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July 20, 2008

Comments

I would not be at all surprised if there wasn't some serious pressure on Maliki right now from the Bush administration to loudly and publicly deny he said any such thing and actively campaign for McCain.

Somewhat tangent to Maliki's effect on McCain...

"the Iraqi government -- that it doesn't really speak for the Iraqi people, or isn't capable of making its own decisions about Iraqi territorial integrity"

Is the government really a (reasonably) fair representative? If, in the next elections, the Sadrists participated and won big, would the US accept the results? Would Maliki and friends?

"And this will, I think, become clearer as time goes on, when people begin to ask him these sorts of questions."

and who, pray tell, will be asking him these questions? the press?

how can people like mark halperin ask mccain a question when he's got mccain's c*ck in his mouth?

just as i hit "post" i realized the above sounds way nasty, way more than i usually am in life, or even on the internets.

but i've been so frustrated at watching the MSM fall all over themselves trying to give favorable coverage to McCain, and turning Obama's every utterance into a referendum on whether he's flip-flopping.

i've given up watching any MSM news coverage, i'll tune back in for the convention and the debates.

The problem is that the Maliki statement is only a positive for Obama in the event that it gets covered widely in the mainstream press. To the best of my knowledge, this hasn't been the case so far. The networks have made only passing mention of this at all, and most that have emphasized the "correction" that later came down the wires (the one issued by some guy from CENTCOM, mind you). I bet most people in America never really learn that this happened, or if they do, they won't be told of its implications.

MeDrew: I would. I have no idea whether the US, Maliki, etc., would.

Basically, I was thinking: in the normal case, when a government does not want us to have troops in their country, that's that. If, say, the German government asked us to take our troops home, then home they go. And the reason for that is, I suppose, because in the normal case a government gets to make decisions like that on behalf of its people.

There are cases in which I would not care that much what a government thought. I imagine that the Hutu government would have opposed us had we wanted to intervene to prevent their genocide. I think: oh well. It's not that easy to waive your right to speak for your people, but if you're engaged in massacring hundreds of thousands of them, that will definitely do the trick. Imagine some totally failed state, in which the government exerts control over a small neighborhood in the capital city, where it receives ambassadors but otherwise does nothing. The rest of the country is (and has been for a while) in Hobbes' state of nature. Some of the people are massacring others, or maybe launching numerous lethal attacks in other countries, or doing some other thing that might warrant invasion. But they have paid off the people in the government, who therefore oppose them. Again, there might be all sorts of reasons not to invade, but I'm not sure 'the government opposes it' is among them -- since in this case the government has dwindled away into a vestigial thing that's not really a government at all.

I was thinking of cases like that. And arguing that Maliki's government is like that is, I think, a loser for McCain. Because to be in that category is, I think, like being (legally) incompetent is for a person: just being imperfect or suboptimal isn't nearly enough. And the more McCain criticizes Maliki, the more he undercuts his own case.

rob! -- thanks for retracting so fast, since I would probably have had to say something otherwise. (By the time I read the Cindy McCain thing yesterday, it had already been dealt with.)

First the Bush administration started appeasing negotiating with Iran, as Obama had suggested; then McCain essentially adopted Obama's position on Afghanistan; then the Bush administration agreed to what they called a "general time horizon"for withdrawing troops. (Wait: now it's "Joint aspirational time horizons"!) McCain and Bush seemed to be adopting Obama's positions all over the place.

I think you are overlooking the way our media treat policy proposals and shifts in policy. Which is that they only "count" when they are proposed by "Serious People" (i.e. Republicans and GOP favorable pundits).

So if for example John McCain or Charles Krauthammer propose that we must send more troops to Afghanistan, then this is A Serious Policy, and it becomes part of our terms of debate from that point forward.

If on the other hand a Democrat or non-GOP favorable pundit (all 3 of them) proposes the same thing (or even worse, already proposed it earlier), then that doesn't count, because it wasn't offered by Serious People. See for example: Iraq, occupation of, why the execution of it was so poor and who said so when, and who is to be taken seriously as a policy critic as a consequence. John McCain can claim that he questioned Rumfeld's troop estimates, but nobody on the left has any credibility on the subject.

All this means that a Republican can never "adopt" a successful policy proposal from a Democrat, because definitionally the policy proposal did not exist until it was brought up by the Republican. Prior to that, it was simply ill-informed speculation or blind luck, because that is all you can ever expect from Non-Serious People.

The actual chronological order of who proposed what at which point in time, and who is changing their policy and who is not, will all go down the memory hole, because they fall into the category of boring trivia which the media could care less about and does a terrible job of covering (because that would be actual, you know, work), and the electorate a not particularly impressive job of paying attention to. The only thing left after the rinse cycle will be: There is no reason to vote for Obama on this issue, because there is little difference between his policy and McCain's.

This same technique will be applied to any other policy area where Obama polls better than McCain. Now that Phil Gramm has been banished to outer darkness (meh!), just wait for it and you will see the same policy evolution on the economy.

Stefan- I'm a bit leary that widespread coverage would be good for Obama.

If the media is reasonably honest, things should play out as Hilzoy describes. My worry is that Maliki's approval of Obama's plan will be spun as an endorsement of his candidacy. (I doubt Maliki would do something so dumb as say, "If I were an American, I'd vote for Obama! So should you!"

To me, hearing the PM of Iraq say that one candidate has a solution that is agreeable to Iraq is great, we all (should) want them to be happy. But I know too many people that would only hear that brown person wants you to vote a certain way. Talk radio would fan that flame like crazy.

Now, yes, these people weren't the likliest Obama voters anyways, but losing votes to smear just tees me off. With the 50-State Strategy, every potential vote is even more valuable, and I would hate to lose some to media spin.

On preview, I see that rob! and Stefan have already made the same point more consisely:

If an occupation withdrawl plan falls in the Iraqi forest, and the US media declines to cover it, does it make a sound?

Hilzoy- Thanks for the explanation. McCain should get a job as an undertaker, what with all the holes he digs himself into.

Anyone have thoughts on how McCain could get out of this mess looking good? Any thoughts on how he can get out period?

I’ll trade you one:

“Goal for withdrawal was open to tactical adjustments.”

For your:

"Joint aspirational time horizons.”

No democratically-elected politician, with our electorate and TV, especially mentioning Obama, has the strength to remove the military. The images would be too ugly. Obama’s talk of openness to ‘tactical adjustments’ is as empty as Pelosi’s pledges in 2006. I think this year’s funding was approved without conditions.

There are times when I think that there are grown-ups in charge. I speculate that the politicians do not have the authority to remove the military from Iraq. We will be in Iraq until the smiling happy money runs out, and then we’ll defend the oil from the Russians and Chinese.

It’s actually a good plan. But the image campaign is unfair to the riflemen who are being used as pawns and the taxpayers who are being made to pay for it.

charles said... I would not be at all surprised if there wasn't some serious pressure on Maliki right now from the Bush administration to loudly and publicly deny he said any such thing and actively campaign for McCain.

Funny you should say that. Here's a little something that's says Bush did exactly that very thing.

Brick Oven Bill: "No democratically-elected politician, with our electorate and TV, especially mentioning Obama, has the strength to remove the military. The images would be too ugly."

You keep repeating this -- and supplying only this as your entire argument -- so it must be true! Repeating assertions is an argument!

(Apparently it's all it takes to persuade you -- if the assertions fit your prejudices.)

BOB- What kind of images do you have in mind? They certainly won't look anything like the fall of Saigon, and that's the only withdrawl I can think of that the US public would connect with.

Vietnam- We had lost the war, the North had basically taken the whole country. The VC was at the city limits as we left.

Iraq- We did such a poor job planning, its hard to say what victory or defeat really is. But we certainly aren't fleeing a victorious enemy that's pounding on the gates. Also bear in mind that this is a withdrawl over a period of time. We aren't going to have Iraqis begging to get on the last chopper out of Baghdad.

It also bears mentioning that in Vietnam, we had no choice. If we didn't evacuate right at that moment, the POW crisis would've been horrible.

Iraq, OTOH, is peacefully asking us to leave. There's a world of difference there.

(If the Vietnam withdrawl isn't what you had in mind, my apologies, but could you explain then why it would be so ugly?)

Fundamentally, this is all dependent on Reporters doing their job and the story getting out into the front pages of the newspapers.

Now, it's made it on the blogsphere and I am gald Halperin has corrected his initial hook line and sinker take on the walk back of Malki's statment. But I feel like the press is reluctant to push this story because there is a feeling this trip is ALREADY gold for Obama and the imbalance in coverage is making them feel guilty. It makes no sense, but this is the way I feel the villiagers are shaking out right now.

Exhibit A: David Gregory on MTP beating the drum for McCain's surge policy and ignoring the heart of the story. Should we start to go NOW or stay?

That's a discussion the MSM doesn't seem to want to have IMO and the only way to press it is online.

I also have been infuriated that the MSM gave so little coverage to Maliki's statement (and, that they incorrectly stated that Maliki had retracted his statement, when in fact the "walk-back" was a statement by ANOTHER Iraqi official and was released, not by Maliki's office, but by the US military).

However, it's still a great thing for Obama. Because it will get huge exposure to the voting public during the televised debates. It gives Obama an absolutely devastating reply when McCain tells him "you're so inexperienced and ignorant that you want to leave and surrender". Obama can simply say, "I came to the same conclusion as the elected Prime Minister of Iraq".

By the way, the walkback seems to me a significant violation (and not the first) of the principle that the uniformed military should not try to influence a presidential election.

Hot Air captured the following passage from the English translation of Maliki's Der Spiegel interview:

SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.

Here's how the exchange reads now:

SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

There is no explanation of the rewrite.

Spiegel says: "SPIEGEL stands by its version of the conversation." That's great . . . but which one?

Patterico: this is significant why?

(When I first read this, I noted that the second is reads much better in English. I have translated stuff, and phrases like "this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes" are definitely first-time-through material.)

I thought my point was clear, but I'll make it even clearer.

There is a CNN story online now that says this:

But a spokesman for al-Maliki said his remarks "were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately."

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush.

Ben Smith and Matthew Yglesias are having a great time mocking this as a cave to US pressure. Yglesias mocks the statement from Maliki's office as a "non-denial denial, in another person's name, issued by CENTCOM."

But the original translation by Der Spiegel explicitly included a condition of security improvements, just as Maliki's office says:

Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.

So the significance is simple: the clarification by Maliki's office is in line with what Der Spiegel originally reported.

If you want to argue that the original quote was still supportive of Obama's plan, be my guest. I'm not trying to say that Maliki originally said: "Obama's plan sucks!" and was rewritten to say: "Obama's plan rocks!"

But I want to end the little meme going around the blogs that the clarification by Maliki's office was manufactured after the fact under pressure from the U.S. How does that square with the fact that the paper itself originally reported exactly what Maliki's office now claims?

Additionally, there's something very weaselly about a paper "standing by its story" even as it rewrites that story in its most significant aspect, and fails to inform readers of that fact.

Don't you agree?

Incidentally, I agree with much of your post: that we should be looking at what the Iraqi government wants.

But what is that? Do I trust Der Spiegel to tell me? Not necessarily, when they give me two versions and don't explain why they rewrote one.

Re: ‘What kind of images?”

Think of Saddam’s execution party with a few million assault rifles, lots and lots of kids, and digital cameras everywhere.

Real Clear Politics has Obama up by 4.5 points. The more people see Obama, the less they like him. See South Dakota. See even Katherine. Hi Katherine. So this is a dumb trip for him to make. He will have to face grown-ups with grown-up concerns and give them answers. The campaign will not allow this to be filmed, but the answers will be leaked to the press. If McCain has a good campaign manager, Obama will see images of sign-waving supporters in Sadr City on his TV during his visit.

Bill predicts that Real Clear Politics will have Obama up by no more than 1-point two weeks from today. This is the boldest prediction ever, as it runs counter to the unanimous consent of the brain trust at FOX News. That was a very nice basket Obama made with the troops though.

Patterico: I didn't think that the Speigel change was the mistranslation the "clarification" referred to, which is why I didn't get the point. For one thing, both versions support Obama's plan, so if that was the 'walk-back', I don't see the point of it.

In any case, I think Der Speigel is planing to post the whole interview, so we can make up our own minds.

You're missing the point, hilzoy. They already did post the whole interview, which is what I linked. BUT, when they initially posted it, it said something different regarding whether Maliki's agreement was conditioned on continuing positive developments. That part has been whitewashed out of the "whole interview."

We can't "make up our own minds" if we're forced to trust a paper that rewrites an interview and doesn't tell readers that it has done so.

"I didn't think that the Speigel change was the mistranslation the "clarification" referred to, which is why I didn't get the point."

Well, the part they complained about having been removed is exactly the part that was removed. So I don't know why you didn't think that.

Patterico: if the walkback only referred to that one bit, and not to Maliki's coming out in favor of Obama's plan, then there are some media narratives in need of serious correction. Not that there aren't anyways...

Patterico, you haven't provided any proof that Der Spiegel changed the transcript.

"Assuming that positive developments continue."

So Malaki is saying that as long as GWB doesn't screw up things during the remainder of his term, he's alright with Obama's plan?

Look, if it proves to be an omission on Der Spiegel's part then it is a serious omission that deserves correcting. But there are many elements of Maliki's interview that conflict with the Bush-McCain narrative, not just the specific endorsement of Obama's 16 month withdrawal plan. If Malaki's endorsement proves to be conditional as claimed, Maliki's remarks in total are still a whole lot closer to Obama's than that of Bush-McCain.

you haven't provided any proof that Der Spiegel changed the transcript.

i'm sure they've got top men checking the kerning on the transcripts as we speak. Top. Men.

"Exhibit A: David Gregory on MTP beating the drum for McCain's surge policy and ignoring the heart of the story."

Link?

cleek: unfortunately, all the kerning experts are otherwise occupied with Obama's forged birth certificate.

*giggles*

The Hill quoted the original version just as Hot Air did.

So did plenty of others.

"Additionally, there's something very weaselly about a paper 'standing by its story' even as it rewrites that story in its most significant aspect,"

I think that seeing that updated quote as "its most significant aspect" is something about which people are going to differ.

Digressing, I'm watching/listening to Steve Clemons interviewing Jane Mayer on C-Span2 at the moment, btw. (Not directed to you, Patterico, but the blog readers in general.)

"BUT, when they initially posted it, it said something different regarding whether Maliki's agreement was conditioned on continuing positive developments. That part has been whitewashed out of the "whole interview."

It strikes me, also, as a trivial point, anodyne, point, but obviously mileage will vary.

That security is better in many areas of Iraq isn't particularly being debated, is it?

That any plan is subject to change if circumstances change drastically, or at least significantly, is pretty obvious, whether stated or not, isn't it? So what? What's the big deal about that?

Stories get updated, as well; it's not typically regarded as a conspiracy and a "whitewash" 99.99999% of the time. Once in a while, maybe it is, but the burden is on the accuser to point to some reason to think it's not just a perfectly normal revision for clarity, such as happens to more or less every story with a time aspect that gets posted online, or printed in papers.

"cleek: unfortunately, all the kerning experts are otherwise occupied with Obama's forged birth certificate."

Obama revealed to be illegal alien from Planet Ten. Film at 11.

Nb: I have a post about this coming up, since the NYT has got the original interview, and translated the relevant bit for itself.

The Hill quoted the original version just as Hot Air did.

So did plenty of others.

And the significance of this is?

Like it or not, things have changed since a year ago.

But we are asking it of them because Bush decided to go for his surge -- a strategy that neither his own generals nor almost anyone else thought would work, and whose main recommendation seemed to be that it would allow him to go on avoiding the need to admit that the war is lost for another eight months or so. I hope he enjoys delaying the inevitable, given what other people are paying for it.

Those statements proven to be categorically wrong, especially the comments about the motives of President Bush, enjoying war, and the assertion that defeat was inevitable.

It also was posutulated here that the White House wrote the Petraeus Report, and that report should be discounted. Yet the report turned out to be the truth.

There is a lot of spin that goes on with any news. We will see how this works out.

This is from the NY Times:

But the interpreter for the interview works for Mr. Maliki’s office, not the magazine. And in an audio recording of Mr. Maliki’s interview that Der Spiegel provided to The New York Times, Mr. Maliki seemed to state a clear affinity for Mr. Obama’s position, bringing it up on his own in an answer to a general question on troop presence.

The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Mr. Maliki’s comments by The Times: “Obama’s remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”

He continued: “Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.”

That Hill story is quite the indictment of Obama, all right:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has backed the withdrawal plans of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, saying the Illinois senator “is right” when he talks about withdrawing U.S. troops within 16 months.

Maliki also appeared to disagree with Republican presidential candidate John McCain on other issues, such as the importance of the surge in making Iraq more secure and whether troop withdrawal equates surrender, as the Arizona senator has indicated.

Asked in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel of when he would like to see American forces leave Iraq, Maliki said: “As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned.” He then added that “Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.”

The White House announced Friday that Maliki and President Bush agreed that there should not be any artificial withdrawal timelines and that troop reductions should be tied to situations on the ground. However, while saying that he is not making an endorsement in the U.S. election, the Iraqi prime minister left little doubt that the Iraqi people and its government prefer Obama’s plan.

“Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause problems,” he said, adding, “Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business. But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.”

Spread that link around, Patterico, by all means.

provocative post, hilzoy. thank you once again

and I agree Maliki's acceptance is all good for the good guys.

and it couldn't have come at a better time because, for some reason, McCain was scoring points on the surge.

But I can't help thinking there's an elephant in the room here:

Again, this raises the question: what on earth are we doing there? If the Iraqi people want us out, and their Prime Minister is asking for timetables, why not just take 'yes' for an answer?

The obvious default position is that when a country's government asks us to withdraw our troops, we should do so.

Does he say that he can disregard its requests on matters of Iraqi sovereignty? In that case, he undercuts a lot of his claims that the surge has enabled real and lasting progress in Iraq.

(1) the GWOT has set in place an infrastructure to combat transnational terrorism, which gives the USG a second advantage beyonds nukes over other nations.

we may not be able to build other nations, but we can destroy them. at will.

And it doesn't work the other way. Ours will bring the temple down first.

that's a new international substrate.

(2) the USG and her allies have signed-on to the US role in providing geo-political security in the world. See silent Europe.

we make sure the oil flows and the totalitarians don't get out of hand.

Iraq will be made to understand that they accept our terms, or die.

A dependably excellent analysis. But I can't resist:

Shorter Hilzoy: the unnamed Republican source for Ambinder was right: McCain IS fucked.

to be sure, the white elephant is the Nunn Doctrine: We don't have to surrender anything to a hostile government, which he articulated during the Noriega crisis.

with Iraq, it'll be oil and military bases.

"And the significance of this is? "

Read the thread again.

Someone said I hadn't proved Der Spiegel rewrote the passage.

If you're a supporter of rewriting critical passages without telling readers about it, we'll have to agree to disagree.

Anyone want to get up a pool as to how long it will be before Maliki is disappeared?

Someone said I hadn't proved Der Spiegel rewrote the passage.

*reads the post on your blog*

You haven't.

Patterico:

But what is that? Do I trust Der Spiegel to tell me? Not necessarily, when they give me two versions and don't explain why they rewrote one.

And who do you trust to tell you the position of the Iraqi government? The Bush administration version?

Please note that the following words appear in both versions, and seem to make the point:

As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.

Meanwhile, you dance on the head of a pin about the alleged significance of the other language, and that the differences somehow undo this declarative statement repeated in all translations.

Iraqis want us out, and soon. All of the available information points to that, except for unsourced Bush propaganda. The significance of the Maliki statement is not that they indicate that they want us out and soon, but that they would even use Obama's name in discussing when we should be out. He has to know the significance of that and how that will rankle.

I suspect that the original statement in Arabic was reasonably obtuse political speak in the first instance, and subject to multiple interpretations. But all versions have the same point.

"If you're a supporter of rewriting critical passages without telling readers about it, we'll have to agree to disagree."

I'm a supporter of standard news practices, if that's what you mean. I realize a lot of so-called "media commentator" type bloggers are completely clueless about how wire services and newspapers operate, but their ignorance is their own problem. Gosh, news stories get rewritten? Shocking!

What, you think updates and changes are made by elves? Or don't happen in any and every updated story? Give me a break. Or spend a day in a newsroom. Or read a book on journalism.

If you want to allege some kind of political conspiracy as regards what appears to be a completely anodyne and standard update, kindly provide some evidence. Pointing to the fact that gasp, a News Story Was Updated does kinda make you sound like you have no idea how a news service or newspaper works.

But maybe you mean something else, in which case do feel free to explain to those of us who have more trouble seeing the black helicopters between the lines.

of course conditions can effect certain time frame for a troop withdrawal.
That's what both Obama and Maliki are saying.
Don't you love the desperation from Paterico and others on the right, clinging bitterly to any possible straw.
I love it.
Stupid unnecessary war they all cheer-leaded + unregulated BS capitalism circa 19th century are going to cost them "permanent majority" for a long, long time....

BOB: "The more people see Obama, the less they like him. See South Dakota."

So goes South Dakota, goes the nation?

New one on me.

unfortunately, all the kerning experts are otherwise occupied with Obama's forged birth certificate.

i like Jesse's idea. encourage them!

    Continue as such, link around and stir up controversy, and let’s spend the next two months embroiling the entire right in highly relevant and not at all counterproductive obsessing over photoshop filters and the bureaucratic wranglings of Hawaii’s birth certificate systems.

let the Jr. Forensics Brigades spend their energy trying to prove that Obama isn't a natural-born citizen. it's better than having them spreading lies about important things.

unfortunately, all the kerning experts are otherwise occupied with Obama's forged birth certificate.

Oh, brother. I've never been any sort of fan of Pam Geller, but this is unusually, deeply stupid.

Rob: and who, pray tell, will be asking him these questions? the press?
how can people like mark halperin ask mccain a question when he's got mccain's c*ck in his mouth?

Putting aside the rather imaginative description here: Huh?

I mean I understand that the accepted wisdom here is that the media is in the tank for McCain – but I have never seen anything like their fawning over Obama. They barely attempt to conceal it anymore.*

This is just one of those left/right issues I can never understand. Poll after poll confirms that the MSM leans left. They even admit from time to time that it influences their work product with blurbs like “15 points for Kerry”. Even the rubes can detect it at this point. But McCain somehow has the media advantage in all this… As near as I can tell they are just now starting to sort of kind of ask Obama serious questions.

*(Not a McCain Supporter)

OCSteve: regarding the media "fawning" over Obama, I think you have to put the nature of the coverage in context. This isn't the kind of fawning of an industry that has decided they want to help elect Barack Obama. This is an industry that recognizes that historic drama sells, and that Obama touring the mideast makes for great television. They're not political advocates, they're just interested in selling their news product. And right now Obama is generating great material for them. They'll turn on him in an instant if they think it makes for a better narrative.

Honestly, as recently as a month ago it was McCain whose campaign historically benefited from an inexplicable love affair from the media. All this sudden talk from the right about how the media is in the tank for Obama just mystifies me, it's like people have very selective long-term memory when it comes to politics.

Huh. Just found out this post was also on Andrew Sullivan's site.

Hilzoy, any chance you might, per general blogging practice, say when you're cross-posting posts elsewhere? It's useful information for those of us who otherwise have no idea. If so, thanks muchly!

Gary: sorry. I forget it there too. It's just through Fri. am.

"I'm a supporter of standard news practices, if that's what you mean. I realize a lot of so-called "media commentator" type bloggers are completely clueless about how wire services and newspapers operate, but their ignorance is their own problem. Gosh, news stories get rewritten? Shocking!

"What, you think updates and changes are made by elves? Or don't happen in any and every updated story? Give me a break. Or spend a day in a newsroom. Or read a book on journalism."

I just saw this comment.

Is it truly possible that you didn't realize we were talking about a piece that purported to be a verbatim transcript of an interview?

Because if you did realize that, then the heavy sarcasm you ladled on for my ignorance of the Standard Newsroom Practice of Rewriting Verbatim Quotes Without Explanation is . . . interesting.

Is that truly how journalism works? That allegedly verbatim quotes are rewritten without explanation?

Or . . . did you inappropriately reach for the Sarcasm Weapon?

"Is it truly possible that you didn't realize we were talking about a piece that purported to be a verbatim transcript of an interview?"

A translation of an interview. And, no, I don't find it startling that a translation might get an update to what's said to be a more accurate or better translation.

That could, of course, involve a conspiracy to conceal something or other.

But before I start worrying about such a conspiracy, I'd like to see more evidence of such malfeasance and possible dire motivation than... nothing whatever.

Obviously your mileage varies, but good luck with your questions.

I do apologize if I went too heavy on the sarcasm, let me say, though; it's a failing of mine, and I didn't in fact mean anything personal or particularly harsh by it. I just see this trope a lot from some of your compatriots -- that a rewritten or updated news story Obviously Proves Insidious Political Bias!!!! -- and it makes my eyes roll heavily each time. Sorry for any excess reaction that spilled on you.

The Plank on Der Spiegel's interview policy.

Thanks for the reminder, Mattt (see most recent addendum), you bastard.

"A translation of an interview."

Not entirely:

During the interview, Der Spiegel spoke in English, and after listening to each question repeated in Arabic, and hearing Maliki’s responses in Arabic, finally heard its answer in English via Maliki’s translator.

Now, if the magazine employed its own translator and found that Maliki's translator had translated inaccurately, I think that might be worth a note.

"And, no, I don't find it startling that a translation might get an update to what's said to be a more accurate or better translation."

You'd think there would be an explanation before they go simply removing entire phrases like "Assuming that positive developments continue . . ."

"But before I start worrying about such a conspiracy, I'd like to see more evidence of such malfeasance and possible dire motivation than... nothing whatever."

I don't recall alleging a conspiracy as such. Perhaps you could quote a comment where I did before you accuse me of making such an allegation.

However, I do consider it a whitewash (language I previously employed) when:

1. Der Spiegel rewrites the comment to remove the phrase "Assuming that positive developments continue . . .";

2. Maliki's office issues a statement saying that Maliki had emphasized that he had conditioned his report on the concept of positive developments continuing;

3. Der Spiegel, rather than saying: "Hey, that's what his translator said, but it turned out it was an inaccurate translation so we rewrote it" instead says (from the above link):

“His original words were unprintable. It would have been embarrassing to him. So we edited it . . . There are very few people you can do a Q&A with without editing for grammar. And you always have to make it shorter.”

Well, removing the phrase "Assuming that positive developments continue . . ." certainly makes it shorter . . .

And yes, I'm aware that the NYT employed its own translator. But 1) I don't necessarily trust the NYT and 2) I think Der Spiegel should simply post the interview online.

Again, as I have said many times, under any translation Maliki evidenced support of some kind for something similar to Obama's plan. But the details matter, and Der Spiegel rewriting the details and failing to disclose the rewrite and refusing to post the audio is just, in my view, irresponsible -- and undercuts the value of the story to me.

When you excerpted this part:

During the interview, Der Spiegel spoke in English, and after listening to each question repeated in Arabic, and hearing Maliki’s responses in Arabic, finally heard its answer in English via Maliki’s translator.

Why did you exclude this:

Through it all, Zand would have been able to monitor each step of the translation for any slip-ups.

Der Spiegel proudly stands by its work. (And rightly so—events have borne them out.) Their tape contains both Maliki’s original Arabic and the translator’s real-time English. When the magazine readied the transcript, Zand verified the translation against Maliki’s Arabic. On this sensitive interview, and the Obama portion of the interview, Müller von Blumencron emphasizes they stayed “very close. Very, very close.”

And when you ask "I think Der Spiegel should simply post the interview online."

...and your own cite contains "So how did the Times get its listen? Simple—it asked."

I ask myself...why don't you ask, Citizen Blogger?

I have done so. I used an online contact form published in German. I'll post what I learn when I hear back.

Excellent. Why don't you save your conclusions until your investigation is completed?

And you would agree the audio is readily available to the inquiring?

"Excellent. Why don't you save your conclusions until your investigation is completed?"

I'll save my conclusion about what the audio really says until then. Then again, I never offered a single conclusion about that yet.

My conclusions about Der Spiegel's irresponsible behavior don't, and didn't, need to wait.

And the offer to play audio over the telephone is really a joke. They should simply post it. What in the world are they scared of? Or if they're not scared, then what is the reason?

"And you would agree the audio is readily available to the inquiring?"

"Readily available" would be posting it on the Internet, which they're steadfastly refusing to do.

But even if you consider "filling out a German contact form and having them play it once over an international phone connection" to be "readily available . . ."

Even then . . . why don't you save your conclusions until you see how they respond?

Unless jumping to conclusions make sense only when the conclusions are left-leaning . . .

"Readily available" would be posting it on the Internet, which they're steadfastly refusing to do.

Okey-dokey.

Just out of interest, could you point me to the audio archives of your interviews? Just curious...

Also, who is your translator?

"Just out of interest, could you point me to the audio archives of your interviews? Just curious..."

It's not my style to tape them. I generally conduct e-mail interviews and run the quotes past the subject for accuracy before publication. I have never once had anyone question the accuracy of my quotes.

Patterico 1, Der Spiegel 0.

"Also, who is your translator?"

When I get one, I'll say who it is. Who was the NYT's? Who was Der Spiegel's, after they changed what Maliki's said? What's that? You don't know?

Patterico 2, Der Spiegel 0.

Yes, I know, I know. Der Spiegel talked to Maliki and I didn't. You're so predictable.

I'm just having some fun with you because your efforts to show me to be sloppy and irresponsible aren't really getting you anywhere.

I generally conduct e-mail interviews and run the quotes past the subject for accuracy before publication.

But what if you make a transcription error? What if, like the Iraqi government, your interviewees sign off on inaccurate quotations? How can I know what is true? Why are you steadfastly refusing to allow me, a citizen, to hear for myself?

Spartikus 1, Patterico 0

I have never once had anyone question the accuracy of my quotes.

No one? Not once? So if I found one per chance...that would nullify the blogosphere's trust in your pontifications?

Spartikus 1 Gazillion, Patterico 0.....minus 1!

Der Spiegel talked to Maliki and I didn't.

Der Spiegel even got Maliki's office to translate and sign off on the final product.

"Der Spiegel even got Maliki's office to translate and sign off on the final product."

Wrong.

That right there shows you haven't understood my point at all.

Sigh.

The original version had the important qualifying phrase. Then it was rewritten without explanation.

Obviously, the original version is what Maliki's office signed off on.

Feel free to find an example where someone disputed the accuracy of my quotes. But don't count your chickens before they're hatched, my fine feathered friend.

And most of my interviews are by e-mail.

If I taped one, I'd put up the audio.

And most of my interviews are by e-mail.

The complete, unedited versions of which - with contact emails to confirm veracity - you haven't provided your readers with.

Spartikus: 1 gazillion x infinity (stamp, stamp, no erasies....)

Patterico: 0

And dude....nothing beats stamp, stamp, no erasies.

I'm afraid it's game, set, match. Sorry, but those are the rules.

Patterico: The original version had the important qualifying phrase. Then it was rewritten without explanation.

The "important qualifying phrase" is only actually important to McCain groupies trying to show there's some gaping difference between how the Prime Minister of Iraq thinks the US occupation ought to come to an end and how the presumptive Democratic nominee for President thinks the US occupation ought to come to an end. To anyone else, it's, well... trivial.

Obviously, the original version is what Maliki's office signed off on.

And your evidence for that is... what, exactly? How do you know that the second version (not that different from the first, as noted above) is what Maliki's office actually agreed to, after making a few very trivial corrections?

Patterico: The original version had the important qualifying phrase. Then it was rewritten without explanation.

The "important qualifying phrase" is only actually important to McCain groupies trying to show there's some gaping difference between how the Prime Minister of Iraq thinks the US occupation ought to come to an end and how the presumptive Democratic nominee for President thinks the US occupation ought to come to an end. To anyone else, it's, well... trivial.

Obviously, the original version is what Maliki's office signed off on.

And your evidence for that is... what, exactly? How do you know that the second version (not that different from the first, as noted above) is what Maliki's office actually agreed to, after making a few very trivial corrections?

...closing tags. Sorry.

"The complete, unedited versions of which - with contact emails to confirm veracity - you haven't provided your readers with."

I typically print the whole e-mail -- not that you would know. Be honest: you've never read my blog. So why are you pretending that you have? If you actually read the blog, maybe you'd develop some respect for the way I conduct my interviews. Instead, you're probably surprised to learn that I've ever done any.

For example, one interview I did by phone was of Bob Sipchen, who at the time was an L.A. Times editor. His reaction to the interview:

Patrick,

I’m impressed. You got it right and I don’t seem to have said anything terribly stupid (although I’m sure your readers will disabuse me of that notion). [etc.]

"The "important qualifying phrase" is only actually important to McCain groupies trying to show there's some gaping difference between how the Prime Minister of Iraq thinks the US occupation ought to come to an end and how the presumptive Democratic nominee for President thinks the US occupation ought to come to an end. To anyone else, it's, well... trivial."

Apparently it was important to Maliki's office.

"And your evidence for that is... what, exactly? How do you know that the second version (not that different from the first, as noted above) is what Maliki's office actually agreed to, after making a few very trivial corrections?"

It's different in that it removes the critical phrase, as I have repeatedly pointed out.

As for my proof, it's Occam's Razor. Publication interviews subject, asks him to sign off on a version, then posts version 1, then mysteriously changes it to version 2. Is it really so hard to guess which is more likely to be the version that was signed off on?

I typically print the whole e-mail -- not that you would know.

Really? With the sender's email address included? Originating IP? I think not...that would be violations of privacy that not many interview subjects would agree to.

As many have pointed out, Der Spiegel is engaging in standard practice for the industry, the change does not change the meaning, subsequent events have confirmed Maliki's position, and lastly the onus is on you to prove otherwise, which you have failed to do. Etc, etc.

Be honest: you've never read my blog.

No, I haven't. And your behaviour here hasn't won me over as a convert. You might want to think about whether snarling arrogance is an effective marketing tool for your blog or the Republican Party.

Also, you might also want to consider telling Der Spiegel the name and qualifications of your Arabic translator. It might play a big part in helping them decide that you are a serious, sincere inquiry rather than some jerk trying to yank their chain.

"You might want to think about whether snarling arrogance is an effective marketing tool for your blog or the Republican Party."

I don't read Patterico's words as "snarling."

"As many have pointed out, Der Spiegel is engaging in standard practice for the industry, the change does not change the meaning, subsequent events have confirmed Maliki's position, and lastly the onus is on you to prove otherwise, which you have failed to do. Etc, etc."

My rebuttal to each and every point has already been stated.

"No, I haven't. And your behaviour here hasn't won me over as a convert. You might want to think about whether snarling arrogance is an effective marketing tool for your blog or the Republican Party."

Let's talk about behavior in this thread.

First you imply that including the email address as contact information would be the responsible move -- arguing that if I didn't do it, that would show that I'm not allowing people to confirm the accuracy of what I said:

"The complete, unedited versions of which - with contact emails to confirm veracity - you haven't provided your readers with."

Then you suggest that printing the whole e-mail address would be the irresponsible move -- because it would violate people's privacy:

"Really? With the sender's email address included? Originating IP? I think not...that would be violations of privacy that not many interview subjects would agree to."

Which is why I don't include that information.

If you really wanted to confirm the accuracy of quotes from people I've interviewed -- such as L.A. Times editor Bob Sipchen, former L.A. Times reporter and Pellicano victim Anita Busch, L.A. Times blogger Andrew Malcolm, former Gitmo nurse "Stashiu," or many others, those people are easily found.

And for anyone who has a genuine concern, and can't manage to find them on their own, I can put them in touch with those people.

But your concern does not appear to be genuine, based on your contradictory arguments about the value of providing e-mail addresses.

There are people online who like to argue issues in good faith, and there are others who just like to argue. I apologize if I'm mistaken in this impression, but based on this exchange, you seem to me to fall into the latter category, and consequently aren't worth any more of my time.

spartikus: I’ll just note that I have read Patterico for years. Not only does he do original reporting, he is very careful about it. And often as not, the interviewee shows up in comments. I’ve never seen one complain that Patterico misrepresented anything that they said.

I mean – deciding to omit the letter “a” can get you smacked around pretty good.

"I mean – deciding to omit the letter “a” can get you smacked around pretty good."

Quite right: that change significantly changed the meaning of the sentence, ruined a joke, and make it sound weird, if not downright subliterate.

Every word should be there, and every punctuation choice should be made, for a reason. If it doesn't, it's by definition badly written. Good writing is precise; bad writing is sloppy.

Most people who write do it badly, and don't even notice. But it's perceived by all readers, however unconsciously, because sloppy writing is that which is far more easily misunderstood.

"Going for nosh" doesn't particularly make sense: at least, not in American English, anyway. And I did get the sexual joke in "going for a nosh" in context.

"If it doesn't, it's by definition badly written."

See, that should be "if it isn't."

:-)

Of course, now:

First the Iraqi government gave Senator Barack Obama a boost by seeming to embrace his proposal for a 16-month timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

[...]

“I think it’s a pretty good timetable,” Mr. McCain said Friday in an interview on “The Situation Room” on CNN, before adding that it should be based “on the conditions on the ground.

[...]

In the CNN interview, Mr. McCain first seemed to play down any possibility that Mr. Maliki would actually ask the United States to withdraw in the next 16 months to two years. “He won’t,” Mr. McCain said, explaining that he knew Mr. Maliki well.

Then, asked why he thought Mr. Maliki had called 16 months a potentially suitable timetable, Mr. McCain gave his enigmatic answer.

“He said it’s a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground,” Mr. McCain said. “I think it’s a pretty good timetable, as we should — or horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground. This success is very fragile. It’s incredibly impressive, but very fragile. So we know, those of us who have been involved in it for many years, know that if we reverse this, by setting a date for withdrawal, all of the hard-won victory can be reversed.”

This all is giving a fair impression of being rather mole-hilly.

spartikus:

"You might want to think about whether snarling arrogance is an effective marketing tool for your blog or the Republican Party."

Farber:

"I don't read Patterico's words as 'snarling.'"

Thanks, Gary. And if someone were to accuse you of being an overly sarcastic, often nasty, cantankerous, and dishonest commenter, I would tell them straight out: I've never seen Gary Farber be deliberately dishonest.

It's important for people of good will to defend each other, after all.

Not only does he do original reporting, he is very careful about it.

This isn't my point. Patterico is holding someone else - Der Spiegel - to a higher standard than he holds himself. And that standard he holds himself to is fine.

As for tone, I comfortable with my characterization. I thought the introduction of the "scoreboard" asinine. YMMV.

I like to think I'm also not "often nasty," but it's a subjective judgment, certainly.

Cantankerous: sometimes, sure. Overly sarcastic: sometimes, sure.

I'm also not unduly sensitive most of the time.

"I like to think I'm also not 'often nasty,'"

People like to think good things about themselves.

"People like to think good things about themselves."

That's true. Have I been often nasty to you?

Response from Der Spiegel:

Dear Mr. Frey,

we are sorry, but we generally don't hand out research material.

Sincerely,

Stefanie Jockers
Readers' Information Service

So much for the Der Spiegel editor's claim: "Anyone who wants to hear it can hear it.”

For someone who claims to quote carefully, you're playing a bit fast and loose, here.

You: "Anyone who wants to hear it can hear it.”

From your citation: Der Spiegel has no plans to release the tape (“We don’t see a need to improve upon our credibility by, say, putting the audio on the web.”) but is happy to play it—in person, over the phone—for any journalist interested in verifying.

This might sting, but perhaps Der Spiegel doesn't consider you a journalist? Especially since you didn't have an Arabic speaker on deck to translate?

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