Last week I wrote about how Karl Rove’s Wall Street Journal rebuttal of the recent Obama campaign documentary was a masterpiece in projection. Of particular interest was this paragraph, in which Rove downplayed Obama’s biggest foreign policy achievement:
As for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama did what virtually any commander in chief would have done in the same situation. Even President Bill Clinton says in the film "I hope that's the call I would have made" [emphasis added]. For this to be portrayed as the epic achievement of the first term tells you how bare the White House cupboards are.
As I noted at the time, the Clinton quote was a strange data point to adduce, since it cut the opposite direction of Rove’s argument. Clinton was saying he’s not at all sure he would have made the same call, not that he doubtlessly would have made it.
Well, it goes to show that any time you’re unsure whether Rove is being cynical or dim, cynical is the right answer. As the eagle-eyed Greg Sargent points out in The Washington Post, this wasn’t how that sentence initially read. The original version of Rove’s op-ed went as follows:
As for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama did what virtually any commander in chief would have done in the same situation. Even President Bill Clinton says in the film “that’s the call I would have made” [emphasis added].
Rove clearly knew that eliminating the first two words of Clinton’s sentence completely changes its meaning. But he wasn’t averse to a little nipping and tucking to advance the cause. As it happens, though, this was a bit much even for the Journal editorial page, no bastion of intellectual honesty itself. Sometime after the op-ed was published (but before I actually read it), the Journal forced Rove to include the full quote, rendering the paragraph completely nonsensical. It also appended this rather satisfying editor’s note: “An earlier version of this column included an incomplete quote from Bill Clinton in the last paragraph.”
But before you applaud the Journal for its editorial standards, consider that the note does not appear to have accompanied the initial change to the quote, as I’m fairly certain it wasn’t there when I first read the column. Still, better late than never.
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