THE PICTURE emerging of the Bush White House is that of a radical administration so certain of its ideological rightness that it will distort and manipulate information as needed to soothe moderates and silence critics.
And beware of telling truths that stymie administration aims or contradict its spin. That offense can endanger loved ones.
This latest and, to date, most chilling allegation comes from retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, whose wife was exposed by conservative columnist Robert Novak as a CIA operative. Novak says he got his information from senior administration officials.
If so, someone high in the administration broke the law. Wilson is sure the disclosure is meant to warn off anyone who can reveal information on the administration's possible misuse of intelligence during the run-up to the Iraq war.
Wilson was in a position to do so because, at the behest of the CIA, he had traveled to Niger in February 2002 to check the reliability of a document that contended Iraq was trying to buy nuclear weapons material.
Wilson found no basis for the report - bad enough, from the perspective of a White House building its case for war. But Wilson ran truly afoul of the administration only last month, when he wrote an op-ed article in The New York Times that revealed both his role and the duplicity of senior administration officials in contending that only low-level intelligence officials knew of his findings.
The White House was forced at last to admit that it knowingly included in President Bush's State of the Union address in January a justification for war that, in Wilson's words, was "so transparently unsubstantiable."
Outing an undercover operative would escalate hardball politics to political suppression. And Wilson's frightening portrayal of an administration in which "spin" is spinning wildly out of control is all too credible.
Bush shows time and again his willingness to censor, distort or simply ignore scientific evidence contrary to his policy objectives - including data on global warming, on Arctic oil drilling and wildlife, on stem-cell research, on tax cuts and budget deficits, on abortion, on condoms and "abstinence only" sex education.
Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's 40-page report detailing administration manipulations might be dismissed as partisan politics - except that, in recent months, the editors of a list of prestigious scientific journals have sounded the same alarm.
Every modern president's penchant for controlling the message has metastasized during this presidency into controlling the free flow of information that is the lifeblood of a self-governing society. Bush and his advisers are heading beyond partisanship onto dangerous new ground.
© Copyright 2003 The Roanoke Times