Friday, August 26, 2005

Correcting the Record

Remember this? Condi's malapropos coda to the first day of the Gaza Expulsions?

"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing," Ms. Rice said in an interview. But she added, "It cannot be Gaza only."

The one I recently took Rice to task for, since it was so tone deaf? My fellow blogger at Kesher Talk even proposed that Condi might have been assuming the bad cop role in a good cop/bad cop scenario along with good cop President Bush. Because otherwise her words were simply uncharacteristic.

But, surprise, surprise!

This column, we learn today thanks to the blogging efforts of Rick Richman, was a trademark NYTimes impartial news columns, of the type so recently lauded by Bill Keller.* [see below]

Only problem with it. The Times forgot to send along the special decoder ring so that we could understand the fact that the linked direct quotations cited by JOEL BRINKLEY and STEVEN R. WEISMAN, written so as to flow together and suggest one closed thought, in fact, represent a huge ellipsis in the original text of the State Department Interview.

In other words, Condi was Dowdified.

Not only were two parts of the interview linked up together artificially so to give the appearance of creating news at the expense of the Israeli effort, on a tense, stressful day. But in fact, the second thought, which was the offensive one, was a follow up question much later on in the interview where Condi first paraphrased the question of others and then implied that the eventual solution -- after the Palestinians also make a great effort -- would include more than Gaza.

But that is no news at all. And doesn't yield a sexy quotation. Not without tinkering.

Here is Condi in her own words:
QUESTION: This is a quick one. Do you think you'll go back [to the Middle East] in the fall to keep the momentum going?

SECRETARY RICE: Let's see, you know, what's required. We will have a Quartet in New York because the world comes here for the UNGA. And we'll certainly have a Quartet meeting at that time. There's a Quartet envoys meeting that's scheduled for this week and part of their job is to kind of prepare the meeting of the Quartet and I think we'll look at where we are. But by no means do I think that this is the end.

The other thing is, just to close off this question, the question has been put repeatedly to the Israelis and to us that it cannot be Gaza only and everybody says no, it cannot be Gaza only. There is, after all, even a link to the West Bank and the four settlements that are going to be dismantled in the West Bank. Everybody, I believe, understands that what we're trying to do is to create momentum toward reenergizing the roadmap and through that momentum toward the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.
All this begs the question as to the agenda of the reporters.

Do they themselves admire Condi, and so, to admire her even more, are re-creating her in their own image? In other words, do they believe she would be an even better Condi if she mouthed the pro-forma, de rigueur NYTimes blather on Israel?

Or are they trying to alienate Condi from her base of supporters in Republican circles, to push back against her run away popularity and smarts?

Or are they simply too dumb to realize the unethical lapse they committed for anyone short of a mere propagandist?

*Even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages. While The Times is and always will be a forum for opinion and argument as well as a source of impartial news coverage, we should make the distinction as clear as possible.
• I have asked Tom Bodkin to head a small working group of reporters and editors to devise standardized formats for news analysis and other reportorial formats that are authorized to carry voice and viewpoint. We can do more than we presently do, with rubrics and layouts and other devices, to give readers clear signals that a column is different from a news analysis is different from a critic’s notebook is different from a news story.
• We must, as the committee says, be more alert to nuances of language when writing about contentious issues.


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