Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reports of His Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Bad Punctuation, Major Factual Error

From Sunday's Washington Times comes this egregious paragraph in a review of Michael Dobbs' recent book on the Cuban Missile Crisis. UPI editor Martin Sieff writes:
But Mr. Dobbs also challenges. And demolishes many hoary myths that have obscured the true history of the crisis on the U.S. side over the decades as well. Most of all, he destroys the image of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy's brother, as a wise, consistent force of moderation throughout the crisis. On the contrary in its early stages, RFK was one of the most unstable, shoot-from-the-hip advisers surrounding the president. "On the first day of the crisis, he was one of the leading advocates for invading Cuba and even ruminated aloud about staging a 'Sink the Maine'-type incident as a pretext for getting rid of Castro," Mr. Dobbs writes. Bobby Kennedy also played a much smaller role in the resolution of the crisis than Theodore Sorensen, the recently deceased lifelong hagiographer of the Kennedy clan, claimed, Mr. Dobbs proves.
A competent copy editor would have caught those sentence fragments at the beginning of the paragraph.

Theodore Sorensen himself must be amused by the last sentence, which describes him as "recently deceased." His admirers might be dismayed, however, to learn that the former White House advisor, who made a public appearance in Charlottesville last week, is reportedly dead.

While in Charlottesville, Sorensen talked about his experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to The Hook, a local weekly newspaper:
Sorensen, speaking to invited guests of the UVA center named for his late benefactor brother, alternated between defending "his president like a Rottweiler refusing to let go of a pant leg," as the Washington Post recently put it, and prompting guffaws (as did his sister, Institute board member Ruth Sorensen Singer, in her introduction).
For instance, the televised address Sorensen wrote for Kennedy did much more than explain the American naval blockade of Cuba. In recent years, Sorensen said, myriad men have approached him "to thank me for making that speech so scary that they could convince their girlfriends it was their last night on earth."
I am surprised that the Washington Times web site has not yet posted a correction to Sieff's, um, fatal error.