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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Recommended Reading

See Busted: Mr. Pfeiffer and the White House blog by Charles Krauthammer. In case you cannot read the essay due to subscription restrictions, I have copied and pasted it below the fold (emphases mine):
Shortly after 9/11, President George W. Bush received from Prime Minister Tony Blair a bust of Winston Churchill as an expression of British-American solidarity. Bush gave it pride of place in the Oval Office.

In my Friday column about Mitt Romney’s trip abroad and U.S. foreign policy [“Why he’s going where he’s going,” op-ed], I wrote that Barack Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”

[According to CBS News] Romney did indeed promise to bring the Churchill bust back to the White House]

Within hours, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer had created something of a bonfire. Citing my statement, he posted a furious blog on the White House Web site, saying, “normally, we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column . . . This is 100% false. The bust [is] still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.”

Except that it isn’t. As the British Embassy said in a statement issued just a few hours later, “the bust now resides in the British ambassador’s residence in Washington D.C.”

As the British Embassy explained in 2009, the bust “was lent for the first term of office of President Bush. When the President was elected for his second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009. The new President has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned.”


At which point, one would expect Pfeiffer to say: Sorry, I made a mistake. End of story.

But Pfeiffer had an additional problem. In his original post, he had provided photographic proof of his claim that the Oval Office Churchill had never been returned, indeed had never left the White House at all, but had simply been moved from the Oval Office to the residence.

“Here’s a picture of the President showing off the Churchill bust to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House residence in 2010,” he wrote. “Hopefully this clears things up a bit and prevents folks from making this ridiculous claim again.”

Except that the photo does nothing of the sort.
The Churchill sculpture shown in the photograph is a different copy — given to President Lyndon Johnson, kept in the White House collection for half a century and displayed in the White House residence. The Oval Office Churchill — the one in question, the one Pfeiffer says never left the White House — did leave the White House, was returned to the British government, and sits proudly at this very moment in the British ambassador’s residence.

Was that little photographic switcheroo an honest mistake on ­Pfeiffer’s part? Or was it deliberate deception? I have no idea. But in either case, the effect was to deceive Pfeiffer’s readers into believing that my assertion about the removal of the Oval Office Churchill was “patently false . . . ridiculous . . . 100% false.”

The decent thing to do, therefore, would be to acknowledge the (inadvertent?) deception and apologize for it. He could send the retraction to Mediaite, the nonpartisan media Web site run by Dan Abrams, whose report on this contretemps was headlined: “British Embassy Confirms Krauthammer Right, White House Wrong: Churchill Bust Returned in 2009.”

Or he could send it to New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, who at first repeated Pfeiffer’s denunciation of the Churchill bust “falsehood,” and then later honorably corrected himself, admitting that “I got some facts wrong, because I made the mistake of relying on a White House blog post by the communications director Dan Pfeiffer.” Rosenthal then chided Pfeiffer for posting “a weaselly follow-up comment” after the facts became clear that “fails to acknowledge that his post the previous day was false.”

In my view, this whole affair was completely unnecessary. Pfeiffer devoted an entire post (with accompanying photography) on the White House Blog to a single sentence in a larger argument about foreign policy, and blew it up into an indignant defense of truth itself and a handy club with which to discredit the credibility of a persistent critic of his boss. (After all, why now? Why this column? Since the return of the Oval Office Churchill in 2009, that fact had been asserted in at least half a dozen major news outlets, including Newsweek, CBS News, ABC News, the Telegraph and The Washington Post.)

So I suggest Mr. Pfeiffer bring this to a short, painless and honorable conclusion: a simple admission that he got it wrong and that my assertion was correct. An apology would be nice, but given this White House’s arm’s-length relationship with truth — and given Ryan Zimmerman’s hot hitting — I reckon the Nationals will win the World Series before I receive Pfeiffer’s mea culpa.

Additional reading: the White House Blog's version in a post entitled "Fact Check: The Bust of Winston Churchill."

Long gone are those 2008 campaign promises from Barack Hussein Obama, specifically, that promise about transparency. It's all about winning in November, and the Obama campaign is ever showing the attitude of anything to win in 2012.


  1. I'm sure that the White House got the return of the statue wrong. But what is wrong with returning it????

    When someone LOANS you something, you are SUPPOSED to return it. When someone loans you something and you do not return it, but instead keep it, that is known as stealing it.

    In this case we find that the White House had two copies, the loaned copy and one that had been given to LBJ, which was owned. The decision was made to return the loaned copy to its proper owner. Isn't it a conservative virtue to return things that have been loaned to you???

  2. Anonymous,
    I'm not sure, but it is possible that the Obama White House could have requested to keep the bust referred to. Of course, it is not unusual for a new administration to do a clean sweep, so to speak.

    That said, let me try to explain what has me ticked off:

    1. The information that the bust had been returned to GB has been floating around for at least three years. The White House stonewalled, then recently said that the return of the bust was an Internet rumor. It wasn't a rumor at all. The return happened.

    2. Why did not the WH state back then what really happened?

    3. Pfeiffer was either misinformed or lying in his recent statement in the body of the blog post at the White House Blog. I'm referring to the portion previous to the update. Also, there is a lot of sneering between the lines; note the connotation of the adjectives, for example. I just read that post again. It even has what is a snarky photo, IMO.

    You said:

    Isn't it a conservative virtue to return things that have been loaned to you???

    I won't argue with that. But it is the WH statement that's driving me up the wall.

    Back in a minute. I want to look for something that pertains.

  3. Anonymous,
    HERE is the video I was looking for.

    I have grown so weary of such derisiveness.

    Why not just state the facts without ridicule?

  4. And one more thing...Note the NYT's word:a weaselly follow-up comment.

  5. Lying is a habit that this administration doesn't even want to break.

  6. ...why even lie about this? Just say you returned it, it won't lose you any face. Maybe a conspiracy could come of it, but would that matter to them at all? Why make a mountain out of a molehill?

    I get trying to save face LATER, but the initial lie bothers me. There is no reasoning to it. It seems a sign of a compulsive lier- one who does so out of want, or paranoia that often accompanies them. Not good.

    And frankly... no one would really know about this... if not for the big deal made over it. If it was just returned and no lie made, who would care? But since they raised a fuss, people look into it and look for theories as to why. Politians, when wilt thou learn?


  7. Re: "the Obama White House could have requested to keep the bust referred to."

    Of course it could have. But then when your neighbor leads you a garden rake, you could ask to keep it too.

    But you shouldn't ask. The rake is not yours, the bust was not the White House's. The owner of the property deserves to get it back.

    And besides, the article shows that the White House had TWO copies of the same bust. We do not need to monopolize the art market. England can use the bust we gave back. It deserves to be in a museum.

    Re: "lie." No it was an obvious mistake. When someone says "they gave the bust back" and you remember that there actually IS a bust in the residence, it is natural to think (unless you KNEW that there were two copies, which isn't likely) that the fact that you still had the bust indicates that you did not give it back. Carney remembered that he saw a bust of Churchill, and assumed (as I would have) that because it was there, the White House did not give the statue back.

    Only if he had known that the White House gave the statue back (which he might have missed, he wasn't the press secretary at the time--was he even in the White House???) would he be lying.

    So, that's not a lie, it is an error. Krauthammer made a similar error. He implied that the White House gave back the only copy of the bust that it had, thus leaving it without a Churchill statue, and you could interpret that as not liking Churchill. But the White House did have the other copy, so it still had the presence of good old Winston.

    The bust of Winston that was in the Oval Office has been replaced by one of Abraham Lincoln.

    What is interesting is that the giving back of a loaned stature is hyped as a foreign policy disaster. Those of use who can recall that Finland won great good will in the USA because it was the only country that paid back its WWI loan, know that paying back loans is actually a good thing.

  8. Krauthammer is a jerk. He earned my undying enmity when he called Geert Wilders an extremist for trying to warn us and Europe about Islam. Krauthammer even went so far as to say that Islamism is separate from Islam, that only a few Muslims want jihad. All the rest are just like everybody else. Sooo peaceful.

    He never issued the slightest sort of apology to Mr. Wilders. In my view he deserved to be fired.

  9. About that statue... If my memory serves, Obama had made some very disparaging remarks about the UK prior to sending that statue back. The loan of it was continued into January in order to afford Obama the opportunity to continue the loan. He didn't want it and he hates Churchill.

    Check this out: "It was during Churchill's second premiership that Britain suppressed Kenya's Mau Mau rebellion. Among Kenyans allegedly tortured by the colonial regime included one Hussein Onyango Obama, the President's grandfather." From an article in The Telegraph that I Googled.

    Obama replaced Churchill's bust with his hero's, the guy who freed the slaves, Abe Lincoln. His return of it and the manner in which he did so had a lot of Brits plenty pissed off at the time, and alienated our ally. He's real good at alienating our allies and sucking up to our enemies.

  10. The bust that you refer to was a LOAN. It is a good thing, a conservative thing, to do to return the things that were loaned to you and not to keep them. Keeping the things you were loaned is known as stealing them.

    And it turns out that there is a bust of Churchill in the White House residence, which is where Obama lives. And the bust of Churchill in the Oval Office was replaced by a bust of Abraham Lincoln, and Obama has the right to have the bust of Lincoln in his office. Why Lincoln was actually, wait for it, a Republican.

  11. Anonymous,
    If we're going to talk about integrity, shouldn't we also talk about an apology to Krauthammer? He wasn't lying in his column, was he?

    All the WH spin (or error, if you prefer that approach) about the bust is directly related to the focus on getting BHO elected. But, in my view, the WH would have better served that purpose via an apology at the White House Blog. After all, doesn't Obama himself like to apologize for America? Just sayin'.

  12. Black Sheep,
    I am not a fan of Krauthammer's; one reason is the reason that you cited.

    As for Lincoln's freeing of the slaves, well, he did so; but I'd hardly call the man open-minded about issues of race.

  13. Just more proof that Team Barry has not produced the most transparent Presidency in US history......

    Recently, Jay Carney (how appropriate since this administration is a carnival) could not even state what the captial of Jerusalem is...

    Meanwhile, the slightest word uttered by Team Romney becomes an international incident and is broadcast wall to wall by the media lapdogs

  14. How could White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer NOT KNOW about the original contretemps over the Churchill bust's banishment from the White House. There was a whole string of stories about how Obama was dissing the Brits and the Special Relationship. If Pfeiffer is new someone on his staff could easily have done a Google search and looked this up.

    The press made much of the very MINOR gaffes Romney committed while in London, but what Pfeiffer did was draw attention once again to the much greater insult Obama gave the British. Of course outside of conservative media this won't be reported by Romney's remarks will be.

  15. Mike,
    How could White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer NOT KNOW about the original contretemps over the Churchill bust's banishment from the White House.

    Complete incompetence, I suppose, is a possibility.

    However, I think that it's more about desperation to win in November. These people have to realize that their idol BHO has feet of clay.

  16. Re: ""It was during Churchill's second premiership that Britain suppressed Kenya's Mau Mau rebellion. Among Kenyans allegedly tortured by the colonial regime included one Hussein Onyango Obama, the President's grandfather." From an article in The Telegraph that I Googled."

    Those were the words of the Telegraph. The article did not say that Obama had said them.

    Moreover, they may even be true.

    But it simply does not matter. A bust of Abraham Lincoln is as important as a bust of Winston Churchill, probably MORE important to Americans. And besides, the article shows that the White House had two busts of Churchill, one on loan and one owned---and in such a situation it is a highly responsible thing to return the one that was loaned. Even if the British had wanted us to keep it on display, we shouldn't. The people of Britain deserve to see that statue--not just visitors to the Oval Office.

    So Krauthammer and the Telegraph may think that it was a big deal to give the stature back, but it wasn't. It was good to give it back, and good to put Abraham Lincoln in its place.


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