Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Our little Scottie has finally grown up
It’s time to fess up that I was wrong about something. Ever since Scott McClellan took over for Ari Fleisher as Bush’s official spokesman, I have mocked McClelland as a pale reflection of Fleisher. I usually say that all McClellan can do is repeat the talking point of the day over and over while Fleisher was a world-class liar. Though my admiration for Fleisher remains undimmed, I now have to admit that our little Scottie has grown into the job. He is just as shameless a sack of it as Ari ever was.

Submitted for your approval: the official White House transcript of McClellan’s daily press gaggle, yesterday on the road on-board Air Force One en route to Eau Claire, Wisconsin .
Under the President, funding* for our veterans has more than doubled over the previous eight years.

Look at that asterisk! When most of us speak publicly, we can manage an aside, maybe even a parenthetical comment--but how many of us can speak with footnotes? Let’s take a look at the footnote.
* by nearly doubling the funding increase of the previous eight years

This is truly Fleisheresque. In public he said “more than doubled” but in the transcript it was quietly modified to “nearly doubl[ed].” That’s impressive enough, but what does “funding increase of the previous eight years” mean? Is this a further qualification of his original exaggeration?

Yes. The mighty Seb at Sadly No! explains.
... veterans funding $36bn in 1994, $47bn in 2001, and is estimated at $65bn for 2005. So the "Bush increase" is estimated at $18bn, while the "Clinton increase" (from 1994 to 2001) was $11bn. Put another way:

In Bush's first three years funding for the Veterans Administration increased 27%. And if Bush's 2005 budget is approved, funding for his full four-year term will amount to an increase of 37.6%.

So, when McClellan says “funding… more than doubled” he means the increase nearly doubled. And by nearly doubled he means the increase in funding rose by 63% in actual dollars ($18bn is 63% larger than $11bn) or 39% as a proportion (37.6 is 39% larger than 27). The actual funding increased 38% from Clinton’s last budget ($47bn in 2001) to Bush’s hoped for next budget ($65bn in 2005).

In McClellanese, a little over a third larger is close enough to more than twice as much to baldly make that claim in public. The student is finally the equal to the master.

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