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January 23, 2005

Is a "Clarification" Always "Backpedaling"?

Joe Gandelman, linked on Instapundit, points to a Washington Post article, about reaction to the inaugural address and some response from the White House, and asks:

Did Lincoln's, JFK's, FDR's, Ronald Reagan's, Dwight Eisenhowers, Bill Clinton's advisors have to do this?

I'd wager that similar pieces could be found (albeit lacking this revolutionary Internet thing to take the spin and run with it), but I'll leave it to others to answer the historical question. In fact, I'll add my own question to willing researchers' list: Did Lincoln, JFK, FDR, Reagan, Eisenhower, and Clinton face a media environment in which one of the country's by-far most significant newspapers would actually print a sentence such as the following?

In the 21-minute speech, Bush mentioned neither Iraq nor terrorism but defined what he called a generations-long struggle to encourage democracy to make America safe from terrorist attack.

One hears the echo of that clamorous parsing whereby Bush was found to have somehow conveyed that attack from Iraq was "imminent" even as he argued that we shouldn't wait until attack was imminent. Now, apparently, that wily Texan can somehow fail to mention terrorism even as he defines a policy "to make America safe from terrorist attack."

I may be predisposed to side with the President, here, but it seems a bit harsh to decry "a failure of... clear communication of a message," in Gandelman's words, when advisors find it necessary to explain that statements do not mean the opposite of what they say.

Posted by Justin Katz at January 23, 2005 12:45 PM