THE NEW MATH….Over at Angry Bear, Kash shakes his head in wonderment at George Bush’s statement this morning that he has actually reduced spending growth since taking office. “If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch,” he told Tim Russert, “in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined.”

But how can he say that? After all, as Kash points out, a simple look at CBO numbers shows that discretionary spending in 2001 was 5.5% higher than 2000, not 15%. How can he “get away with lying about things that are so obviously and verifiably untrue”?

Watch and learn. President Bush, who clearly likes colorful charts better than he likes spreadsheets full of numbers, apparently derived his figure from the colorful chart on the right, taken from his own budget document. It indicates that discretionary spending outside of defense and homeland security went up 15% in 2001. Or rather, that discretionary spending authority ? not actual spending ? went up 15%. See, he was just speaking in a kind of shorthand, that’s all.

But even if that’s what he really meant, you may be thinking that it still doesn’t make any sense. After all, if total discretionary spending went up only 5.5%, how is it possible for his chart to show all three separate components going up by that much or more? Klingon math?

Hard to say. But really, numbers are such dreary things, aren’t they? Let’s move on. After all, it’s the security of the American people that we really care about, right?

Indeed it is, and later this evening we shall abandon dreary numbers for good and return to yet another installment in the Bush AWOL story, this time clearing up once and for all the mystery of the torn document. Or so it seems….