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A few words about Bush

A White House memo to administration officials suggests talking points about his years in office.

December 09, 2008|Peter Nicholas | Nicholas is a writer in our Washington bureau.

WASHINGTON — In case any Bush administration officials have trouble summing up the boss' record, the White House is providing a few helpful suggestions.

A two-page memo that has been sent to Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials offers a guide for discussing Bush's eight-year tenure during their public speeches.

Titled "Speech Topper on the Bush Record," the talking points state that Bush "kept the American people safe" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, lifted the economy after 2001 through tax cuts, curbed AIDS in Africa and maintained "the honor and the dignity of his office."

The document presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success.

It mentions none of the episodes that detractors say have marred his presidency: the collapse of the housing market and major financial services companies, the flawed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina or the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

In a section on the economy, speakers are invited to say that Bush cut taxes after 2001, setting the stage for years of job growth.

As for the current economic crisis, the memo says that Bush "responded with bold measures to prevent an economic meltdown."

The document is otherwise silent on the recession, which claimed 533,000 jobs in November, the highest number in 34 years.

A copy of the memo was obtained by The Times' Washington bureau. A spokesman for Bush said Monday that the White House routinely sends out suggestions to officials and allies on ways to talk about the administration's record.

"What we have in mind with these documents is we feel the president's many accomplishments haven't been given the attention they deserve and in some cases have been purposely ignored," said Carlton Carroll, a White House spokesman.

No one is required to recite the talking points laid out by the White House, Carroll said.

The memo closes with a reference to Bush's 1999 memoir, "A Charge to Keep":

"Above all, George W. Bush promised to uphold the honor and the dignity of his office. And through all the challenges and trials of his time in office, that is a charge that our president has kept."

One accomplishment cited is passage of the No Child Left Behind law, Bush's attempt to improve education. "He promised to raise standards and accountability in public schools -- and delivered the No Child Left Behind Act," the talking points read.

On the presidential campaign trail this year, Democratic candidates found that any criticism of No Child Left Behind was a surefire applause line.

President-elect Barack Obama promised to revamp the program, contending that it elevated test-taking at the expense of a well-rounded education.

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peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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