October 11, 2004

It makes sense that Safire is the one guy who finds the word "internets" acceptable

After the last debate I wrote that Bush was "toast" as soon as the media learned that he did, in fact, own shares in a timber company.

Today I came back prepared to eat some crow, after reading William Safire.

Kerry also blundered with a weird attack on an $84 item in the Bushes' federal income tax return, supposedly from a timber business. "I own a timber company? That's news to me," said Bush, adding engagingly in what was the most natural moment in the debate, "Need some wood?" It turns out that Kerry relied on an Annenberg Web site that later admitted it had been confused, which left the Democratic candidate out on a hardwood limb.

Fortunately, I decided not to depend on Safire's version of what factcheck.org said, because it turns out he's the one who's confused. Here's what it really "admitted":

Bush got a laugh when he scoffed at Kerry's contention that he had received $84 from "a timber company."  Said Bush, "I own a timber company? That's news to me."

In fact, according to his 2003 financial disclosure form, Bush does own part interest in "LSTF, LLC", a limited-liability company organized "for the purpose of the production of trees for commercial sales." (See "supporting documents" at right.)

So Bush was wrong to suggest that he doesn't have ownership of a timber company. And Kerry was correct in saying that Bush's definition of "small business" is so broad that Bush himself would have qualified as a "small business" in 2001 by virtue of the $84 in business income.

Kerry got his information from an article we posted Sept. 23 stating that Bush on his 2001 federal income-tax returns "reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise." We should clarify: the $84 in Schedule C income was from Bush's Lone Star Trust, which is actually described on the 2001 income-tax returns as an "oil and gas production" business. The Lone Star Trust now owns 50% of the tree-growing company, but didn't get into that business until two years after the $84 in question. So we  should have described the $84 as coming from an "oil and gas" business in 2001, and will amend that in our earlier article.

That hardly leaves Kerry out on a limb, and it's only one example of why Safire's column should be dismissed, as Sullivan did, as crude spin.

Another is how he continues the above graf: "Bush was too much the gentleman to point out, now that their income taxes were in dispute, that Mrs. Heinz Kerry paid only 11 percent in 2003 on her $5 million income, while the Bushes paid 28 percent."

But Kerry wasn't trying to compare their income taxes, he was making a point about the kind of fuzzy math Bush needed in order to claim that Kerry's tax plan would affect 900,000 small business owners. And on this point, I did make one error in my previous post. I had thought that the failed zinger would give watchdogs a chance to discuss the more important error in Bush's statement (i.e., the fuzzy math) in addition to the silly (and not the least bit "engaging") one ("need wood?"). But in fact, none of the articles I've seen that mention this gaffe go on to note the more important point. I'm so naive sometimes.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


You expected a reasonable discussion of the pertinent issues? For shame, Daniel! Everyone knows the election boils down to two memes: 1) Bush=Iraq. 2) Kerry=Vietnam.

You can be forgiven for expecting some examination of issues, and finding out that you were a starry-eyed idealist.

It's hard to be a cynic in the city, Daniel. These days reality does an end-run around the most absurd conspiracy theories (*coughSinclaircough.*)


Kerry spends that much on breakfast.

If Bush can not keep track of $84.00 do you really think he even understands what the word trillion dollars means?

I doubt a single human alive really comprehends what the word trillion really means.

And the 84$ was not timber it was petrol, so Bush understood fine.

Kerry is the one who thought the 84$ was from timber, so he's the one who goofed up.

Besides, if you hire someone to handle that stuff why would you understand that minutae?

Bush is a rich fella, so he did a good managment job delagated down, right?

If you talk about how to manage money anyway. Unless you think theUS should marry some rich alien planet to solve our fiscal problems then Bush has a more realistic history of solving fiscal issues than Kerry.

At least Bush released his records, the 180 and tax.

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