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Correcting the Record, Grey Lady Style

2:42 PM, May 21, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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Goldfarb notes below the New York Times' knee-slapping correction regarding Larry Rohter's column where he notoriously insisted that Barack Obama had not called for direct talks with Iran and its kook-in-chief. More knee-slapping still is the way the corrected version of Rohter's column now reads on the Times' website. I've italicized the new additions, just to make things clear:

But important nuances appear to have been lost in the partisan salvos, particularly on Mr. McCain's side. An examination of Mr. Obama's numerous public statements on the subjects indicates that he has consistently condemned Hamas as a "terrorist organization," has not sought the group's support and does not advocate immediate, direct or unconditional negotiations with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president. Still, Mr. Obama also said in a Democratic debate in July 2007 that he would be willing "to meet separately, without precondition" with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

In case you couldn't guess, "does not" used to be "has not."

Just for the record, here's the transcript from the YouTube debate where Obama made the comment that shook up the presidential race but apparently escaped the Grey Lady's notice:

QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since.

In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

OBAMA: I would.

Of course, the correction itself isn't an entirely honest affair. As you've seen on this blog and as Obama himself told Jake Tapper yesterday, Obama both "has" and "does" advocate direct talks with Ahamdenijad without preconditions. To do otherwise would be to practice the politics of fear! I also feel wonderfully vindicated that the Times lived up to my prediction that it would ultimately parse the difference between "immediate" and within the Obama administration's first year. Of course, the corrected version of the story only does this implicitly, stating unequivocally that Obama does not favor "immediate" talks but failing to mention that he favors (and has favored) talks within his first year in office. Innocent oversight, I'm sure.

We should nevertheless give credit to the Times' editors for bravely admitting (at least sort of) that they missed things on Obama's side. Besides, the mistake could have happened to anyone. After all, even though 2.6 million people watched the YouTube debate, I'm not sure it should officially count as a campaign entity if Larry Rohter and his editors missed it. In light of the understandable nature of the error, it's especially noble that the Times bothered to semi-correct the record.

Still, Rohter's report regarding the McCain camp remains shoddy even in its most current incarnation. One must wonder in light of this correction precisely what nuances were "lost" in the heat of the "partisan salvos" that came from McCain's side. And given the new concluding sentence to the paragraph in question, one can't help but be amazed that the sentence regarding the McCain camp's "partisan salvos" remains in the story's current iteration. The McCain campaign is due not only a correction but also an apology.

Keep hope alive - tomorrow is another day. And who knows if this story's evolution is yet complete?