Friday, August 28, 2009

Close Enough Isn't Good Enough

Words matter. When paraphrasing, it's never a good idea to get ahead of the facts, as this Politico story about Ted Kennedy does in describing his efforts to get a successor chosen.

In his final days, he focused on a narrow political goal, pleading with state to change state law to posthumously fill his Senate seat with an interim appointee who would be a vote in favor of the health care legislation he championed.

Not really. The letter urged a replacement, certainly, but made no mention of health care. Kennedy definitely didn't ask anyone to "fill his Senate seat with an interim appointee who would be a vote in favor of the health care legislation" he supported. The problem with sloppy paraphrasing is that it creeps into the conversation. Someone else picks up this language, writes the same thing, and then pretty soon you have the dying Kennedy trying to skew the law and selection process for one goal only. Not true, as you can see from this WashPost story.

The letter, first obtained by the Boston Globe, asks the state's Democratic-controlled legislature to allow Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) to select a temporary replacement should a vacancy occur. Such a move would reverse a provision in state law that says a vacant U.S. Senate seat can be filled only through a special election held at least 145 days after the seat comes open, which would leave Massachusetts with just one senator for several months.

Left unsaid in the letter is the fact that the change could ensure that Democrats do not miss a key Senate vote should Kennedy die amid the debate on health-care reform, long one of his passions. Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate with Kennedy present, and they might need every one of them if the chamber's 40 Republicans are united in opposing a reform bill.

"I strongly support that law and the principle that the people should elect their senator," Kennedy wrote in the letter, dated July 2 but sent to state officials this week, referring to the provision calling for elections to fill vacancies. "I also believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election."
And on a related note, I wonder why so many really sickening Photoshopped pictures of Kennedy appear in the top Google search returns.

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