Government's Lies a Matter of Convenience The Justice Department's denial of the impending resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is the latest example of government officials lying as a matter of convenience.
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Government's Lies a Matter of Convenience

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Government's Lies a Matter of Convenience

Government's Lies a Matter of Convenience

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

The nation's top law enforcement official, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, has just a few weeks left in office.

And NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has these thoughts on the end of his time at the Justice Department.

DANIEL SCHORR: His tenure in office a tissue of deception and evasion, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales found a way to tell one parting lie. When New York Times reporter Philip Shenon called the Justice Department on Saturday and again on Sunday to ask about reports that Gonzales was stepping down, a spokesman said the attorney general had authorized him to say the report was totally untrue.

In fact, the attorney general and President Bush had agreed on Friday that the resignation would be announced on Monday. Evidently, they considered premature disclosure inconvenient. Lying as a matter of convenience has become almost a conventional tactic.

On November 1st last year, just before the mid-term elections, President Bush said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was under fire, would stay on. On November 8th, after the election, the president announced Rumsfeld's resignation, saying he had not wanted to inject a major decision about the Iraq war into the final days of the campaign.

What is astonishing about these lies is that they are treated as routine instruments of governing, no reason to apologize. I'm not speaking of lies to shield military action, in the cases of both the Reagan era invasion of Granada and the Bush Senior invasion of Panama, nor need much be said about the Clinton lies about his sexual activities that got him impeached.

A vintage case of mendacity was Nixon and Watergate, and the statement of White House spokesman Ron Ziegler that previous denials of involvement had become inoperative. But routine mendacity appears to be on the increase. In my earlier days as a reporter, I became acquainted with the no comment as a way of parrying undesired questions.

But no comment became less useful in the television age, where people could judge the manner in which it was said. What is astonishing is that deliberate lies are told by people who espouse values that are supposed to include honesty.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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