ORIGINAL ZIN. Newly appointed White House domestic policy chieftain Karl Zinsmeister admits to The Washington Post today that he altered his quotes in the online reprint of an article, without ever informing the reporter of the story that he contested the original quotes or readers that he'd altered them. Zinsmeister tells the Post he didn't take the matter up with the reporter at the time because he didn't want to get him in trouble.

This does not seem like a credible explanation. Zinsmeister's writings on the press have been so overwhelmingly negative that it's extremely difficult to believe his attempt to cast himself in the role of solicitous and protective elder worried about tarnishing the reputation of a young scribe. More likely, Zinsmeister simply has no respect for journalists or their work. That's certainly the impression you'd get from reading his comments on the reporters covering the war in Iraq. Here's what he had to say about the press in 2003:

Alas, many of the journalists observable in this war theater are bursting with knee-jerk suspicions and antagonisms for the warriors all around them. A significant number are whiny and appallingly soft. Most club together, passing far too much of their desert sojourn gossiping with fellow reporters, mocking military mores in snide jokes and wise-guy observations, chafing at the little disciplines required by the military�s life-and-death work, banding off as a group to watch DVDs on their computers in the evening, ganging separately in the mess hall during meals, rolling their eyes at each other when ideas like honor, sacrifice, or duty enter the conversation, and otherwise failing to take advantage of this unparalleled opportunity to enter deeply and perhaps sympathetically into the lives and minds of superlative fighting men....

Typical reporters know little about a fighting life. They show scant respect for the fighter�s virtues. Precious few could ever be referred to as fighting men themselves. The journalists embedded among U.S. forces that I�ve crossed paths with are fish out of water here, and show their discomfort clearly as they hide together in the press tents, fantasizing about expensive restaurants at home and plush hotels in Kuwait City, fondling keyboards and satellite phones with pale fingers, clinging to their world of offices and tattle and chatter where they feel less ineffective, less testosterone deficient, more influential....

A few nights ago, I listened as a writer for one big city newspaper dripped derision for the soldier�s life, squealed about the awfulness of President Bush abandoning U.N. babysitting of Saddam, and sniggered with a TV reporter at attempts to inspire �awe� through a bombing campaign. I almost wished there would be a very loud explosion very nearby just to shut up their rattling.

It seems unlikely that a person who holds those views about journalists would have been concerned about damaging a reporter's reputation by asking for a correction. More likely, Zinsmeister took the reporter at the Syracuse New Times for one of those "policy nerds" whose "ideological imbalances" were, he asserted in this 2004 piece, distorting press coverage of the war in Iraq, and consequently felt himself justified in making the post-hoc alterations that he did without alerting the reporter or his editor.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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