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Context of 'June 2004: Bush Official: ‘Business of Government Is Not to Provide Services’ '

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President Bush remarks to Mitch Daniels, the White House budget director, how the 9/11 attacks have enabled him to abandon his earlier promises to balance the US budget: “Lucky me, I hit the trifecta.” [Office of Management and Budget, 10/16/2001; New York Times, 1/17/2003; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/25/2003] In summer 2000, during his election campaign, Bush had assured voters his planned tax cut was affordable, and he pledged not to dip into the Social Security surplus. [New York Times, 8/30/2002] On August 24, 2001, he’d told a reporter, “I’ve said that the only reason we should use Social Security funds is in case of an economic recession or war.” [White House, 8/24/2001] On September 6, he’d stated three conditions that would permit a change of policy: “I have repeatedly said the only time to use Social Security money is in times of war, times of recession, or times of severe emergency.” [White House, 9/6/2001] Now, shortly after September 11, Bush alludes to these three conditions as he tells Daniels, “Lucky me, I hit the trifecta.” (A trifecta is a kind of bet that requires picking the top three finishers in a horse race.) As Daniels will comment in late November, “So [President Bush] and the economic team believe that running deficits in a time like this is acceptable.” [Office of Management and Budget, 11/28/2001] Bush will make similar comments during numerous public appearances in early 2002, telling roughly the same joke over and over. For instance: “You know, I was campaigning in Chicago and somebody asked me, is there ever any time where the budget might have to go into deficit? I said only if we were at war or had a national emergency or were in recession. Little did I realize we’d get the trifecta.” [White House, 2/27/2002; White House, 3/1/2002; White House, 3/27/2002; White House, 4/16/2002; White House, 5/10/2002; White House, 6/14/2002]

Entity Tags: Mitch Daniels, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, writes in a memo to President Bush, complaining about Assistant Secretary of the Army Mike Parker’s testimony opposing the administration’s proposed budget cuts (see February 27, 2002). Daniels complains that Parker’s testimony “reads badly… on the printed page,” and that “Parker. . . is distancing [himself] actively from the administration.” [Government Executive, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Mitch Daniels

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lawrence Lindsey, head of the White House’s National Economic Council, says he believes the Bush administration’s planned invasion of Iraq could cost between $100 and $200 billion. The cost, he says, will have only a modest impact on the US economy, since it will only amount to between one and two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). “One year [of additional spending]? That’s nothing.” Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, subsequently disputes the figure, saying it is “very, very high.” He suggests the total costs would run between $50 and $60 billion. [Wall Street Journal, 9/16/2002; Reuters, 9/18/2002; Washington Times, 5/13/2005] The White House press office also denies Lindsey’s prediction. As the current deputy press secretary Scott McClellan will later recall: “Lindsey’s biggest mistake wasn’t the size of the figures he chose to cite. It was citing any figures at all. Talking about the projected cost of a potential war wasn’t part of the script, especially not when the White House was in the crucial early stages of building broad public support. In fact, none of the possible, unpleasant consequences of war—casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions—were part of the message. We were in campaign mode now, just as we had been when [President] Bush traveled the country leading the effort to pass tax cuts and education reforms. This first stage was all about convincing the public that the threat was serious and needed addressing without delay. Citing or discussing potential costs, financial or human, only played into the arguments our critics and opponents of war were raising. Lindsey had violated the first rule of the disciplined, on-message Bush White House: don’t make news unless you’re authorized to do so. Lindsey’s transgression could only make the war harder to sell.” As McClellan recalls, Bush is “steamed” at Lindsey’s comments. Lindsey will resign four months later. McClellan will write: “Larry, a highly regarded economist, had violated a basic principle of the Bush White House: the president doesn’t like anyone getting out in front of him. It’s his job to make the news, not anyone else’s—unless authorized as part of the script.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 121-124]

Entity Tags: Mitch Daniels, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Lawrence Lindsey, Scott McClellan

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Mitch Daniels, Bush’s first budget director, states: “The general idea—that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided—seems self-evident to me.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Mitch Daniels

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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