A major shout-out to Dan Drezner, who has been your host for the last seven days. Check out his own superb blog to carry on the conversation; and thanks for your hospitality to Dan while I was chilling out over the holidays. I’m most grateful.

GONE FISHING: Could Time have helped the White House more than with pictures like these? As his term in office progresses, the Kennedyesque packaging gets more elaborate. And effective.

OKRENT PUNTS: The first column by the NYT’s new ombudsman was a discouraging, but revealing, read. He largely dismisses the notion that the article in question was biased against the president, and distortive of the poll it was supposed to interpret. But he cannot dismiss the violated quote, in which the Times lopped off the first two critical words – “if necessary” – of president Bush’s statement on a proposed constitutional amendment. His explanation is classic NYT-cocoon. The reason for Katherine Seelye’s error was that she was copying Elisabeth Bumiller’s error from a previous report in the Times! So no need to go to, er, a transcript or anything. And since any account of the story in the media made the “if necessary” phrase a central feature of the analysis, Seelye obviously hadn’t bothered to look at any other reporting on the matter either. Hey, we’re the NYT! Why do we need to read anyone else? Okrent explains that the altered quote in the original Bumiller story was followed by a critical qualification in which the words “if necessary” were subsequently cited. So why didn’t Seelye read the whole piece? Or at least one more sentence? Then Okrent blathers on about the necessity of quote-cutting, because in a newspaper, you always have to truncate a person’s full remarks. Fair enough. But here’s a simple rule of thumb to avoid what Okrent calls a “simple mistake.” Why not leave actual full sentences alone? Especially when uttered by the president. Especially when, as Okrent concedes, the reported string of words have been “stripped of a crucial part of their meaning.” (Bonus Times-bashing point: the original NYT correction ascribed the flub to an “editing error.” But according to Okrent, it was a reporting error – and Seelye blundered. How depressing that even in a correction, the NYT dissembles to protect its own. The reporter’s face always comes before the reader’s trust. They really can act like the Vatican, can’t they?)