AP ignored Bush's prior opposition to Patriot Act short-term extension


An Associated Press article on the temporary five-week extension of the USA Patriot Act failed to note that the White House had indicated that President Bush supported only a permanent extension of the act and would not sign "any short-term renewal."

A December 23 Associated Press article by Laurie Kellman on Congress' passage of a five-week extension of the USA Patriot Act noted that President Bush had "repeatedly urged Congress not to let" the act expire and "indicated that he would sign the extension." But the article failed to note that the White House, less than a week earlier, had indicated that Bush supported only a permanent extension of the act and had no interest in signing "any short-term renewal."

In a December 16 press briefing, White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested that Bush would veto a short-term extension of the Patriot Act, stating that Bush was "not interested in signing" such a proposal:

McCLELLAN: The President has made it very clear that he is not interested in signing any short-term renewal. The terrorist threats will not expire at the end of this year. They won't expire in three months. We need to move forward and pass this critical legislation.

In a December 21 press briefing, McClellan stood by these comments. Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), both supporters of making the Patriot Act permanent, asserted in recent days (here and here) that Bush would not sign any short-term extension.

On December 22, however, the White House announced that Bush would, in fact, sign the five-week extension approved that day by the House and accepted by the Senate in a compromise. (Earlier in the week, the Senate had voted to extend the Patriot Act by six months.) A December 23 Washington Post article by Jonathan Weisman reported that the "House action was a setback for Bush, who had repeatedly said he would not accept a 'short-term extension.' " A Reuters report by Donna Smith noted that Bush "had objected to any temporary extension of current law;" and a December 23 New York Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported that "the deal fell far short of President Bush's aim of permanently extending the original law."

But while the AP article acknowledged that Congress' approval of the five-week extension represented "a turnabout for GOP leaders who had long insisted they would accept nothing less than a permanent renewal of the law," it failed to explicitly note Bush's clear "turnabout" on the issue.

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