The Bush administration, of course, are just the latest and greatest practitioners of the politics of perception which were pioneered by Nixon and which flourished under Reagan; I'm sure that the Jeb Bush or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ralph Reed or whoever presidencies of the future will make Rove & Co. look amateurish. But for now, you just have to sort of sit back and marvel.
Something as important as the pretext for a major war was as malleable as mercury from the very beginning; even people like me who like to complain pointlessly about what bullshit the weapons of mass destruction thing was have to admit that it was never really taken that seriously even by the people who were trying to sell it to us. Once the New Coke of WMD proved to be a bust on the market, they didn't spend a second apologizing; instead, they were already filming commercials for the Diet Coke of spreading democracy in the middle east, the Cherry Coke of ridding the world of a brutal tyrant, and the Fanta of enforcing UN resolutions. Likewise, you can see the mythmaking of social security "reform" take place before your very eyes; the justifications show up like supermarket shelf tags, pre-tagged billboards, and other forms of guerilla marketing, with a "Social Security will be broke in five years" here, a "people are better off in control of their own money" there, and a "private accounts will provide a guaranteed higher rate of return than government trusts" everywhere. Just as with the war, the faith-based initiatives program, the upper-class tax cuts, and ever other major initiative of the administration, it's a completely self-serving, ideologically driven idea, one that they decided on long before taking office; all the defenses and arguments for it are just marketing campaigns, slogans being tossed around to see which one will stick. Once they find just the right one that strikes the proper chord with the majority of the voters, they'll junk all the other ones and pretend like this was the argument they were making all along.
Right now, you're seeing it happen with the deficit. Long ago, Reagan's people invented the fantasy that what was really responsible for the massive budget deficits of the 1980s wasn't their own massive and profligate spending, but rather the intransigence of a wastrel Congress. Reagan submitted lean budget after lean budget, goes this particular Big Lie, only to have them rejected and/or fattened by a pork-addicted House and Senate. The Bush administration is claiming the same thing; the big difference is that the Reagan spin was only invented after the fact, with post-Reagan apologists peddling the nonsense about his lean budgets a decade after they were submitted, whereas the Bush team is introducing the notion that they're trying to push through a fat-free budget before they've even done it. It's pre-emptive mythmaking, and it's proving to be (amusingly) a hell of a lot more ridiculous and (depressingly) a hell of a lot more effective than the retroactive spincrafting of the past.
Why pay attention? Why drive yourself crazy over cataloguing the lies the administration comes up with to justify their excesses before they even happen? Well, because it's sometimes the only defense mechanism you have. After all, they count on your ignorance and your lack of interest. They know that if you're not paying attention to this stuff when it happens, you're more likely to believe the Big Lie after the fact. Unfortunately, not enough people care, so even if you pay attention, you'll be forever stuck in the small minority of those who remember it differently than the official line, but it's something. It's an inch of pride, a centimeter of self-respect, a tiny little pebble disrupting the road to national forgetting.