April 07, 2004

Posted by Jon Henke

Reading Kevin Drum this morning, I thought he'd engaged in a very, er, selective bit of editing to make Bush look bad. Turns out, he was just passing along the bad journalism. Here's what Kevin wrote...

Our president seems to be making a real habit of saying stuff that's just plain weird. Today, after inadvertently insulting an audience member at a campaign appearance....
Bush moved quickly to end the session. He turned to Bob Watson, superintendent of the El Dorado Public Schools who had opened the meeting by inadvertently insulting Bush.

"Governor excuse me, President," Watson said.

Bush muttered, "How quickly they forget."

When Watson offered to shake Bush's hand, the president shot back: "Just don't hug me."

I was a bit confused, too. That's a strange thing to say, even for such a notoriously bad extemporaneous speaker as President Bush. So, I checked the transcript. Here's what actually happened...
THE PRESIDENT: Superintendent of Schools, big Bob Watson is here. (Laughter.) They ever call you "Big Bob"?

MR. WATSON: Yes, sir. And Governor -- excuse me, President. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: How quickly they forget. (Laughter.)

MR. WATSON: You've been welcomed, and I think properly so, but I like to do things in a big way, so I'm going to shake hands with you so you truly will have had a big welcome.

THE PRESIDENT: Just don't hug me. (Laughter.) Thank you, sir. (Applause.)

Cut Kevin Drum some slack. He was simply reading off a poorly - and unfairly - edited story. The ABCNews story, however....that's a different story. Leave in the punch-line, but leave out the set-up, and...well, it's pretty easy to make a fellow look foolish.

But it's not fair, and it's not good journalism.

Note: Kevin wasn't the only blogger caught with his pants down by this story. Oliver Willis, JBHowardJr, and Barista

UPDATE: To their great credit, Barista and JB Howard (who agrees with the comments here) have both amended their posts to include the additional context. I do want to make it clear, as Moe notes in the comment section, that there's no shame in this for bloggers who misunderstood the context. I'm not criticizing those bloggers in any way....and I admire the hell out of a blogger who will update their post when they get further context. ABCNews, on the other hand....

UPDATE II: Kevin Drum has updated, too, which is to his credit. ABCNews, on the other hand...

UPDATE III: Oliver Willis, whose only comment on this story was "Eeeewwwww. Touching! George don't like touching!", now comments "Actually I could care less about the "don't hug me" thing, but rather the remark about the woman's hair is what stood out to me".




That's fascinating. Even the order is different. And he is not "moving to end the session" either, unless I have misread the gaps in the transcript.

Political debate is one thing, but mucking around with the truth is another.

Posted by: David Tiley at April 7, 2004 07:35 AM

I'm curious to see how long it takes to correct: Barista already has, JBHowardJr and Kevin haven't and I can't access Oliver Willis.


Posted by: Moe Lane at April 7, 2004 08:29 AM

Correct themselves? Why? The article obviously doesn't claim to be a complete transcript, and it contains an accurate summarization (David Tiley, perhaps you ought to look again.) As for 'leaving out the set-up' I'm not quite sure that "Just don't hug me [in a big way]" makes any more sense than what the article said. The only thing that remains is the general awkward tone implied by the article, but that wouldn't come from the transcript, which doesn't distinguish between (Laughter) and (Uncomfortable giggles).

Posted by: neil at April 7, 2004 09:02 AM

And of course, it must have been (uncomfortable giggles), right? That IS what you meant, right?

Posted by: Dave at April 7, 2004 09:15 AM

"Correct themselves? Why?"

Because they based their response on bad data. There's no shame in it (for the bloggers, at least), but it should be at least noted.

Posted by: Moe Lane at April 7, 2004 09:49 AM

"Correct themselves? Why?"

Ludicrous sentiment. They have nothing to apologize for, but I'd expect all of them to correct inaccuracies. That's one of the things we can't stand about the media, after all.

BTW, Kevin has updated his post to include a link to your correction.

Posted by: Bill Rehm at April 7, 2004 10:45 AM

Kevin's already updated his post to link to this. Looks like bad reporting by ABCNews infected the blogs... taking out the background context (laughter, etc) really changed the story.

Posted by: George Koch at April 7, 2004 10:46 AM

wow, what a shameless hatchet job by the AP. Excellent catch, Jon.

Posted by: Bill Herbert at April 7, 2004 11:01 AM

Yawn. Small topics for small minds.
Regardless, Bush does seem uncomfortable talking with regular, normal, average people. The nicknames are getting old. So are the odd backhanded compliments and disses. (e.g."You got a sweet face just like my boy Scott." "Who cares what you think.") Seems like an inferiority complex masqurading as a superiority complex--That whole authoritarian personality thing the psychologists have been discussing lately in relation to RightWingers such as yourselves.

Posted by: Heather vacationing in Barbados at April 7, 2004 02:42 PM

Right. Thanks for your input, Heather. Amazing how quickly you jumped on that "small topic", no?

I'm quite unconcerned with silly armchair psychoanalysis of politicians, except inasmuch as it amuses me when people try to discern some deeper meanings from the most minor of incidents. (Yes, that applies to John Kerry, too)

Funny, isn't it, how often those analyses tend to match up with the preconceived notions of the analyst? Surely, it's just a coincidence.

Finally, "rightwingers such as yourselves". Uh huh. You'll find I didn't vote for Bush last time, and I am still undecided about what I will do this time. McQ and I are both libertarians.

What do your psychologists say about people who make silly assumptions?

Posted by: Jon Henke at April 7, 2004 02:48 PM

Well, OF COURSE the Bloggers should correct errors, whether they made them or they were given them. One New York Times is enough.

Posted by: Gary and the Samoyeds at April 7, 2004 05:25 PM

Funny that you expect something from someone else that Bush, the not-popularly-elected president I may add, would not do himself. I love this blog because you all have such unabashed hard-ons for the smug bastard who makes no apologies...EVER. You silly fools always make me laugh....Thanks!

Posted by: bopst at April 8, 2004 02:08 PM