existence of WMD has yet to be proven either

    It doesn’t have to be proven, and in any case it is unreasonable to expect the proof of a negative.

    The point is that one of the major pretexts for the war was the “certain” existence of WMDs. They haven’t been found, which exposes the certainty as either incompetent intelligence, outright mendacity, or something of both. Either way, it’s a legitimate matter of concern.

    I don’t have a problem in principle with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but I do object to the public justification of it being either stupidity or lies.

    I know that no one is looking for WMD in Iraq right now

    I wonder why that could be?

    EG

  • james

    ‘You obviously need some lessons in basic logic’.

    OK. Give me a lesson in basic logic. Why is being wrong necessarily a part of incompetence? And while we are at it can you also pass a logic lesson on to Josh who just said it is OK to be wrong, we shouldn’t expect perfection especially from politicians and having given them a free pass said we shouldn’t give them a free pass.

    I love seeing this pretence of being individualist-citizens against government allied to this huge reluctance to acknowledge that over WMD there has been a colossal error (a really colossal error) which may well have been made in good faith but nevertheless is of such proportions that one ought to fess up and resign.

    I don’t say that as a coded way of being anti-war (not at all). For instance, I may approve of government spending on some things but if the Chancellor overspends and causes a crisis because the figures were wrong, even if he was sincere in believing them because someone else gave them to him, he ought to resign and would if he had any honour or even self-respect. Remember the days when officials would resign if something went wrong on their watch even when it was the fault of some minion and they hadn’t even been involved?

    But there is no honour now.

    The intelligence community IS gutted by the debacle – tearing their hair out and poring over the textbooks on groupthink – and will be worrying about this for decades, trying to work out how to avoid such an error.

    But the policy problem is wilfully ignored by commentators of ‘left’ and ‘right’ pro and stopper obssessed with scoring a partisan point.

  • Sandy P

    An interesting post from Instapundit a few days ago:

    MORE PUSHBACK: The GOP has rolled out this TV commercial featuring leading Democrats talking about Saddam and WMD as far back as the 1990s. Whether the use of Traffic’s The Low Spark of High-heeled Boys as the soundtrack was deliberate or not, I don’t know, but I think we’re seeing another Karl Rove sucker-punch unfold.

    UPDATE: Reader Sylvia Lutnes makes an interesting point:

    Two days after 9/11 78% of Americans thought Saddam had something to do with the attacks according to a Washington Post poll (note prior polls at the bottom):

    Could it be that Clinton and the Democrats had led us to believe Saddam was dangerous and capable of such a thing? Nah. They’d rather blame Bush.

    I think it’s about time the ‘Bush led Americans to believe Saddam was connected to 9/11′ meme has to die.

    As I say, interesting point.

  • Dale Amon

    I hardly fell into a trap by pointing out that politicians will try their best to rewrite past history to improve future election possibilities, and that their stands very often have little to do with what is actually good for the country.

    The fact that the Republicans picked this up and made it available for their purposes is one of the good things about a multiparty system. If the Democrats were in power, there is a fair chance the roles would be reversed. The only difference in my mind is that on this issue at least, the Republicans had people who were at least not total idjits. I do hope the Democrats can find someone sane to run. We need a bit of balance between the two parties, but unless they find a ‘Give ‘em Hell’ Harry Truman type instead of a Kerry or a Dean…

    I also do not see there is any more connection in this to an anti-war position than to a pro-war position. I’ve been out for Saddam’s blood since the Reagan years when the US government was playing footsies with him while he gassed his own people. I will go out and hoist a pint in celebration when he finally swings on the end of a good stout rope.

    As to the WMD, yes or no issue… I am still not convinced. There is a lot of desert out there. And even if through some counter-intelligence sting the Iraqi’s were so good at the game that they managed to fool the Russians, the French, the British, the Americans, the Germans, the Israelis and others that they did have them… then why should I be bothered that their success bore the seeds of their total failure?

    I still am firmly convinced that had the US pulled out of the Northern and Southern watch and the Brib… I mean OIL for wea… I mean FOOD program and embargo had ended, he would have had nukes in very short order.

    All that is fodder for other, very long discussions and does not have anything much to do with the point of this article.

    I might add there is another lesson in this exercise. In the world of blogs and bloggers, it is going to become very, very difficult to pull off this sort of historical re-write.

    That is to the good regardless of what side of any of these issues you are on.

  • John Steele

    It appears that James has a very strange standard for competence. If five people tell him that the grocery store is 3 blocks south of where he is and he then drives the three blocks but finds that the grocery store is actually 5 blocks does that make all five people incompetent? Apparently. Does it make him incompetent because he listened to them? Also apparently.

    James lives in a world where no one is ever simply incorrect. All error is due to negligence or incompetence never misunderstanding, misinterpretation or misinformation, just sheer incompetence. Your planet must be truly wonderful. Mine however is populated by human beings.

    James old man, as Freud probably wished he had said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a mistake is simply a mistake, no matter the magnitude of the outcome.

  • Joshua

    And while we are at it can you also pass a logic lesson on to Josh who just said it is OK to be wrong, we shouldn’t expect perfection especially from politicians and having given them a free pass said we shouldn’t give them a free pass.

    Or maybe you can take some reading lessons. I didn’t say it was OK to be wrong – just that being wrong was a fact of life. If you have some insider reason to believe that it was a priori impossible for Saddam to have had WMDs, then I’m sure we’d all love to hear it. Otherwise, you were on the same playing field as the rest of us leading up to the war. If you can prove to me that Bush lied about his sources, then you’ll have a point. If Bush’s sources were wrong then in this case I think it’s an understandable mistake to have made given that (a) said perpetrator had been aggressively building WMDs in the past, (b) said perpetrator is known to be shifty, manipulative and deceitful and (c) said perpetrator was doing a very good job convincing everyone (not just the hypocrites on the video you saw but a whole host of international hypocrites as well) that he probably did have WMDs at the time. Or is your memory so short?

    When did I say we should give politicians a free pass? I believe what I said was that Mr. Bush was being irresponsible for using this video as a way to deflect attention from his failings, but that the information was nevertheless useful. What concerns me is that you seem to be willing to ignore the Dems’ collective hypocrisy on this issue. Personally, when politicians act in the way these politicians are acting, it sends up a red flag and makes me not want to vote for them (if it helps any, I didn’t vote for Bush in the last election…nor did I vote for what’s-his-name from Taxachussetts). I imagine you have a stronger stomach for this sort of thing than I…

  • Johnathan

    If Iraq really did not have a WMD programme as the anti-war folk claim, can they explain this?(Link)

  • lucklucky

    No WMDs …weird at least 2 US patrols were targeted by sarin artillery rounds that failed to mix, and still it is not accounted for thousands of liters and some other WMD material that Iraq never showed to inspectors dispite being refered by UN team. The story of Iraq WMDs are still to be made.

  • The question here is about those who were wrong and now deny they ever took the stances they did.On the subject of competence here is an intersting study on competence it would seem to explain the actions of many politicians.

  • Julian Morrison

    This is only secondarily a general attack on antiwar Dems – they can validly claim to have changed their minds. Its real target is the “Bush lied” meme.

    The White House seems to be putting a lot of effort towards defeating that idea right now. Strategically, I’d say their timing was quite clever – they’ve waited until the Dems (their party activists anyway) have become solidly attached to the slogan, and until it has become cliched enough that the public might be willing to consider a counterclaim on the merits without seeing it as a meaningless automatic “defense”. So now, if they can destroy that slogan, the grassroots left will be stranded high-and-dry, and even the public faces in the senate and house will end up looking like idiots.

  • ATM

    Incompetance does not stem just from being wrong on a given issue. It only means you are wrong about a single issue.

    Regardless, I have always argued that the containment of Iraq, while apparently successful at stalling Saddam’s WMD programs, was the major contributory factor in making the US a target for Islamic terrorists. I also argue that Islamic terrorists had ending containment has one of their goals regardless of whether Saddam gave them aid or not. Now I suspect that he did give them covert financial aid but no material aid because that would be easier to track and make Iraq a no-brainer relatiation target, but that is another matter. The point is that permanent containment of Iraq of makes the US a permanent target, and that the most vulnerable target, the troops deployed for that containment, would be vulnerable forever and taking losses continuously. And while they are vulnerable now in Iraq, they are actively pursuing an end scenario where they will be out of risk in the future.

    So in my book there were three ways of dealing with the issue of containment of Iraq and the 2nd front opened by Islamic terrorists: maintain the status quo on containment, retreat from containment and hope the Islamic terrorists ignore us, or aggressively attack Islamists while pursuing policies that lead to verifiable neutralization of Saddam and termination of our obligations to protect the Iraqi Kurds and Kuwait. Since the first was failure from the prospect of keeping the US safe as witnessed by 9/11, and the second would likely lead to a rearmed Saddam down the road, the only option is the last one.

  • J

    If Iraq really did not have a WMD programme…

    I don’t know any anti-war people claiming that. I know lots claiming that they really did not have any WMD. Two completely different things. And, more to the point, they didn’t have a delivery capability that posed any concievable threat to the US or UK.

    Yes, some chemical weapons were found in trivial quantities – possibly dating from before GW1. And yes, they appeared to be so deteriorated that they no longer functioned as weapons.

    I have no doubt that Saddam was trying very hard to get nuclear and chemical weapons. I think there is evidence for this. I do not think there was any credible evidence that he had succeeded at all in this aim.

    So, we invaded a soveriegn nation thousands of miles away from us to stop a plan that might have produced NBC weapons, that then might have been used to attack internal targets or neighbouring countries.

    Not a good use of my tax money, sorry. It so happens that we completed the invasion with very few mil or civ casualties. Still not a good use of my tax money. We then went on to employ Bremmer and Chalabi to trash what was left of the country. And even worse use of my taxes. Finally we settled down for a long, expensive occupation to repair the damage done by Bremmer and Chalabi – a truly dire use of my taxes.

    Now, if they’d just _said at the beginning_ “We want to occupy Iraq to turn it into a militarised West friendly buffer against China” then we’d all be happy. But no, they had to go and lie.

  • OK. Give me a lesson in basic logic.

    OK. If you make a judgement based on the best available information but that information is wrong, your judgement may well be wrong but that does mean you were incompetent, just that correct information is hard to come by. What is so difficult about that?

  • Lindsay

    “I am certain it comes as little surprise to any of our readers that politicians are, by nature, liars.”

    I just don’t buy this ‘politicians are liars’ nonsense. Really? Why else would Michael Howard refuse to answer the same question 12 times on that infamous Newsnight interview? Nor was Tony Blair found to have lied over the Iraq debacle, even if he did preside over one of the most significant failures of government in recent times.

    As a rule, politicians do’t lie, and those that do tend to get found out. What was it that Blake said? “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”

  • Sandy P

    Bermer and Chalabi trashed the infrastructure?

    Drained the swamps?

  • Mark

    Wrong, incompetence, truth, and so on; see how high the seas of language run here. “Wrong” as often used, means many things and can be used to qualify a many other things (assertions, attitudes, arguments, principles, actions and so on). Clearly the concept of incompetence is connected with the concept of “wrongness” in some sense, since we expect an incompetent person (in respect of some ability) to produce outcomes they didn’t want more often than someone who was competent in this field. But equally obviously being an incompetent doesn’t guarantee a “wrong” result each time this ability is exercised.

    It is useful to distinguish truth, as applying to claims (assertions if you will) from the grounds for those assertions. A conclusion might therefore be justified (although not conclusively so) by reference to reasonableness, evidence, probabilities, etc, even if it is subsequently shown to be incorrect (that is, not true). An incompetent person is more likely to get to the “wrong conclusion” because they are less able to evaluate probability and evidence, and probably not seek out the kind of evidence which would increase the liklihood of getting to the right answer. This, by the way, allows epidemiologists to argue both ways.)

    Perry’s remark, that

    if you make a judgement based on the best available information but that information is wrong, your judgement may well be wrong but that does mean you were incompetent…

    is correct as far as it goes, but misses the point that the information available may be correct, but simply incomplete (which it almost always is). However, the thrust of the remark is clearly correct, otherwise we would have to describe everyone in the history of medicine as incompetent, simply because they were unable to arrive at (what we now consider to be) the “right” answer. Going back to an earlier remark of Perry’s:

    Being wrong is indeed a necessarily a part of incompetence but incompetence is not a necessarily part of being wrong

    is true as regards the concepts of wrongness, but not as regards each and every act involving them. But “x is part of being y” is not a particularly illuminating expression, precisely because it fails to distinguish the general from the particular

  • JSAllison

    Let’s stipulate that somewhere along the line the Iraqi ‘government’ of the time managed to ‘lose’ any and all WMDs prior to the resumption of armed conflict. This does not delegitimize all the other reasons for going into Iraq, much as the Aging Aquarians would like it to be so.

  • I’d love to see clips back to back of them saying first one thing and then its exact opposite.

    They couldn’t find any. Where have the Democrats been denying their previous stance? Am I missing something?