A Rookie Error at the Wall Street Journal

In a page 1A story in the most recent weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, reporters Ken Thomas and Sabrina Siddiqui start their story with this remarkable lead: “President-elect Joe Biden made uniting the nation among his more pressing priorities as a candidate.”

No, no, no, no, no. Candidate Biden said uniting the nation was among his more pressing priorities. He didn’t mean it. All presidential candidates say this. None of them mean it. Agendas, personal popularity and career prospects, the jobs and perks of political allies and friends, and the punishing of political opponents absorb almost all of the attention of the political species. The rest is lip service and boilerplate. Not to be taken seriously by serious adults.

Show of hands of those who truly believe Joe Biden intends to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation across the political aisle.

That’s what I thought.

If political reporters are not skilled at distinguishing between what politicians say and what they mean, they’re of less than no use to readers. A possible benign explanation in the case of Thomas and Siddiqui is that they’re just new in town. I don’t know if they are or not. But what happened in the venerable and usually trustworthy Journal’s editing process? Surely all those who handled these reporters’ copy cannot be political naifs. Error, national desk, if you’re keeping score. And a rookie error at that.

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Author: Larry Thornberry