Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch
cbertsch

More Fun With Quoting

The CNN story on Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri's new videotaped warning to the British and American people provides another example, in my estimation, of the subtle way in which reporters can use quotes to impart color to an outwardly neutral story. Here's the first mention of President Bush's response, immediately beneath the subheading "Bush Defiant."
Bush was unswayed. "He's saying, you know, 'Leave,'" he told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he had just met Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
I'm sure that this is an accurate transcription of what Bush actually said. But I also know that the reporter didn't need to quote this statement at all. The quotes that follow, while hardly eloquent, put the President in a more dignified light:
The U.S. president described the ideology of al-Zawahiri and his adherents as "dark, dim, backwards. They don't appreciate women. If you don't agree to their narrow view of a religion, you'll be whipped in the public square."

Their goal, he said, is to spread their point of view throughout the world, starting in the "broader Middle East. And part of their goal is to drive us out of the broader Middle East."

But Bush said the United States would not bend to the threats of al Qaeda or of al-Zawahiri.

"They're terrorists, they're killers and they will kill innocent people trying to get us to withdraw from the world so they can impose their dark vision on the world. That's what they're trying to do, and the comments today by Mr. Zawahiri absolutely reinforce what I have just told you. We will stay the course; we will complete the job in Iraq."
Sure, we've heard all this hundreds of times. I'm sure there are grooves in Bush's brain carved by the flow of these talking points. But at least he sounds somewhat presidential in delivering them. The lead quote, by contrast, with Bush's use of "you know" to emphasize a point obvious to any second-grader, makes him seem hopelessly overmatched. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. Believe me, I welcome any opportunity to make the Bush Administration pay for its selfishness and arrogance. Yet something in me still bridles at anything that smells of the mainstream media's supposed "liberal bias."

In the end, I don't think making the President look more foolish than he already is makes sense. Fools can get away with a lot more than people respected for their intellect. Wouldn't it be better if we had a clear sense that Bush is responsible for the atrocities being committed in his name? Personally, I'm waiting for the day when W is admitted to the same chamber of infamy to which Richard Nixon was assigned during Watergate. That will only happen, though, if people think he is capable of owning his decisions.
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