There Are Some Things I’ll Just Never Understand.
One of the first blogs I began to read regularly was “The Daily Dish” by Andrew Sullivan. That was in the heady days following 9/11 and I found Mr. Sullivan to be insightful, compassionate, and articulate, and while I haven’t agreed with him as much lately, I’ve still held him in high regard. That’s what makes this post so hard.
On Friday October 1st Mr. Sullivan posted one of his “Quote Of The Day” features. It was an example from the first debate of George Bush mangling the English language. Of course this isn’t exactly new ground, even his most ardent supporters shudder in fear when the President has to make un-prepared statements. Hell, I’ve frequently cringed during some of his prepared statements.
Here is Mr. Sullivan’s post with links to the NYT transcript and the post itself:
Friday, October 01, 2004So I was going to post that, yes, Bush had indeed butchered another response but that a person’s speaking skills have little, if any, bearing on their ability to function as commander-in-chief of America’s armed forces. But first I felt I should go the NYT link Mr. Sullivan provided to be sure of the context of the statement.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's incredibly hard. It's - and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's necessary work. We're making progress. It is hard work. You know my hardest, the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide comfort for the loves ones who lost a son or a daughter or husband and wife." - president George W. Bush. Reassured that he's on top of things in Iraq? Me neither. - 8:06:02 PM
I was amazed to find that the quote didn’t exist, at least not in one place. It turned out it was a combination of four quotes from different parts of the debate. Now maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but this doesn’t seem right to me.
Here is where the first part (in bold) of Mr. Sullivan’s “Quote of the Day” is found:
Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on Nov. 2 would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?The next two fragments (in bold) of “The Quote of the Day” come six questions later, fully five pages after the first part:
Mr. Bush I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to win because the American people know I know how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to lead. I have - I understand everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions that I've made. And I've made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand. People out there listening know what I believe. And that's how best it is to keep the peace.
This nation of ours has got a solemn duty to defeat this ideology of hate. And that's what they are, this is a group of killers who will not only kill here but kill children in Russia. That will attack unmercifully in Iraq hoping to shake our will. We have a duty to defeat this enemy. We have a duty to protect our children and grandchildren.
The best way to defeat them is to never waver, to be strong, to use every asset at our disposal. It's to constantly stay on the offensive. And at the same time spread liberty. And that's what people are seeing now is happening in Afghanistan. Ten million citizens have registered to vote. It's a phenomenal statistic. That if given a chance to be free they will show up at the polls. Forty-one percent of those 10 million are women.
In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's incredibly hard. You know why? Because an enemy realizes the stakes. The enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology of hatred. That's why they're fighting so vociferously.
Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. You have said there was a "miscalculation'' of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation? And how did it happen?
Mr. Bush No, what I said was that because we achieved such a rapid victory more of the Saddam loyalists were around. Other words, we thought we'd whip more of them going in.
But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operations, we moved rapidly. And a lot of the Baathists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared. I thought we would, they would stay and fight. But they didn't. And now we're fighting them now.
It's-and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's necessary work.
And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be realistic and optimistic at the same time. I'm optimistic we'll achieve. I know we won't achieve if we send mixed signals. I know we're not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens.
We've got a plan in place. The plan says there'll be elections in January, and there will be. The plan says we'll train Iraqi soldiers so they can do the hard work, and we are.
And it's not only just America, but NATO is now helping, Jordan's helping train police, U.A.E. is helping train police. We've allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction efforts. And we're making progress there.
And our alliance is strong. I just told you there's going to be a summit of the Arab nations. Japan will be hosting a summit.
We're making progress. It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It's hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off or executed to a place where people are free. But it's necessary work. And a free Iraq is going to make this world a more peaceful place.
The final part (in bold) of Mr. Sullivan’s purported quote occurs two questions and two pages later:
Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost in American lives: 1,052 as of today?
Mr. Bush Every life is precious. Every life matters. You know my hardest, the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide comfort for the loves ones who lost a son or a daughter or husband and wife.
In the end, I cannot understand why Andrew Sullivan would post something like this. Maybe someone he trusts sent him this misleading quote and Mr. Sullivan didn’t take the time to check it out. If, however, he cobbled it together on his own, I think he was wrong. It reminds me of Mt. Holyoke Professor Joseph Ellis who, though a Pulitzer Prize winning historian and well-respected author, savaged his own reputation by falsely claiming that he served in combat during the Vietnam War. Now while I don’t mean to imply that Mr. Sullivan’s post sinks to that level, to me it’s still very disappointing.
By G. Hamid