The author and former British spy Ian Fleming once had one of his villains succinctly explain the difference between random chance and patterns of behavior.
Auric Goldfinger, the eponymous villain of Fleming’s seventh James Bond novel, told 007 that he knew the secret agent was up to no good after their third meeting. “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action,” Goldfinger explained.
This quote comes to mind following George W. Bush’s fifth State of the Union address. Granted, we’re talking about the fictional villain in the fanciful story of a secret agent written half a century ago, but Goldfinger knew that what looks like a duck and walks like a duck often is damned close to a duck. We knew going in that Bush came from oil money, made his money in oil, and that he and his running mate were both oil-made millionaires. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to us that we’re neck-deep in a quagmire in the part of the globe that is home to most of the world’s oil reserves.
When it comes to the State of the Union address, Bush has a clear pattern: Call for less reliance on foreign oil, but do the opposite. Look at the record:
Bush State of the Union 2003: “Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.”
Bush State of the Union 2004: “Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run. So I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.”
Bush State of the Union 2005: “Four years of debate is enough—I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.”
Bush State of the Union 2006: “Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.”
Four years of speeches, and yet this administration granted tax breaks to people who bought the most expensive gas-guzzling motor vehicles on the planet. The same week Bush yet again asked his Republican-run Congress to give him what he so desperately claims he wants—relief from the yoke of foreign sources of energy—Exxon Mobil Corp. posted the biggest profits for any U.S. company ever: a record $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter of ’05 and $36.13 billion for the entire year. The same week, Chevron Corp. reported its highest profits since the company was founded in 1879. One hundred twenty-six years and suddenly the company is posting 20 percent higher profits than in the previous quarter—$4.14 billion dollars. And the administration that put together an energy plan in secret, that leads a party that has been walking hand-in-hand with K Street lobbyists, is the one that will deliver us from the scourge of foreign oil? That duck won’t fly.
But it only took one day—one day!—for Bush’s spokespeople to come out and say that the president didn’t really mean what he said. While the president said he thinks it’s time to “move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past,” his secretary of energy, Samuel Bodman (and there’s a man you haven’t heard much from these five years, right?), said the day after the State of the Union that “this was purely an example.”
Knight Ridder’s Kevin Hall wrote Feb. 2: “Asked why the president used the words ‘the Middle East’ when he didn’t really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that ‘every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands.’ The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.”
Less than 24 hours passes and what Bush says is already at odds with what he means—and they joked about Bill Clinton’s relationship with the truth. Bush is like what the wife of a philandering friend once told me about her husband: “All of his promises have expiration dates.”
When poll after poll finds that more than half of America doesn’t find the president to be honest about the issues, it’s time to start looking at the man’s motives. And the pattern is as clear as day. More than once, he’s told us he wants us to kick the oil habit. More than twice he’s given away the store to the people in the top bracket in the form of tax cuts. It’s not hard to see what three-plus mentions in the State of the Union means. Auric Goldfinger certainly knew.
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