Unfortunately, Margaret Wente’s problems with attribution are significant, and her relative lack of depth in regard to foreign policy was discussed here.
Today she writes: “it was hard to find anyone who thinks the United States should lead from behind, as Barack Obama says he wants to do”.
While some of the President's opponents have used the term "lead from behind", neither Obama, nor any of his officials “ever uttered the phrase”, according to the Concord Monitor and other sources:
"The ‘lead from behind’ quote that Republicans claim represents Obama's foreign policy strategy was never uttered by him. It appeared in an article by New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza who attributed the statement to a White House official who remains anonymous".
The phrase has been “repeated so many times it becomes an accepted fact -- even when it's not.” USA Today reports:
It comes from” a New Yorker piece in May on how the Arab Spring -- and the NATO military action in Libya -- affected Obama's approach to foreign policy, and reads: “One of his advisers described the President's actions in Libya as ‘leading from behind.’…”
…Even if the anonymous adviser still works in the White House, administration officials by no means embraced the phrase and have questioned whether it came from one of their own or an outside adviser. No Obama official has ever uttered the phrase in public on the record.”
Most opponents of the president are careful enough to use the phrase in such a way as to avoid attributing the words directly to Obama, as Wente has unfortunately done.
Correction Update: The following little note, now appended to the online version of the column, is how The Globe addressed the problem identified above:
“An earlier online version of this column contained unclear attribution. This version has been clarified”.
How did they clarify? The sentence which read “…it was hard to find anyone who thinks the United States should lead from behind, as Barack Obama says he wants to do”, now reads:
“…it was hard to find anyone who thinks the United States should lead from behind, as Barack Obama wants to do”.
Wente and attribution errors. Fish in a barrel.