Monday, February 23, 2004

Lie Shy The usually-reliable Mike Allen drops the ball in a dispatch running on the front page of tomorrow's Washington Post. He writes:
In a statement that Democrats called an exaggeration, Racicot said on National Public Radio yesterday that Bush "signed up for dangerous duty -- he volunteered to go to Vietnam." Racicot added that Bush "wasn't selected to go." (Emphasis added.)
Let's be clear: Democrats didn't call today's Racicot statement an exaggeration. They called it a lie. And that's because it is a lie.

Remember the President's recent appearance on Meet the Press? Here's a recap:

RUSSERT: Were you favor of the war in Vietnam?

BUSH: I supported my government. I did. And would have gone had my unit been called up, by the way.

RUSSERT: But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go.

BUSH: No, I didn't. You're right.

(Transcript courtesy of Joshua Marshall.)

It may not have been Allen's job to debunk the "volunteered to go" claim (although it wouldn't have been a terrible idea.) But if he was intent on including a sense of the Democratic response to Racicot's statement, he owed readers a faithful representation of that response.

For reasons I'll never understand, reporters at elite papers seem to be constitutionally unable to use the word "lie" in political stories. In this case, "misrepresentation" or "mischaracterization" would have also done the trick.

Either way, what's gained by dancing around the truth?

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.