Why Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray haven't been fired by the Washington Post amazes me. Greg Sargent:
Horses Mouth May 6, 2007 08:02 AM: The Washington Post has now added a correction to its widely-discussed story saying Congressional Dems had "backed off" by telling the White House that they would drop withdrawal timetables from their Iraq war-funding bill:
Correction to This Article: A May 3 Page One article about negotiations between President Bush and congressional Democrats over a war spending bill said the Democrats offered the first major concession by dropping their demand that the bill it include a deadline to bring troops home from Iraq. While Democrats are no longer pushing a firm date for troop withdrawals, party leaders did not specifically make that concession during a Wednesday meeting with Bush at the White House.
In other words, the premise and headline of WaPo's front-page story were essentially false. While it does seem likely that the withdrawal timetables will be gone from whatever final compromise emerges, this concession to the White House simply never happened. Nonetheless, the story got tons of play. As this blogger rightly notes, WaPo's story had a major impact on the debate. It caused a great deal of consternation on the left, forcing Nancy Pelosi to go before the Dem caucus to tell her charges that the story was false. It was also picked up by some reporters at the big news orgs, such as Time.com's Karen Tumulty. And it caused a fair amount of whooping and high-fives on the right. "Dems retreat on surrender initiative!" shrieked hapless winger Jules Crittendon. Except, of course, that they didn't.
Update: As a commenter below points out, it looks as if David Broder didn't read his paper's correction. In a column that otherwise makes some fair points, Broder writes today:
The Democratic leadership already has signaled its readiness to drop the timetable, and further concessions are likely as negotiations continue with the White House.
Saying Dems have "signaled" a willingness to drop the timetable isn't as definitive as the original story was, and again, it looks as if the timetables may be dropped in the end. But this concession simply hasn't been made yet in negotiations with the White House. Why the eagerness to say that it's been offered when it hasn't?
And it's not as though the mistakes of Weisman and company make equal-opportunity stupidity-driven mistakes. There's stupidity here. There's a fundamental misconception of the role of the journalist. And there is a definite ideological agenda here.