Here’s a slightly reformatted version of what I emailed the AP just now:
I have rarely seen a more transparently biased lede than one that appears on Rumsfeld reaches out to Democrats by ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY.
She writes “Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reached out to Democrats late Friday, opening up the door for them to retract their stinging indictment of him as Pentagon chief.”
The clear sense of this opening is that Rumsfeld has performed a gracious action, kindly allowing the Democrats to return to the path reason, away from some horrid corner they have painted themselves into. It fails utterly to reflect the reality that the Democrats (and indeed, the majority of the American people) were compared to appeasers of Hitler, and more or less accused of treason. And it leaves out the key fact that Democrats are organizing to pass a motion of censure against Rumsfeld.
Contrary to this biased lede, it is Rumsfeld who has painted himself and his country into a corner. And the Democrats have neither need nor desire to retract their indictment of him — nor their motion to censure him.
Suppose the lede had been “Running scared from Democratic condemnation of his attack on their patriotism last week, Rumsfeld furiously backpeddled from his divisive remarks earlier this week.”
That would be biased too (although it would also be closer to the facts in the article).
A more neutral lede would have described what Rumsfeld did today in the context of what HE did in his previous speech, and would not have accepted his office’s spin on what his motives were or on how Democrats were supposed to react.
Incidentally, one party doesn’t need the “door opened” by another to take a position. And any rational person would know that the Democrats are not about to suddenly embrace Rumsfeld or his war because he issues a new statement which not only fails to retract his earlier attacks but actually in substantial part endorses them.
I really expect better from the AP.
OK, maybe that’s not strictly true: I hope for better from the AP, but I’ve stopped expecting it.
Update: And, naturally, the Washington Post just printed the whole thing.
Update 2 [Sept. 2]: The Horse’s Mouth — an absolutely wonderful blog for any politics junkie, by the way — deconstructs Rumsfeld’s latest statement and accurately describes it as “pure bullshit” in light of his earlier remarks.