I no longer believe George W. Bush called the Constitution a ‘god damned piece of paper’

For the record, I do not believe President George W. Bush ever called the U.S. Constitution a “god damned piece of paper.”

There was a time when I did believe it and published a story saying so. The story went viral on the ‘Net but no other news source could verify it. I published the story based on emails from political operatives who had passed on information in the past.

But I later found out they lied about being in a meeting where Bush supposedly uttered the phrase and the three “operatives” were actually one person using three different email accounts and names.

I jumped on the story because I wanted to believe it was true. I disliked Bush’s policies so much that it made sense to me that he just might make such a statement.

But I don’t think he did. While I believe Bush was a flawed President, I believe he loves this country. It’s just that his beliefs in what America should be are different from many other Americans but lets remember that the man served two terms. His first election will always have an asterisk beside it because of Florida but the second election was a clearer victory in both popular and electoral votes.

The Bush constitution story was a turning point for this web site. It showcased just how out of control my ego had become as Capitol Hill Blue’s publisher and how sloppy I had allowed the reporting to become and how I had let my distrust of all politicians fuel that sloppiness.

As a recovering alcoholic, one of the 12 steps I must take as part of recovery is making amends to those I have wronged.

I was wrong to write the story that said the President of the United States had called the Constitution a “god damned piece of paper.”  I was wrong to write another story that said he was taking anti-depressants. The source for that story turned out to be a bitter, fired aide who himself was undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Although I will celebrate my 17th year of sobriety on June 6 of this year it does not mean I was still not suffering from the problems of alcoholism.  Those of us who have stopped actual drinking can still be “dry drunks” and I have been one off and on for the past 16 years.  A recent battle with Valium given to me after back surgery became enough of a problem to remind me that my battle with addiction can take many forms.

This does not mean that I, in any way, blame writing those stories or some of the other mistakes made running this web site on my alcoholism. It was my ego that got in the way.  In its early years, Capitol Hill Blue built up a strong reputation for independent news coverage — strong enough for for several media outlets, including The New York Times, to write about us.

But then I let my ego get out of hand and started getting sloppy. I got burned by a phony source who claimed to be a CIA consultant. We also too often quoted a source calling himself George Harleigh, who claimed for be a former political science professor and to have served in both the Nixon and Reagan White Houses.  I never met the man but received emails that always had quotes that fit my view of the word at the time so I used them.

Then the university where he claimed to work contacted us and said they never heard of him. A blogger claimed he “outed” us but we actually wrote about discovering the scam first but that didn’t matter. We were burned again and our credibility suffered.

I wrote about some of this in a column at the first of the year. I recently provided information to Brooks Jackson at FactCheck.Org to update what they have published about some of our stories.

The point here is that I allowed this web site to publish information that was not properly sourced. I wrote some of the stories. Others I edited. Others I just let others write and post without checking.

That stopped after we got burned the last time. Three has not been a question raised about the veracity of a story published on this web site since 2007 and I intend to keep it that way.

Starting this week, we add a home page feature called “Fact Checking Capitol Hill Blue.” In that section, readers can post questions about our stories and our sources and I will answer each and every question.

Some have suggested I should have shut this web site down after the George Harleigh debacle. I thought about it but decided that there’s still a lot of news out there that needs to be covered.

So we soldier on as the oldest continually published political news web site on the ‘Net and one of the few that is non-partisan.

One other thing. That step about making amends means I must apologize to those I have wronged. I have written letters to three people who I feel were the subjects of inaccurate reporting on this web site and either removed or modified the stories that contained the information:

  • Former President George W. Bush
  • Former President Bill Clinton (for a story about an claimed sexual assault against an English woman while he was attending Oxford)
  • Former First Lady Nancy Reagan (for a story claiming she was not endorsing George W. Bush for President. The story was wrong and retracted).
  • Former Vice President Dick Cheney (for a story claiming the Secret Service reported he was drunk when he wounded an associate in an accidental shooting at a ranch in Texas).

And I apologize to them here publicly.

(Updated at 1:15 p.m. on 3/2/11 to include new information)

 

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20 Responses to "I no longer believe George W. Bush called the Constitution a ‘god damned piece of paper’"

  1. SDRSr  March 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Looks like the site has been, is and will be set up, to me that means you must be doing something right, pissing off the “wrong” people and such. Fact check is a good idea.Over all, I am not to worried about CHBs falling for the dupe, you have had your own case of Wag the Dog….

  2. Carl Nemo  March 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    The trouble with this type ‘news’ release is that once the damage is done…it’s done! As my Dad used to drill into us kids growing up, “you can’t turn back the clock”, so think twice before you act foolishly concerning any action prior to excecuting such.

    Besides, G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney based on their actions concerning WMD’s, outing Valerie Plame a CIA operative and a host of other shady dealings while in office made it believable. If George didn’t say it, he surely treated our founding document as if it were butt wipe particularly with the authorization of unfettered wiretaps, clandestine renditions and eventually torture itself coming to light. In essence both of these men along with their close coterie of ‘advisers’ are war criminals.

    I surely hope I don’t read another article in the near future where you’ll be saying both George and Dick were good guys, both misunderstood and by damn those WMD’s must been removed from Iraq before we could find them. It’s commendable that you are publicizing your regrets on this story, but just the same don’t get too sappy and go overboard so to speak. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. Carl Nemo  March 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I thought I’d post a December 2005 link concerning this quote debacle. The reference to Bush calling the Constitution such is a bit down the page with your name in lights as to the source.

    http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/12/09/bush-constitution-just-a-goddamned-piece-of-paper/

    Also I’ve extracted a sentence from the article concerning your verification as such. Now if it were only a single ‘deep throat’ source you met in an underground garage, then I could believe you were given bum info, but you are quoted as saying you talked to three (3) people that were “present” which is fairly damning corroboration that Bush said such that day. I surely hope the ‘Grand Inquisition’ staffed with statist revisionists haven’t reached your door.

    *****

    I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”… Doug Thompson

    *****

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Doug Thompson  March 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      The problem was that the “talking” was via email and the “three” turned out to be one person using three different email accounts. I fell for it. I was stupid. There’s no excuse for it.

      It’s one of the reasons now why I don’t use quotes from email unless it is someone I know personally and even then I verify by sending him or her a confirmation email. I prefer phone or face to face.

  4. Danny Adams  March 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    >>Some have suggested I should have shut this web site down after the George Harleigh debacle. I thought about it but decided that there’s still a lot of news out there that needs to be covered.<<

    I would certainly hope you'd keep it running! A lot bigger media sources have made much bigger mistakes (and heck, I know a Fox News affiliate in Florida even won a lawsuit a few years back where it argued that it had a First Amendment right to distort the truth), and where most of those may have printed small retractions, they generally didn't have the class to be contrite.

    CHB is still among the first news sources I read each day and I'd selfishly like to keep it around!

    • Carl Nemo  March 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm

      Agreed Danny and what’s unique about Doug’s news based site is that he allows common folks to make commentary to these various articles in the news without rabid censorship.

      We all express ourselves differently, but to me it gives a “dip stick” sampling of how people really feel about issues of the day. All in all we have a group of fine people making comments to this site regardless of some ‘dustups’ from time to time concerning simple differences in opinion.

      Hopefully at the end of the day we are all “friends in thought” here. : )

      Carl Nemo **==

  5. Sandune  March 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Chief, hold off on your apologies for a while. I just finished a book called Takeover about the job that was done on President Bush and the entire White House. From pressure of V.P. Cheney, S of S Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and many others the subject of the Constitution was simply in the way for most of the pretext of our invasion of Iraq. I have Rumsfeld’s book on order but he apparently tried to warn Bush about the restrictions found within the Constitution. Cheney is innocent of all charges of being a part of this lying pile of crap. The Constitution is clear about the impact pushed from the White House. I remember when President Clinton pushed some of his Executive Orders on border problems and many of us warned of the executive privileges being abused. The Attorney’s authority to keep all actions within the Constitution has been abused and apparently for a long time.

    The opinions of the voters are limited to a few internet sites who have the courage to expose all levels of abuse. It is a thankless endeavor to even try to keep things kosher. When I express my opinions on certain things, I am careful to credit the books I have read.

    I over played my hand after reading Michael Ruppert’s book on 911 called “Crossing the Rubicon” I knew Michael when he worked for Ross Perot and trusted his information, time lines and charts. I followed up immediately with Richard Clark’s “Against All Enemies” and saw for myself the lack of interest found in our FBI, CIA and White House investigations prior to 9/11.

    Our federal government is nothing but a series of lies, coverups and corruption. The Commission Report overlooks the information that could have saved thousands of lives. This of course makes people like me the enemy of freedoms. How dare I read the facts from several informative sources… The information on this cover up was pulled from further discussion at CHB….amen…

    The federal government opened the door to thousands of groups of extremists and nobody gives a damn about the truth or even how the Constitution has been revised to mean nothing to our legislators. It is too late to demand qualification.

    The First Amendment gives permission to yell “Fire” in a building but only if there is, in fact, a fire. I noticed that the Supreme Court allows the Baptist demonstrators to be allowed to take over the funerals of those lost in many ways. Only the churches can control this lack of good taste and they would never take a stand on taste, if it meant losing donation money.

    We gave away our choices years ago and there is no way to ever get them back. Many have hoped for a news source who would be a source of accuracy over a simple slanderous bit of news

    I had hoped years ago that the Huffington Post would show some control over the kind of news that is simply dirty. I grew up in a Hollywood of fearing “Confidential Magazine” because the readers spent millions of dollars on articles that had no proof of truth. The information was written for the gutter of their audiences.

  6. Evan Hillman  March 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I have been following CHB for years, but this is the first time I have posted a comment.

    Doug, back when all this happened, it never fazed me that you were taken in by someone who put a lot of effort into duping you. There will always be someone who is better at conning than we are at avoiding being conned. If YOU had made the information up, that would be a problem.

    What does faze me is how brutal you are towards yourself. As they say, if you had treated anyone else as badly as you treated yourself, you would have deserved to go to jail. Is there a step somewhere that compels one to forgive themselves? I my opinion, the drama of the self-loathing gave the whole incident a life of it’s own that it didn’t deserve. Doug, when did you claim to be perfect?

    In my opinion, the action that did the most damage to the web site was Doug’s quitting, coming back, quitting again, etc. That undermined the stability of the site more than any bogus news story could.

    My main interest in the site all these years has been reading Doug’s opinion pieces. I didn’t always agree with them, or the sometimes harsh way things were phrased, but I was looking for knowledge not a warm fuzzy Dr. Seuss feeling. It isn’t that hard to look past the words chosen to what Doug is saying, based on his wealth of experience in the political world. Doug brings a lot to the table, “warts and all,” as a dead white European male once said.

    -Evan

    • Doug Thompson  March 3, 2011 at 9:49 am

      Evan:

      I appreciate the sentiments but I cannot evade or deny responsibility for what happened. I screwed up. There’s no other way to put it. I’ve been working my butt off to try and restore this site’s reputation and it’s not easy because of my mistakes.

  7. bmclellan  March 3, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Save a little of that humble pie for us Doug, we all need a bite from time to time.
    You are fair and most honest in your efforts at edification.
    Can’t ask for anything more.

    ” A human being is not, in any proper sense,
    a human being till he is educated.” – Horace Mann

  8. woody188  March 4, 2011 at 12:20 am

    It certainly wasn’t hard to believe Junior Bush might have said those words. His actions or those actions of those that promoted the Unitary Executive theories in his Administration and dating back to the Nixon Administration certainly do not hold the Constitution or any of our laws to any high esteem. They believe they are above the law.

    His first election will always have an asterisk beside it because of Florida but the second election was a clearer victory in both popular and electoral votes.

    I beg to differ. There is a great record of Ohio irregularities located here. I witnessed first hand the purposeful lack of machines, broken machines, and non-response to have them fixed/replaced in poor and Democratic leaning districts. These districts had an average wait time of 5 hours, and up to 16 hours in extreme cases in very liberal districts. Meanwhile, the suburban, Republican leaning districts had extra machines and no wait times. I am still disenfranchised due to this experience in 2004. I am certain elections are not fair. Maybe they never were.

    We never get a real choice, only the choice between the few that are deemed by the rich and powerful to be worthy, ie controlled by those same special interests. Often times, as in recent history, those interests are in direct conflict with what is in the best interest of the nation or the “greater good.”

    Combined with the consistent rulings against private property, the re-defining of free speech to mean “free speech zones,” and graft, and the loss of security in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, we can conclude we are clearly not free people.

    All this is in part thanks to Junior Bush and his creation of Homeland Security. Maybe he didn’t say those words about the Constitution, but actions speak louder than words. He certainly is no champion of human rights and liberty. He’s a torture endorsing, lying, war criminal. He admitted it in his book. And if they (al-C.I.A.da) really hate us for our freedoms, as Junior so famously declared, why did he proceed to take away those freedoms from us with his warrant-less wiretaps, indefinite detention, and extraordinary rendition? Why does Obama continue and expand Bush Doctrine today?

    Was he really just careless, and let Cheney do whatever so long as it made the Unitary Executive more powerful? Is ignorance an excuse? That never seems to work as a defense in a court of law, but many Presidents simply can’t recall much once under oath. Hmmm…

    Your other retractions are largely fluff. Was he drunk? Did she endorse? Did he have sex? Who cares?

    I’m glad you want to set the record straight and it’s done. Time to move on and get back to comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable while we still have freedom of the press.

    • Doug Thompson  March 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      I’m afraid I have to disagree that any of the retractions were “fluff.” If a story is incorrect, it needs to be corrected. I wrote that Nancy Reagan had told the Bush campaign she would not endorse his candidacy. I was wrong. She did endorse.

      We published a report, that included the name of a “victim” of an claimed sexual assault by Bill Clinton while he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. We later found that the claimed “employee” of the State Department did not work for the department in England at that time. We were wrong.

      We published a report that said the President was taking power anti-depressants prescribed by the White House physician. No such drugs were ever prescribed. We were wrong.

      We published a report that said the Secret Service suppressed a report that Vice President Dick Cheney was drunk when he accidentally wounded a friend during a hunting trip. I later confirmed that no such report ever existed. I was wrong.

      It’s or duty to correct mistakes when we make them. Inaccurate reporting is never “fluff” and should never be treated as such. It doesn’t matter if it is a report about the President of the United States and an ordinary citizen living in my home town and I wrote something about him or her in the local paper that turns out to be wrong.

      • Carl Nemo  March 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

        The ‘pregnant’ question here is why have you waited so long to recant article content on these varous stories.

        I find it hard to believe that everything has just come together now causing you some regret.

        I’ve been on the site a little over three years and I remember distinctly you reporting some of these stories in your inimitable “rabid rant’ style which I like of course. :D Now you’ve seemingly found some old style ‘down home’ religion to the point that raises more questions than answers concerning your motives. What’s up?

        I surely hope ‘Homeland Stupidity’ hasn’t paid you a visit at 4am in the morning with a threat of a “nacht und nebel’ trip to Egypt or Romania for further interrogation. / : |

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Doug Thompson  March 5, 2011 at 8:10 pm

          I explained my reasons. I realized that I was suffering the symptoms of a “dry drunk” and returned to AA meetings, which I had been missing for a while.

          A former poster on this web site and fellow friend of Bill W. who used to post on this web site as “Senator Hatrack” and whose name was Bryan Bjornson tried to tell me this and I was too wrapped up in myself to listen. I haven’t heard from him in years and we were friends and I’m afraid my conceit cost me that valuable friendship. For that I am truly sorry as well.

          While in the process of trying to get myself back together both physically (from the back problem that almost left me paralyzed) and mentally, I realized that I needed to clear the record and open a new avenue of dialog with readers on the issue. That’s why a new section (Fact Checking Capitol Hill Blue) debuts on Monday of next week. My concern is that we print the truth and we do it fairly and without partisanship. Our readers have a right to expect no less.

          I actually made the decision to do with several months ago but between becoming my dying mother’s caretaker for the past seven months and my back problem I had to put it on the back burner.

          Understand something and understand it fully. Nobody “gets” to me, nobody controls me and nobody has the power to make me do anything I don’t want to do. Anyone who thinks otherwise is making a serious mistake. This is simply a case of making amends for past past mistakes. Nothing more, nothing less.

          • Carl Nemo  March 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

            Thanks for your your candid and succinct explanation which is appreciated not only by myself, but your readership as well.

            So too, I/we won’t have to worry that our criminally disposed government leaned on you. : )

            ***

            “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm on your face, may the rains fall soft upon your fields, and, until we meet again …may God hold you softly in the palm of His hand.” … Old Irish Blessing

            ***

            Carl Nemo **==

          • griff  March 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm

            Well get it done Doug, so we can get back to shredding some DC ass. You ain’t the first and you ain’t the last.

            One’s life has a way of becoming a graveyard of regrets. Don’t let it overshadow the good that you’ve done.

            Oh that’s right, you were a Republican operative. Long shadow. Ha. It’s all good.

            To err is human. To blame it on some one else shows political potential.

  9. Fivebyfives  March 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Mr. Thompson: While I appreciate your willingness to come forth with a mea culpa when you feel you strayed from journalistic standards, I must take a respectful issue with you. I was in contact with someone (who at the time was in the military) who had a trusted associate allegedly in the room when President Bush muttered those words. Perhaps they were duped; perhaps not.

    But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and one only has to look back at 8 years of Bushdom to realize there was a lot lacking, in particular post 9/11 interpretations of our Constitution. When I was blogging at the time I wrote a post equating the Patriot Act with Hitler’s Enabling Act that followed the Reichstag fire. The parallels are there for me, anyway.

    Up until the 1990′s, I always thought that Lyndon Johnson was the worst president in my lifetime, which stretches back to Eisenhower. Nixon got the rap for a lot of shady dealings, but frankly I don’t think he could compare to the Cornpone Genghis Khan (as Gore Vidal called him). Then Clinton lowered the bar; Bush 43 lowered it even further, and at present it’s hard to say how much lower President Obama will surpass both of them in mediocrity and fecklessness.

    In his childhood, Harry Truman was fascinated with a local Independence politcian who used to say, “Damn eyewitnesses anyway, they always ruin a good story.” Well, we’re all eyewitnesses to history and while interpretations may vary individually, it’s rather difficult to “tell a good story” when there’es someone around to ruin it.

    So keep ruining the “good stories’ of these people. Peace. :)

    • griff  March 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      Indeed. He may not have uttered those exact words, but actions do dpeak louder…

  10. griff  March 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Amazingly, I discovered this site when I rode a link to that story. Another reason not to have written it, I suppose. Ha.

  11. Sandune  March 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I still keep in contact with Senator Hatrack on occasion and he is doing just fine. He wanted desperately to take a stand for political integrity and of course, I supported him. His desire to bring me into the Christian flock did not work but we both have the deepest respect for our personal and political opinions. As the child of a chronic alcoholic I tried to support all the groups who had seen success over drug and alcohol abuse. The desire to change a pattern over addiction is a lot tougher than anyone can image. I lost the fight with my mother and her 4 brothers and saw them sink into wasted talented people who simply sank away from reality. Ive done the pain problem for the last 2 years and even tried hypnotherapy to stop relying on the pills.

    The difference at this time is that I have no children living with me and I can literally bite the bullet and take the pain of trying to sit up or even sit comfortably. I honestly feel that I have no need to live longer. I’ve outlived all the members of my family. I managed to give to them many of the relics from the previous generation in hopes they can enjoy the beauty of the European porcelains. I also passed on the glory of Bach and his entire level of perfection in music.

    I was actively involved in Reader Rants when the story of his saying the U.S. Constitution is just another piece of paper but it was not the first time I had read it. At the time there were several internet sites who were outraged at President Bush’s leadership concepts. Many of my pals had warned about the amount of authority the Bush White House had taken from the Congress. Many felt that Bush had been influenced by some really nasty people who wanted to run the government . The band of Republicans behind Bush 43 and 41 were individuals who were seeking leadership as neoConservatives and to hell with the Constitution. The religious right had taken a stand to push the bible into the Bill of Rights and that damn First Amendment got in their way.

    Living and growing up in America can be a real challenge when it comes to guiding the citizens into a safe place to live. The short cut through doing the right thing often throws choices into the government itself. Giving the citizens choices for their own control has almost failed. Using the power of choices takes a lot more time and effort than most teachers and parents want to bother with. Pass a law, prohibit activities that are considered sins and keep an active police force ready to press charges, and everything will be just dandy.

    Allowing a White House to set the social laws for Americans saves nothing. Wouldn’t it be easier to train our children to know and work for right choices over wrong actions? American kids still do not know the proper way to communicate with others.

    Twenty minutes of watching “Meet the Press” showed the lack of communication skills between an announcer and guest. A simple uncomplicated question got no response from the guest as it was based on a simple question of an opinion of someones actions. The guests are programmed to speak their own opinions and ignore a question that would expose their agenda.

    If you ever asked a teenager what time they can be home after a date, one can even see the variations of answers go through their inner computer to locate an answer that will not start another word. After years with my older daughter I rephrased the question to “what time do I telephone the Sheriff when you are late?”

    When I read the offensive statement here or elsewhere I wanted immediately to check the source and order the book/magazine/article or whatever. I had no doubt it was not the truth.

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