Saturday, February 17, 2007

Yet Another Reason Why I'd Never Make It in the "News" Business

This week, the House of Representatives chose to use about three days of its precious time discussing the following nonbinding resolution:
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring) that —

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on Jan. 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.
The choice to spend three days on this was made from a long list of things the House could have been doing, whether about the war in Iraq or other pressing matters.

I choose to take them at their word, and the word they used was "disapproves." When I read about the event in the New York Times this morning, I saw the following:
A sharply divided House of Representatives passed a resolution on Friday formally repudiating President Bush’s decision to send more than 20,000 new combat troops to Iraq.

The rare wartime rebuke to the commander in chief — an act that is not binding, but that carries symbolic significance — was approved 246-to-182, with 17 Republicans breaking ranks to join all but two Democrats in supporting the resolution.

I don't see where the words "repudiating" and "rebuke" are supported in the text of the resolution. In order for a disapproval to qualify as a rebuke, it has to be sharp or stern. This nonbinding resolution is neither. In order for a statement to repudiate, it must reject something. A nonbinding resolution rejects nothing. The troop surge is no less feasible for the President now than it was three days ago.

Opponents of the President's plan to add more combat troops may wish that House members would have actually repudiated or rebuked, but in a nonbinding resolution that uses only the word "disapproves," they clearly did not in their formal capacity as legislators.

House members have said many things to a largely empty chamber during the preceding three days, but we don't elect them to make speeches. We elect them to legislate. They have not done so, and were I a journalist, I would have written it that way in the opening paragraphs of my report.


alphie said...

Doesn't it depend on the subject?

Try telling your wife you disapprove of her and see how it goes over.

Giant Step said...

You have a point, but I think you could find much more egregious examples of media distortions. Also, other media are using similar language. From the Economist (

The House of Representatives held a debate on Iraq. If, as was expected, a non-binding resolution opposing the deployment of extra troops is passed (the Democratic majority was expecting the support of some Republicans as well), it would represent the first time Congress has repudiated George Bush's policy on the war.