This weekend, I praised the Associated Press story on how President Bush repeatedly attacks straw men. But yesterday I realized that it raises an important question -- how did the AP handle those straw men attacks in real time?
The answer is not encouraging. Just like newspapers that credulously report or ignore misleading claims that they later debunk in fact-checking stories, the AP appears to have only cast doubt on one of the Bush quotes in question according to a Nexis search.
Here's how the article begins:
"Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," President Bush said recently.
Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."
"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."
Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.
However, the first quote was taken by the AP as a serious acknowledgment of doubts about the war in its original report:
President Bush asserted Sunday night the United States is winning the war in Iraq but acknowledged setbacks and the doubts of some "that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day
...Acknowledging doubts about his strategy, Bush said, "Some look at the challenges in Iraq, and conclude that the war is lost, and not worth another dime or another day.
On the other hand, a featured quote about people in the US not believing in the terrorist threat was properly debunked in a January article:
"Officials here learn information about plotters and planners and people who would do us harm," Bush said, reading from note cards. "Now, I understand there's some in America who say, 'Well, this can't be true there are still people willing to attack.' All I would ask them to do is listen to the words of Osama bin Laden and take him seriously."
However, no one in the political debate over the war on terror or the NSA program has suggested that terrorists no longer want to attack the United States. Rather, Bush's critics have argued that the law requires him to get permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to eavesdrop on communications involving Americans.
Other quotes in the article don't appear to have been reported by the AP, which is problematic. Shouldn't it be news when the President of the United States is shadow-boxing with straw men? Of course, all politicians use the straw man tactic, but President Bush has gone far beyond his predecessors in his use of it. Citizens deserve to know.
Update 3/22 10:42 AM: Media Matters has posted a longer reexamination of how the AP failed to point out straw men arguments in real time.