Incredibly bad, worse then Nixon and Wilson and John Adams, even with their crimes against vocal opponents.
Traditional Republicans emerged among Bush's most penetrating critics, from O'Neill to Wilkerson, from Zinni to Clarke. They were not hostile to Bush when he entered office; on the contrary, they were willing and eager to serve under him. They observed first-hand, more than opponents on the outside, the radical changes Bush was making within the government. As Republicans, more than Democrats, they understood which traditions of their own were being traduced....
Near the end of the campaign, a senior White House aide explained the "faith-based" school of political thought to reporter Ron Suskind, who wrote in the New York Times Magazine: "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"
The method described by the Bush aide was an updated version of the insight of the philosopher Francis Bacon, who, in 1625, wrote in his essay "Of Vaine-Glory": "For Lies are sufficient to breed Opinion, and Opinion brings on Substance."
The "separate realities" of Bush and Kerry supporters studied by the University of Maryland extended to the facts of their military records, controversies about which became decisive events in the campaign and case studies in the manipulation of information. Bush had numerous mysterious discrepancies in his Vietnam era service in the Texas Air National Guard, especially being absent without leave for a year. It is indisputable that he never actually completed his service. How he entered his unit through special preference and under what circumstances he was discharged without having finished his requirements was the subject of an investigation by CBS's "60 Minutes." The program's use of documents that could not be authenticated, though various witnesses confirmed the underlying facts, aroused an intense attack from Republican activists and the White House, and the entire exposé was discredited because of the journalistic lapse.
The Bush White House had anticipated the potential scandal in his military background, particularly in contrast to the record of Senator Kerry, who was a genuine war hero, awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. In order to undermine Kerry's strong point and defend Bush's weak one, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was created, funded and its public relations handled by Bush allies, and led by one John O'Neill, who had been selected by the Nixon White House to hector Kerry during the Vietnam era. The group accused Kerry of having falsely earned his medals and subsequently lied about his war experiences. Though the Navy officially affirmed his right to his medals and those who served directly with him upheld his account, the Swift Boat Veterans were granted extensive media attention as if their fabrications were a valid point of view that must be heard. On cable television especially, and on CNN in particular, a perverse form of objectivity prevailed in which the news organization abdicated establishing the facts and allowed defamation to be presented as though it was just one reasonable side of a debate.