Screw ’em: We know when we’re right

In December 2005, a long-time friend who worked in the Bush White House tipped me on a meeting the President had with some top GOP leaders. During that meeting, a worried Republican aide told Bush that the USA Patriot Act represented a threat to the Constitution.

Bush, whose temper is always close to the surface, exploded:

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

After confirming the story with two other White House sources, I published it on December 10, 2005.

Since that time, the story has become a rallying cry for critics of Capitol Hill Blue, saying I made it all up or that it came from a source that has since been discredited.

Both claims are wrong. After nearly four years of listening to the rabid right-wing try to discredit the story, I see no reason to doubt the sources who gave me the information. I believe Bush called the Constitution a “goddamned piece of paper” and I believe his record of abuses of American liberties and disregard for the Constitution proves that his angry outburst is exactly how he felt about the document that used to define our way of life.

Recent disclosures about the authorization of torture only add to my belief that the President used the Constitution as toilet paper to wipe his ass and not as something to uphold as he swore when he took the Oath of Office.

And I don’t much give a goddamn what some blogger or washed up ex-journalist who runs a pseudo-fact checking web site says. I know I’m right. Our readers know we’re right and those who seek to cast doubts on our honesty and integrity can go screw themselves.

A journalist cannot do his or her job as a watchdog on government by playing it safe. Sometimes, we have to go on instinct. In 2003, we wrote that Bush ignored warnings that intelligence placing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was fabricated.  People called us “unpatriotic” and, again, claimed we make the whole thing up. It took a few years, but our story turned out to be correct.

In 2004, we reported that Bush was acting erratically and terrorizing staff with temper tantrums and obscenity-laced tirades. Again came the claims that we manufactured the story.

Then, in 2005, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas wrote:

Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him…Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as “strangely surreal and almost detached.” At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.

In Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by Newsweek report Michael Isikoff and The Nation’s David Corn, the two vetreran journalists reported:

President Bush was driven by a visceral hatred of Saddam Hussein, which he privately demonstrated in expletive-laden tirades against the Iraqi dictator. In May 2002–months before he asked Congress for authority to attack Saddam-Bush bluntly revealed his ultimate game plan in a candid moment with two aides. When told that reporter Helen Thomas was questioning the need to oust Saddam by force, Bush snapped: “Did you tell her I intend to kick his sorry mother fucking ass all over the Mideast?” In a meeting with congressional leaders, the President angrily thrust his middle finger inches in front of the face of Senator Tom Daschle to illustrate Saddam’s attitude toward the United States.

Capitol Hill Blue has made mistakes and will not doubt make others in the future. In 14-and-a-half years of publishing this web site, we have been hoodwinked by two sources who were not who they claimed to be. Some bloggers, consumed with their own self-importance, claimed they “outed us” but we reported it before anyone else did. That little fact got lost in the feeding frenzy that followed.

I apologized to our readers in 2006 for my lapse in judgment in not fully vetting a source. It’s happened twice in 14 and-a-half years. It hasn’t happened again and it won’t.

But I will not apologize for how we exposing the criminal underbelly of Congress in our series: Congress: America’s Criminal Class.  I will not apologize for reporting that George W. Bush called the Constitution a “goddamned piece of paper.”  I will not apologize for exposing his temper trantrums or use of phony intelligence to send thousands of American soldiers to a needless death in Iraq.

Those who don’t like what we do can go elsewhere. Those who claim we manufacture stories can go to hell. And those who claim to hold themselves to a self-perceived, and fake, higher standard while hiding the fact that they make far more mistakes than we can go screw themselves.


  1. barak

    Apology accepted though unnecessary. This is one of the best things you have written in a long time. Thank you for that.

    I think Bush’s intent to invade somewhere was revealed in a video in the ‘ONION’ while he was campaigning or had just won the election. I cannot remember his exact words, but they went something like this–“How much does this job (the Presidency) pay? Is that all? I made $?$? million last year. I’ll just have to find some way to make a lot of money. My daddy made a bundle from Desert Storm, maybe I’ll start a war somewhere. I can make lots of money in a war”.

    When I saw and read this story I was so ashamed of this terrible man who would be president. I opposed his election and feel that his words that day were ignored by the general news media. I never understood why and I still don’t…

  2. Helen Rainier

    I have always enjoyed coming to CHB. I may not always agree with the points of view, but that is a part of learning and expanding our horizons. Don’t worry about salty language. I use it myself because some times using diplomatic or polite words don’t convey the intensity of what you’re trying to express. Keep up the good work, Doug and every else at CHB!

  3. lorenbliss

    It is good to see a few of us yet cling to the now-radical ethics that attracted me to newspaper journalism more than half a century ago.

    In those days print journalism was still largely a blue-collar field in that editorial people typically came from families where the costs of living were paid by honest labor.

    My own late father for example held a variety of jobs but at the time of his death he managed an Esso station and was something of a local legend for his mechanical skill: not the sort of background that gives you the money to get into college or dodge the draft.

    In fact (and also typically), I enlisted — something for which many of the sneeringly bourgeois draft-exempt elitists who populate today’s (alleged) U.S. Left will never forgive me. And even with the (insultingly miserly) Vietnam Era G.I. Bill it took me 18 years to earn a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, mostly history, sociology and photography as simultaneously art and sociohistorical documentation.

    Not that my BA mattered: as a semi-literate white female personnel-office oberführer would soon tell me, “obviously” I hadn’t been “serious about doing college-level work.” Otherwise — “with all the white-male advantages,” — it wouldn’t have taken me so long.

    Such are the sorts of gatekeepers the news monopolies hire to make sure today’s so-called “journalists” possess three vital qualifications: submissiveness, conformity and (above all else) acceptance of the core principle of capitalism: that infinite greed is maximum virtue.

    Hence the reality of the modern newspaper and the real reason it is dying: from management’s perspective, we editorial people exist only as to fill the spaces between the advertisements. That’s why in every newsroom in the U.S., quality has been replaced by quantity — with reporters chained to word-quotas, photographers imprisoned in image-counts and editors reduced to production monitors.

    But once upon a time journalism was very different. As I told my wife-to-be in 1967, it was “the one place in America somebody without wealth or ruling-class connections can sometimes actually make life better for everyone.” It’s operational values were the same values expressed by our parents’ union cards: “to comfort the afflicted — and afflict the comfortable.”

    I do not know Doug Thompson personally (though I am friends with someone who knew him in high school), but I nevertheless recognize him as a true colleague. He is what today I would label “a real journalist” — “real” as differentiated from the legion of steno-drones who passed enough tests of unquestioning obedience and reflexive anti-intellectuality (the workplace equivalent of fraternity rush) to be granted a keyboard in a newsroom.

    Thus I not only applaud Doug’s growled “screw ‘em,” I add to it the exclamation with which one of my former bosses always greeted a telling exposé of Big Business criminality or political corruption, never mind that both terms are now self-contained redundancies.

    That boss was an archetypical northeastern big-city managing editor — cigar, green eyeshade and all — and when you brought him a story idea that would reveal the infinite hypocrisy of the powers that be (which was the kind of story he liked best of all), he’d roll the cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other, look you straight in the eye and say, “good; do it — and make sure you stick it up their pooper.”

  4. Hal Brown

     I never doubted the gist of the quote but I’d bet dollars to donuts that what he really said included the F-word (eff) at least once, but probably two or three times. I think "goddamned" is too mild an expletive for him.

    The sources who told Doug about it may have given him the PG version. Doesn’t this sound more like Bush:

    "Shut the eff up, eff the Constitution," Bush screamed back. "It’s just an effing piece of paper!"

    Regardless, good for you Doug in standing by the story. Hopefully when the final history is written either your version or mine or something in between will be confirmed publicly by those who were there.

  5. Janice

    There is no need to keep defending this site or the stories published here. You are comfortable with your sources, and when they prove wrong you are the first to report the errors. That is journalism. In todays environment, you can’t expose the names of sources if they want to be off the record, or you will eliminate your access to information. There are jobs and reputations to protect, and sometimes even lives. There is nothing wrong with that. As a reporter, it is your responsiblity to do the homework, verify the source, and then report the truth. This is what you do, so get over having to defend your integrity. If you need to fight back, do your own expose on the site in question, otherwise, set it aside and walk away.