March 23, 2006

What's the problem?

The New York Times is running an article about Kathleen Troia McFarland, a potential Republican challenger to Senator Hillary Clinton, whose claims to fame are that she was the highest ranking woman in the Pentagon in the Reagan administration and that she drafted Reagan's Star Wars speech.

But interviews with former Reagan administration officials and a review of documents show her claims were not entirely accurate. Though she helped write the "Star Wars" speech, its most famous passage - the one that announced the anti-ballistic missile program - was actually written by the president himself and his top national security advisers, according to two senior advisers to Mr. Reagan and a review of the literature and news articles of the period.

I'm having trouble figuring out where the Times thinks the problem lies. Ms. McFarland said that she drafted the speech, not that she wrote every bit of the final version. Her claim is entirely consistent with the accounts cited by the Times to the effect that the announcement of the Star Wars program was written by Reagan himself and a group of advisors that did not include Ms. McFarland. Do neither the author of the article nor the Times editorial staff understand the meaning of the word draft?

Ms. McFarland's politics are not mine - in a race between her and Hillary Clinton I would no doubt vote for the latter - but I see no hint of dishonesty in her claim.

Addendum 2006-03-23:

A couple of people have pointed out that for some people "draft" as a verb has a sense in which it can be used without the implication that what one drafts is a preliminary version. lists this sense after the sense in which I use the word. People who have only this sense of draft might indeed take Ms. McFarland's claim to be dishonest, but surely, before accusing someone of dishonesty, one should make sure that it isn't a matter of one's own misunderstanding. And it still means that neither the author of the article nor the Times editorial staff knows the older and standard meaning of "draft".

The other point that has been raised is this: if she wasn't trying to claim credit for the "Star Wars" passage that she in fact did not write, why did she mention that she drafted the "Star Wars Speech"? It seems perfectly possible that her intention was merely to point out that she was sufficiently important and trusted to have drafted the speech that became the Star Wars speech. How else would she refer to it? It doesn't have another name by which most people would recognize it. And her reference to it was on her CV, not a place where one could expect a detailed explanation of what speeches she worked on and exactly what her role was.

Posted by Bill Poser at March 23, 2006 06:26 AM