The Spectacle Blog

Perfidious Quotation Games

By on 8.28.06 | 6:12PM

Maureen Dowd famously did it. So have many other intellectually dishonest so-called journalists. Now some dude in Maine--L. Sandy Maisel the director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College--has done it in a local paper up there, probably making my name mud (unfairly) at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport. If I get time tomorrow, I will try to track down the columnist to demand a retraction in person. Meanwhile, here is a public demand for the same.

By "it," I mean deliberately and dishonestly leaving words out of a quote in order to completely skew the intention of the person being quoted.

Here's the story: Eight days ago, I was quoted by the Wash Post's excellent Peter Baker in this article. Baker got the quote correctly, and like a good reporter he tried to put it into proper context. Baker was quoting this column of mine from this very AmSpec web site. Baker put it thusly:

Quin Hillyer, executive editor of the American Spectator, cited Lowry's column in his own last week, writing that many are upset "because we seem not to be winning" and urging the White House to take on militia leaders such as Moqtada al-Sadr. Until it does, he said, "there will be no way for the administration to credibly claim that victory in Iraq is achievable, much less imminent." Even more to the point, my purpose in the column as a whole was crystal clear: NOT to say that we cannot win in Iraq, but to urge a renewed commitment to winning.

I went on to write: An all-out drive for victory is necessary not just for short-term politics, but for the long-term security of this nation. But because the American people instinctively understand that so much rides on victory, they also will reward politically an administration that actually ramps up the fight in order to finish the job.

It is beyond doubt that I believe victory is achievable; I merely laid a condition for victory, which is to stand up to Moqtadr al-Sadr. Baker got that right: He accurately quoted me as saying that victory will not be achieved "until" we do so.

So far, so good. Baker's story quoting me and others was picked up elsewhere around the country, and I didn't see anybody else messing it up. Indeed, it took a deliberate effort to mess it up, a deliberate elimination of a key part of Baker's paragraph. But that's what this bleepedy-bleep named Maisel did. To wit: The American Spectator's Quin Hilyer cited Lowry in a recent editorial and continued that there is no way "to credibly claim that victory in Iraq is achievable, much less imminent."

In addition to misspelling my name, note how cleverly Mr. Maisel eliminated the "until" part of my statement. He turned a subjunctive (I think that's the word for it; I mean something that is dependent on something else, as in "if-then")--and, moreover, a subjunctive about how we can win--into a definitive statement of inevitable loss. The most charitable interpretation is that Mr. Maisel was INCREDIBLY sloppy. The more likely one is that he was being incredibly dishonest.

Not a soul has complained to me about the Maisel column. I found it on Google. I am not reacting to any pressure or criticism; I am just reacting out of sheer desire, proactively, to set the record straight, and to demand a correction from this Maisel guy. So, to set the record straight: I believe that Iraq IS indeed winnable for the U.S., and I believe we WILL win the peace there just as we already won the war three years ago. I merely believe that the way to victory involves more aggressiveness and more willingness to cut al-Sadr down to size.

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