Andrew Malcolm picked up on a story this morning which really should have been little more than a blip on the radar, but which seems to keep shifting. (And as I’ll show below, it’s continued to be a moving target since then.) It has to do with what was essentially a meaningless set of remarks delivered by the President at a DNC fundraiser in Chicago this week. The only problem, as Andrew notes, is that the official record given to the press pool wasn’t quite the same as what they heard.
Obama rarely returns to the Windy City anymore for anything but political money harvests. But when he does, he still talks with apparent fondness about how good it is to be back home, as long as the weather is nice, and to see so many familiar faces from his early days in machine politics there.
According to the official White House transcript distributed to news media nationally, Obama said:
“When we think back to when I first took office, one of the nice things about being home is actually that it’s a little bit like a time capsule because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some — newspapers and all kinds of stuff.”
Nothing unusual there, right? But one of the reporters on the scene swore he heard something different.
Unfortunately, that’s not the exact official transcription of Obama’s words that it’s supposed to be. According to a pool reporter at the event, Obama actually said:
“One of the nice things about being home is actually that it’s a little bit like a time capsule. Because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some unpaid bills — I think eventually they got paid — but they’re sort of stacked up. And messages, newspapers and all kinds of stuff.”
That pair of dashes in the “official transcrpt” was apparently the phrase, unpaid bills — I think eventually they got paid — but they’re sort of stacked up. This is, as Andrew points out, more than likely just one of those folksy, extemporaneous bits that politicians frequently spice up their speeches with. It may or may not have any basis in reality, but it’s not earth shaking news. But still, it had me curious, so I stopped by the White House web site today to see which version had made it into the official record of the Obama presidency which shall be enshrined in the history books for all eternity. See if you can spot the difference this time.
When we think back to when I first took office, one of the nice things about being home is actually that it’s a little bit like a time capsule because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some — (inaudible) — newspapers and all kinds of stuff. We always thought we’d be back every month and we’d kind of get everything in order and filed, and it hasn’t happened.
The pair of dashes has now been replaced by “— (inaudible) —” for the official record. Why? How did this suddenly turn into a sticking point between the press corps and the White House? Clearly it wasn’t “inaudible” if the reporters were able to hear it. And it’s equally clear that somebody on the staff was made aware of reporters carping on this point. Otherwise why bother adding in the “inaudible” after they got back to the office?
It’s not like there’s a huge crime scandal about to break out in the news. If the President really was late on the cable bill in the hectic days following the election, I’m confident that it was eventually settled up and nobody was all that upset. So why not put it in the record if that’s what he said? Are these people really so paranoid about the boss’s image that any admission of guilt – even on a matter so mundane as to matter to precisely nobody – must be scrubbed from the official record? Unless we’re talking about a lot of unpaid bills. Hey… wait a minute. Obama just had his credit card declined the other day. You don’t suppose…
Naw. But while we’re on the subject, how often does the White House go back and excise things from the transcripts after the fact?
The end result of this is that they managed to take what was a complete nothingburger and twist it up into pre-election blog fodder. I had a better word to describe this, but it wound up being — (inaudible) —