Bloggers Chide Bush For Dissembling, Post For Deletion

Bloggers debate how plainly the press should state the president's acknowledgment that he misled reporters.

While many pundits have taken to discussing the foreign policy implications of a new secretary of defense, others have been far more interested in the political maneuverings leading to the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates. This morning, Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory harangued the Washington Post for deleting a section of a story in yesterday’s paper reporting that President Bush acknowledged lying to reporters last week when he said that Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney would stay on through the end of his term.

In a Wednesday press conference, Bush responded to questions about Cheney and Rumsfeld’s status by stating that “my answer was, they’re going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.”

According to Greenwald, in the Post’s early coverage of the story, the online article noted that “Bush indicated that he had made the decision to replace Rumsfeld before the elections,” and added: “He appeared to acknowledge having misled reporters.” Both statements are not seen in the current version online.

Lamenting the WaPo edit, Greenwald writes: “Presidents simply do not have the right to lie to Americans about important matters of public concern, particularly before a major election. If we don’t embrace and enforce that standard, what standard exists? And if newspapers like the Post are too afraid to detail dishonest statements that come from our highest political officials — to the point where they publish such revelations only to then surreptitiously delete them — what possible purpose do journalists serve?”

Unsurprisingly, other left-leaning bloggers had plenty to add.

“Some lies are more equal than others,” notes the Heretic. “Bush lying about Rumsfeld’s departure is most equal of all. Rumsfeld blew more than Lewinsky, but that doesn’t matter. The more important the matter, the less the lie matters. To understand D.C., you must look at Washington from afar, with your telescope inverted. What is large then becomes properly small. What will be smaller in D.C. next?”

While few conservative bloggers cared to comment on the issue, one pundit across the aisle went for the hypocrisy angle.

Writes Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred: “The ever-touching himself Glenn Greenwald is outraged that Bush ‘lied’ when he said that he had no intention of replacing Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, prior to the elections. It seems the overexcited Greenwald is unwilling to make the connection that maybe the Democrat Party deliberately lied when they made the allegations of voter fraud. Indeed, if those allegations were true, the Dems would be foolish to toss them — after all, how often is it that you can indict your opposition so clearly and defend the integrity of the election process?”

In contrast to the Post’s reworking of its story, the New York Daily News was one paper that had no qualms about plainly stating the president’s Rumsfeld fib to journalists.

“President Bush admitted yesterday he intentionally misled reporters when he told them last week that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was doing a ‘fantastic’ job and would remain in power for the rest of his administration,” the Daily News reported Thursday. “In fact, Bush was already interviewing Rumsfeld’s replacement.”

The headline was a bit over-the-top, but in this case the tabloid’s readers were better served.

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Andrew Bielak was a CJR intern.