Spring forward! Clarice Feldman describes nuclear fall-out and "A Hack Too Far" in her weekly Pieces.
SO WEEDY WE BLAME ANAEROBIC RESPIRATION: In the course of describing Obama's disabilities with spelling and classic rock, The Hill also notes that the White House transcript has declined to memorialize the Big Guy's problem:
WH transcript scrubs Obama's botched 'respect' misspelling
By Justin Sink
The White House stenographer appears to have given President Obama a little too much "respect."
Introducing soul legend Aretha Franklin at a White House performance Thursday night, the president flubbed the spelling of her signature song.
"When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her..." Obama said, prompting laughter from the crowd.
The president's face betrayed that he had misspelled the anthem, but he did not stop to correct himself...
Instant comedy gold which will live on YouTube but not elsewhere:
But anyone reading the official transcript of the event provided by the White House would have had no idea of the president's mistake. In that version, the president correctly spells out the word.
"When Aretha first told us what “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” meant to her, she had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans, and women, and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved," the White House transcript reads.
It's not the first time the official White House transcript has edited presidential misstatements. During the state visit of French President François Hollande last month, Obama referred to French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville as "Alex." But the White House transcript released shortly after used the Frenchman's correct first name.
OK, that's intereting. Pathetic, but interesting. However, in a bid for balance The Hill adds this:
Critics of the Bush administration accused the White House of altering a 2005 transcript of a briefing with former press secretary Scott McClellan, who was asked about whether Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, an adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney, had conversations about former CIA officer Valerie Plame.
Independent transcription services Congressional Quarterly and Federal News Service transcribed McClellan as answering, "that's accurate," but the official White House transcript claimed the spokesman answered, "I don't think that's accurate.
Hmm. My recollection was that Scott McClellan was the White House press flack, not the President. Oh yes, The Hill remembers that too, since they mention "the Bush administration" rather than "the McClellan administration". So as examples of parallel behavior this already falls a bit short.
But is the example otherwise comparable? Not really - Scott McClellan was talking over, under or around a question from Dick David Gregory and there is a legitimate dispute (Think Progress 1, 2) as to whether the videotape caught all the audio. McClellan either said "That's accurate" or "No, I don't think that's accurate". The best coverage (or at least, the one I liked best) was here:
The official transcripts archived at the White House website tend to be relatively trustworthy representations of public speaking by President Bush and other officials. The transcribers apparently feel no compulsion to clean up the notorious disfluencies of the President (as with his recent substitution of "marriage" for "merits" when introducing Samuel Alito, or his frequent use of the singular copula with a plural noun phrase). But there's a controversy over the White House transcript of a press briefing by the President's mouthpiece, Scott McClellan, and it's not over some nitpicky grammatical point like subject-verb agreement. Rather, it's over a statement that could have serious legal implications in the ongoing CIA leak investigation.
Interesting that Bush's flubs apparently lived on. Anyway, the post author eventually posts in full the thoughts of a reader. The gist - the sound quality is uncertain, McClellan's lips may or may not have been moving prior to any sound being picked up (the idea that McClellan was a bit of a ventriliquist's dummy has an objective basis, as we watch him speak), the stenographer claims to have heard McClellan say "No, I don't think...", and most importantly, it is clear from the body language and subsequent back and forth that McClellan does not think its accurate and Dick Gregory does not think McClellan will acknowledge that it is accurate.
So, devoid of any context whatsoever, a listener might concluse that the White House transcript is wrong. Watching the tape and seeing the actual exchange, it is clear to me that the answer is not clear, but that whatever McClellan said (as he interrupted Gregory), what he was thinking was "No, I don't think that is not accurate".
McClellan would not say if he misspoke, but told NEWSWEEK he "disagreed" with Gregory's statement that Fitzgerald had described Plame as a "covert officer."]
This takes us back in time, but my strong recollection is that McClellan was correct at that point. Prior to and during the trial Fitzgerald did all he could to keep the question of Ms. Plame's status out of the discussion, insisting that this was a trial on perjury, not any kind of Intelligence Identities Protection Act case (for reasons to vexing to rehash, but this post represents a notion unearthed nowhere else).
This Feb 2007 article by Byron York ("What the CIA Leak Case Is About") summarized the state of play several years after McClellan disagreed with Gregory, or didn't:
From the first day, [Judge] Walton has said that jurors will not be allowed to know, or even ask, about the status -- covert, classified or otherwise -- of Valerie Plame Wilson, the woman at the heart of the CIA leak case. "You must not consider these matters in your deliberations or speculate or guess about them," he told jurors in his opening instructions.
A few days later, on Jan. 29, Walton told everyone in the courtroom that the jurors are not the only ones in the dark about Mrs. Wilson's status. "I don't know, based on what has been presented to me in this case, what her status was," Walton said. Two days later, he added, "I to this day don't know what her actual status was."
Walton's reasoning is this: The trial is about whether Libby lied to the grand jury in the CIA leak investigation. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald never charged anyone with leaking the identity of a covert or classified agent. Libby isn't on trial for that, so jurors -- and judge -- don't need to know.
It was only in the post-trial sentencing memorandum that Fitzgerald claimed Ms. Plame had 'covert" status, which is a phrase with nuanced meanings. The CIA mainatins that "covert" is synonomous with "classified", so any agent with classified status is covert. The IIPA, on the other hand, has a more detailed definition, which Ms. Plame almost surely did not meet, or what was Fitzgerald so coy?
I will let Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby of the WaPo summarize the dispute:
Some news stories created initial confusion over Plame's status by suggesting that disclosure of her name and employment may have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. That law, passed in response to disclosure of the names of CIA officers serving overseas by former CIA employee Philip Agee, made it a crime to disclose the names of "covert agents," which the act narrowly defined as those serving overseas or who had served as such in the previous five years.
"Covert agent" is not a label actually used within the agency for its employees, according to former senior CIA officials. Plame, who joined the agency right out of Pennsylvania State University, underwent rigorous spycraft training to become an officer in the Directorate of Operations. (The term "agent" in the CIA is only applied to foreign nationals recruited to spy in support of U.S. interests.)
Regardless of the terminology, the Identities Act proved irrelevant in the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Fitzgerald prosecuted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff for perjury and obstruction of justice based on answers about the case that Libby gave to the FBI and the grand jury. Nonetheless, some of Libby's supporters have invoked "covert" as if it were central to his indictment and conviction.
Well, leaking classified information unwittingly to a reporter and fellow American is a very difficult crime to charge under the Espionage Act or other statutes and there was an idea that Fitzgerald ought to have been investigating an underlying crime. But if people made false statements to the FBI during an investigation that had almost no chance of leading to an indictment, well, indict 'em anyway, right? For getting bad legal advice, if nothing else.