Josh Marshall

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Waiting for Godot, but getting Linda. The Pentagon has agreed to pay Linda Tripp $595,000 to settle her claims that the DOD violated her privacy rights.

I just noticed this post from Andrew Sullivan's <$NoAd$> site taking a shot at the BBC ...

Yep, they went in and changed the text which had said that "peace" had been declared in Iraq last April. It's not my error. The Beeb is one of the few news organizations which simply rewrites posted copy without any indication that they have done so. Sometimes with simple typos etc. this makes sense. But in factual errors, it's a form of deception, a rewriting of the record, with no accountability. It's a sign, I think, of the general level of integrity at today's BBC - i.e. frayed.

That reminded me of something.

The week before last I wrote a post questioning the wisdom of something President Bush said when he addressed the Australian parliament.

"We," said the president, "see a China that is stable and prosperous, a nation that respects the peace of its neighbors and works to secure the freedom of its own people."

The statement and its rather odd implication were reported around the world. But then a few days later I got an email from a reader who had followed the link I'd provided to the White House's transcript of the speech and asked if maybe I'd gotten it wrong.

A few days ago (10/23), you quoted Bush as speaking to the Australian Parliament and saying that he "sees" a China that is free, etc. At the time, I didn't go back to the White House press release, but if you look at it now you will see that it says he "seeks" a free China. Did you misread it, or have they been massaging the record after the fact? I don't know how to go about looking for a cached version of the page, but maybe it's worth pursuing.

Well, I'm not sure I'd know how to go about getting the cached version either. But luckily that's not necessary, since I made a PDF version of the original White House transcript as it appeared on the day in question. (Call me suspicious.) You can see it right here. If you scroll down to the big, clumsily-drawn red circle you'll see that the word was 'see' not 'seek'. Then compare it to the current version now at the White House website.

At some later point, they (i.e., someone in the White House press operation) simply changed the word and thus utterly changed the meaning.

Now, I've heard some speculate that the president had meant to say 'seek' but somehow misspoke or perhaps was supposed to say 'seek'.


But I find that a touch dubious because I think that on such a delicate matter the White House would check the 'transcript' against the prepared speech that the president read from. But however that may be, I'd say this performance from the White House press office turned out to be, to paraphrase Andrew, frayed as well.

According to Reuters, CBS is seriously considering canceling its miniseries on the Reagans. What an utter joke.

Since I haven't seen it, I have no idea if the thing is complete tripe, biased, maudlin, lame or whatever. From my experience with TV miniseries, it's probably all of those things.

(Of course, not having seen it doesn't seem to be much of a problem since, from what I can tell, none of the critics have actually seen it either.)

I mean, imagine the temerity of CBS in running a miniseries which departs from a hagiographic portrayal of the former president!

The only good I can see coming of this is that it puts the lie to all the conservative mumbo-jumbo about 'wingers being for free speech or their being an embattled group oppressed by the liberal media. A little mau-mauing and the plug is pulled.

A TV network produces a miniseries about a former president and the current national chairman of the president's party demands that it be reviewed for historical accuracy by a board of 'scholars.'

The fact that it's put together by people who aren't themselves conservatives (and/or party loyalists) is itself, it seems, another outrage.

Wake me up when we're back in America.

When I want my numbers crunched, my <$NoAd$>Democratic party demographics explained, and my election dynamics analyzed, I know to go to Ruy Teixeira. Ruy’s with The Century Foundation, the Center for American Progress and probably a bunch of other places I can’t remember. Luckily, he now has his own blog, Donkey Rising. So I know right where to go.

We chatted briefly about the primary race last week at the foreign policy conference. And now he’s penned two posts (#1 & #2) on what he thinks a winning strategy for Wes Clark might look like.

TPM traffic stats are in for October: total unique visitors 349,401; total visits 1,174,598; total page views 1,418,272. As always, thank you for making these numbers possible.

The has gotten each of the nine Democratic presidential candidates to sign up for online chats on the WaPo website this week. (Here's the page they've set aside for it on the site.)

Dick Gephardt is the lead-off this morning at 11:30 AM.

Now, I hear that Gephardt is still the only one of the nine candidates who hasn't committed to show up for the Rock The Vote forum/debate tomorrow night on CNN live from Boston.

What gives?

Sure, labor and seniors may be his target constituencies. But doesn't this put a bit too fine a point on it? Maybe a little face time for the kids?

A new TPM Featured Book, Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass, one of the most riveting, humane and wise books I've ever read -- certainly the best book I've read about what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Here's what I wrote about it in a short TPM review back in March 2002 ...

It's about the war in Bosnia. Not the whole of Yugoslavia. It's not a history, either. It's a war reporter's memoir. If you're looking for the big-picture about the Balkans in the 1990s or the what happened in Kosovo or Croatia or inside Serbia, this isn't the book -- though it contains important information on each of those topics.

This is an interior story, what Maass himself saw. And it is by far the best piece of writing I've read of any of the books written on the 1990s Balkans. By far the best.

Reading it you see how the war in Bosnia was tragic in the deepest, most regret-inspiring and folly-filled sense of the word. This book will make you feel moments of agony. It will also make you laugh. Perhaps most uncomfortably, it will sometimes join these two feelings and reactions quite closely in time. I would say it is the best piece of war reporting I've ever read. And I believe it is. Only covering the Bosnian war, as Maass describes it, wasn't exactly a war so much as a loosely-organized, long-running series of individual and group murders.

This book is humane, and comic, and horrifying in each of the right measures and moments. I cannot recommend it more strongly. If you read it I think it will change you. Perhaps forever.

If you have a chance on Monday check out the Center for American Progress's (aka John Podesta's new liberal think tank) new daily run-down of all things political: The Progress Report.

Also, I mentioned a few days ago that Zbigniew Brzezinski's speech at the New American Strategies for Security and Peace conference was absolutely essential viewing and/or reading. Well, now you can do both. Here's the transcript. And here's a link to the archived video feed.

We’re again seeing the importance of language in politics. Or, more specifically, the way that orotund, abstract language can obfuscate truth-telling, accountability, and just simple facing of reality.

We hear again and again how all the bombings and mayhem are obscuring all the good things that are happening in Iraq. But this is like how the thunderstorm ‘obscures’ the underlying sunny day.

Watching Paul Bremer today on CNN I was struck by his use of language like ‘enemies of freedom’ and terrorists to describe the people we’re fighting in the country (these are from my recollection, the precise phrases may be different.) People who kill soldiers are not, at least not by definition, ‘terrorists’. They’re guerillas or insurgents. This isn’t a matter of cutting them slack, but one of precision. And precision is required to know what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do, and how we can get from clarifying what our goals are to finding effective means to pursue their implementation.

This is part of what Orwell was getting at in “Politics and the English Language” when he lamented that “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”