Tuesday :: Mar 9, 2004

There He Goes Again: Bush Lies About Kerry's Record On Intelligence Support

by Steve

In what I suspect we will have to do almost weekly, it is time once again to point out George W. Bush's most recent lies about John Kerry's record. You will remember that yesterday Skippy said that Kerry supported "gutting" the intelligence budget because he wanted to cut $1.5 billion from it back in the mid-90's, at a time two years after the first WTC bombing. As Fred Kaplan in Slate pointed out today, this was another Bush lie.

One thing is true: Kerry did introduce a bill on Sept. 29, 1995—S. 1290—that, among many other things, would have cut the intelligence budget by $300 million per year over a five-year period, or $1.5 billion in all.

But let's look at that bill more closely.

First, would such a reduction have "gutted" the intelligence services? Intelligence budgets are classified, but private budget sleuths have estimated that the 1995 budget totaled about $28 billion. Thus, taking out $300 million would have meant a reduction of about 1 percent. This is not a gutting.

Second, and more to the point, Kerry's proposal would have not have cut a single intelligence program.

Of course, to a guy like Bush who can't seem to count when doing his own federal budget and job predictions each year, I guess it is a gutting when you cut 1%. Maybe since Bush calls a 1% cut a "gutting", we can call his domestic spending cuts of 1% or more a "gutting" also.

On the same day that Kerry's bill was read on the Senate floor, two of his colleagues—Democrat Bob Kerrey and Republican Arlen Specter—introduced a similar measure. Their bill would have cut the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office, the division of the U.S. intelligence community in charge of spy satellites.

According to that day's Congressional Record, Specter said he was offering an amendment "to address concerns about financial practices and management" at the NRO. Specifically, "the NRO has accumulated more than $1 billion in unspent funds without informing the Pentagon, CIA, or Congress." He called this accumulation "one more example of how intelligence agencies sometimes use their secret status to avoid accountability."

The Kerrey-Specter bill proposed to cut the NRO's budget "to reflect the availability of funds … that have accumulated in the carry-forward accounts" from previous years. Another co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Richard Bryan, D–Nev., noted that these "carry-forward accounts" amounted to "more than $1.5 billion."

This was the same $1.5 billion that John Kerry was proposing to cut—over a five-year period—in his bill. It had nothing to do with intelligence, terrorism, or anything of substance. It was a motion to rescind money that had been handed out but never spent.

In other words, it's as if Kerry had once filed for a personal tax refund—and Bush accused him of raiding the Treasury.

By the way, the Kerrey-Specter bill—which called for the same intelligence cut that George W. Bush is attacking John Kerry for proposing—passed on the Senate floor by a voice vote. It was sheer common sense. It also led to major investigations into the NRO's finances, both by the White House and by the CIA's general counsel.

John Kerry's bill died—its title was read on the floor, then it was sent to the Senate Budget Committee—but, again, not because it was an abhorrence. It died for two reasons. First, some of its provisions, including the intelligence cut, were covered in other bills. Second, Kerry's bill was not just about the intelligence budget; it was a 16-page document, titled "The Responsible Deficit Reduction Act of 1995," that called for a scattershot of specific cuts across the entire federal budget. (The New York Times today, reporting on Bush's attack, states that Kerry's bill "also proposed cuts in military spending." The story neglects to mention that it proposed just as many cuts in non-military spending.)

Perhaps if Kerry doesn't have the cajones to tell voters "Bush is lying again about my record," he should do as Kaplan suggests and use the Reaganesque "There he goes again" every time Bush lies. That would be perfect payback.

Steve :: 10:55 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!