Speaking of questionable things said in public, another strange controversy is hitting the Bush administration. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson apparently told attendees at a real estate forum in Dallas that he didn't give a contract to a deserving bidder because the bidder said he didn't like President Bush. His attributed quote: "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."
Jackson is now trying to say that the story wasn't true, that he made it up to illustrate how some people "will unfairly characterize the president and then turn around and ask you for money." Moreover, Jackson isn't even involved in approving contracts for the Department, so the explanation goes, so this couldn't have actually happened.
I don't know if it happened or not, but even if the "anecdote" told by Secretary Jackson was just what he says it is, it's still puzzling and problematic. Why tell a story in which a contractor says "I don't like President Bush" in order to illustrate how some people "mischaracterize" the president? That's not mischaracterization, that's just stating an opinion. Moreover, the "logic" Jackson used the story to support is nothing short of saying that a patronage system is policy at HUD. The message conveyed by the story isn't "man, can you see how frustrating it is at HUD that we have to give out money sometimes to people who hold wrongheaded notions of the president?", it's "man, I'm not going to give people money here at HUD if you're not on our team." Note that Jackson has not (yet) denied that his comments were reported accurately.
Now, his explanation of the affair is that he made the story up. Normally, officials are loathe to say that they tell made up stories (known in some circles as "lies") in public appearances, but in this case that seems like the most politic thing to do.
I don't understand why this story isn't bigger.