...in service of George W. Bush.
White House Uses Website to Campaign, In Violation of the Rule of Law...
By Brad Friedman on 10/26/2004, 11:08pm PT  

While it may not be "breaking news", still I never fail to grow more amazed each day at the ever lowering depths of stark and cynical politicization of this George W. Bush administration.

While I'm not old enough to have contemporaneously tracked the troubling goings-on of the Nixon administration, I must say that from what I've been able to glean over the years about them, they just don't seem to hold a candle to the slick and orchestrated campaign of top-to-bottom politicization of virtually every facet of the current administration.

Sure both Clinton and Reagan were political champs, but they just didn't seem to have the fixation on the politicization of every nook and cranny of their administration in the way the Dubya team seems have accomplished during their catastrophic failure.

As I've been dealing with various issues related to the political scrubbing and/or white-washing and/or flagrantly partisan use of the White House website over the past couple of weeks, I've come across various bits and pieces, and have received various tips from readers on all sorts of questionable and/or deceptive and/or partisan and/or downright ugly uses of Bush administration-run facilities on their portion of the tax-payer funded "Internets".

By way of just a few examples, the White House's website is one of the top destinations on all of the Internets, as it offers a treasure trove of historical and educational information, including a section specifically tailored for children. (NOTE FOR THOSE OF YOU IN BLINDFOLD LAND: We're talking about the publicly funded Whitehouse.gov site now, a different animal all together than the appropriately partisan GeorgeWBush.com campaign site!)

Yet take a look at the screenshot on the right taken from the front page of Whitehouse.gov today. There's your tax dollars at work. A historical report concluding that "President George W. Bush's first term has been among the most consequential and successful in modern times."

I'll grant them "most consequential", but "most successful in modern times"?

Clicking on the link to their "special report" called "President George W. Bush: Record of Achievement", I found that my tax dollars are being used to inform me that...

President Bush...has signed one of the most sweeping arms reduction pacts in history. [ed: That's right, go read about it yourself in Chapter 3: "Promoting Peace and Democracy - and Acts of Mercy"]

President Bush...has signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, the most important Federal education reform in history.

President Bush has strongly advocated...environmental standards that are making America's water and air cleaner.

He has made civility a touchstone of his rhetoric.

Such times demand a leader of clear convictions and determination, hope and vision, integrity and the courage to act. These qualities are the hallmarks of the Bush Presidency.

President George W. Bush put forward a historically ambitious agenda and restored dignity to the office he holds...The United States is safer and stronger, more resilient and better for his efforts.

And all of that is just on the first page of the full 19 Chapter "report"!

Meanwhile, lest we forget the children, the "Kids" section of Whitehouse.gov informs the impressionable tykes that "President Bush has pledged to work in a bipartisan spirit, which means he plans to work with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress." Perhaps those plans got set aside.

In another example of rank partisanship at work on the official Whitehouse.gov website, a reader (Vic) pointed out that there is a page devoted to a short biography of each American President. And right in the middle of the text of each one of those, they've been kind enough to offer the reader a convenient set of "Related Whitehouse.gov links" (See screenshot at left for the "Whitehouse.gov related links" to Abraham Lincoln, for example.)

The bio pages for each of the 43 former (or soon-to-be former) Presidents have that same set of "related" links dropped squarely into the middle of every historic Presidential biography.

As the reader who sent the tip noted, we might give the benefit of the doubt and overlook the links to the current President and Vice-President perhaps --- but links to their wives as well?!

To be fair, we've only had two administrations so far that have even had websites. So I wondered if perhaps Bill Clinton's website was similarly as unabashedly partisan and politicized as George W. Bush's.

I jumped over to the National Archives, where they have all five versions of Clinton's Whitehouse.gov website archived, versioned, indexed and frozen for posterity as the historical documents that such websites are --- according to the "rule of law" anyway, for those of you out there who still care about such antiquated notions.

I looked mostly at the fifth and final version of the Clinton website, since it would have been in play during the 2000 Elections and most comparable to Bush's current site. While I found documents that discussed various positive Clinton achievements, I just didn't come across the sort of wildly unabashed campaign rhetoric that the current White House site offers readers in spades.

One enlightening, though admittedly anecdotal measure of the differences in the two administrations is revealed by comparing each administration's former (and soon-to-former) historical bio pages of past Presidents.

There are no "Whitehouse.gov related links" to Clinton, Gore and their respective wives in the middle of the Clinton versions of those pages. Though there is a link on each page to a bio for each respective President's wife on the Clinton version. The direct links to the First Ladies (other than Laura Bush, of course, who is on every page) is removed on the Bush version. Instead, the Bush site, as did the Clinton site, offers a section specifically dedicated to historical First Lady bios.

More telling, however, is the direct comparison of the biographical essays for each President. I compared each site's version for LBJ through "present".

But for a short "FUN FACT" removed from the top of each of the Clinton site's Bio pages, it looks like the Bush Administration retained the exact same texts from the Clinton years for almost every President. That says something, I'd think, of the fair and balanced treatment that the Clinton team gave to former Presidents.

All of the Clinton essays seemed to be mostly even and non-partisan essays. An observation further borne out, I'd suggest, by the fact that even the Clinton team's version of Dubya's dad, Bush 41, remains completely unchanged on Dubya's version for his own dad through all four years of his term.

So Bush 43 found no reason to change the essay that Clinton had created for Bush 41, but --- as you might guess --- they did change the text for the Clinton bio when they took over the sandbox. Appropriately, they added information that hadn't been there previously about impeachment, but many Clinton achievements were simply excised entirely. Phrases such as "he outlined a bold strategy to lift the economy through increased public and private investment while cutting $500 billion from the Federal deficit" were removed. While other descriptive phrases like "After the failure in his second year of a huge program of health care reform" were added by Team Bush.

You can compare other differences for yourself.

While all of this is not necessarily earth-shaking --- as I said, "not breaking news" --- I do find it interesting, instructive and indicative of the politicized posture the current Administration has had from Day 1 of their "Presidency" in virtually every area, large to small.

The only other differences in Presidential essays that I noticed between the two sites is the entirely lopped off final paragraph from Clinton's version of the Jimmy Carter bio. The short excised paragraph at the end which spoke of Carter's achievements after leaving the White House, such as his founding of "the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta to promote peace and human rights worldwide" was simply gone.

Perhaps the Bush White House decided that post-Presidential activities were a can of worms they preferred better left unopened.

Some day, if I find the stomach for it, perhaps I'll compare the First Lady bios from the Clinton and Bush sites. Though I have a feeling it's not gonna be pretty.

UPDATE 10/29/04: BRAD BLOG SUCCESS! WH restores Audio/Video! Though much still missing...