Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.I wrote to the L.A. Times editors and readers' rep, requesting a correction. The response, weeks later, from an Assistant Readers Representative, Kent Zelas, shows that the Times editors still have no idea what they are talking about:
Thanks for your note, and for letting us know again what you think of the Times. The editorial-page editors are aware that the president didn't use the word "imminent," but the editorial did not quote him. They did read the State of the
Union address, and they believe that their interpretation of his words was as they expressed in their editorial. I'm sorry you disagree in your interpretation of what President Bush's speech meant, but I thank you for taking the time to write and let us know your opinion of editors at the Times.
Thanks for your response. However, you are incorrect. You state that the President didn't use the word "imminent." In fact, he did.
The President said, "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late."
It is clear in this statement that Mr. Bush was specifically acknowledging that the threat was not yet imminent. Your editors are being extremely dishonest in writing that he meant the exact opposite of what he said.
I still believe a correction is in order and badly overdue.
Not only does the L.A. Times lie about what the President said, they refuse to acknowledge it when challenged and use demostrably false statements in their weak explanations.
UPDATE: An acknowledgment by Kent:
I'm sorry, I was wrong in my wording -- yes, he did say "imminent," and editors who wrote that editorial know that he used the word (that was my mistake in writing too fast). Though editors do take seriously the point that you and others have made, they don't believe that this warrants correction. As editors put it, there are few articles or editorials that couldn't have found a better or perfect word to express a point, and this may be such a case. But the editorial did not quote the president.
I can send you the entire text of his speech if you want to see what else he said besides that one reference that led them to write what they did. The key here is that it's an essay, and that is a matter of opinion -- the editorial board's opinion. The opinion pages are allowed to present many viewpoints whose interpretation you might question. That doesn't make them wrong, it means only that you don't agree. Had it been a news story I would have responded differently in this request for correction.
Thank you again for writing to us about this.
I have read the entire text of the speech, and nothing in it can be reasonably interpreted to suggest that President Bush was calling the threat imminent, especially in light of his clearly talking about the threat not being imminent. The Times' argument seems to be that as long as they didn't quote the President in an opinion piece, they can distort what he said as much as they want, and no one can challenge them because it's just a difference of opinion .