Textual Deviation At The White House

Peter Maer is a White House correspondent for CBS News.
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino insists she wants to protect the integrity of presidential transcripts.

The comment came in response to a reporter's questions about the "scrubbing" of President Bush's grammatical blooper Wednesday in New York. Speaking to a school audience, Mr. Bush said, "As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." The comment was reminiscent of a question that candidate George W. Bush famously asked years ago: "Is our children learning?"

The president did not correct himself at the Wednesday event. The official transcript accomplished that for him by replacing "childrens" with "children." Ironically, Mr. Bush was speaking at an event to promote one of his favorite domestic issues, the No Child Left Behind Act, the centerpiece of administration education policy.

Asked about the transcript change, Press Secretary Perino said, "That was not something anyone in the press office, or communications office or anyone in the White House asked for." Perino told reporters that she instructed the staff to revise the transcript to reflect the president's original remarks.
The press secretary claimed the "textual deviant" (my words) was in the White House stenographers office.

The White House stenographers,including veterans of the demanding job, are known for quickly and accurately producing transcripts of presidential speeches, briefings and other events. White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said the Press Office routinely releases transcripts "upon receipt," trusting they are accurate." She described the alteration of Wednesday's remarks as "a very rare instance."

But it wasn't the first time a presidential transcript was changed. On his recent trip to Sydney, Mr. Bush mistakenly commended "Austrian" troops. When the transcript was released, the word was changed to "Australian."

White House transcripts are crucial to reporters, historians and voters who want an accurate account of comments by presidents and their top advisors. That's why it was reassuring when the new press secretary promised to guard the integrity of the written record. Perhaps seeking grammatical kinship with the boss, Perino told reporters, "The integrity of the transcripts are very important to me."

As for the latest presidential gaffe, Perino said, "The president, it is no secret, makes grammatical errors." Mr. Bush often notes that he was a "C" student. At a bill-signing ceremony today, the president praised a University of Texas student, noting, "The lowest grade he's made so far in college is "B."To the chuckles of his audience, Mr. Bush said, "That sets him apart from the president."

  • Peter Maer On Twitter»

    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.