As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his fourth State of the Union address this Tuesday, it's worth commemorating the 10th anniversary of George W. Bush's infamous 2003 SOTU. In that address, Bush's "16 words" about Saddam Hussein pursuing Nigerien yellowcake led to ex post critical op-eds, which led to the politically motivated leaks, which led to the outing of covert operatives, which led to the prosecution of White House officials, which led to controversial presidential commutations, which ultimately led to book deals, Vanity Fair spreads, and movies starring Naomi Watts.
Nothing else said in the past decade's worth of State of the Union addresses has led to anything so extreme (or, insofar as Naomi Watts is concerned, as lovely), but it got us to thinking. It would be hard to prove that Bush knew he was distorting the truth when he uttered those 16 words. What other foreign or economic policy lulus did Bush and Obama say in their previous SOTUs? After a quick review, I was able to find at least two major whoppers in every State of the Union address in the past decade. Let's go to the archives!
1. "The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free and proud and fighting terror."
According to the Freedom House's 2013 Index, Afghanistan is rated as "not free." And according to Vision of Humanity's Global Terrorism Index, in 2012 Afghanistan ranked 3rd out of 158 countries in terrorist attacks. If Afghanistan is fighting terror, it's not doing a very good job of it.
2. "Already, the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day."
Bush was citing the Iraq Survey Group's October 2003 interim report. In the end, David Kay resigned from the Iraq Study Group after concluding that "we were almost all wrong" in Senate testimony. The Duelfer Report concluded that Saddam Hussein had in fact abandoned all WMD programs after the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Oops.