WaPo’s Deborah Howell hears the word "liberal," her eyes bug out and her head starts spinning around until she can get the Heritage Foundation and the Rand Corporation on speed dial for some "balance."

At issue? A controversial statement from a Nov. 4 Post story that says "newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed rural areas where youths’ need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war."

I am going to need a highball or two to recover from the shock of that one.

Howell quickly locates the bogeyman:

The story, which was largely based on Pentagon data, included some analysis done by the National Priorities Project (NPP), a liberal-leaning think tank that questions the war in Iraq. The NPP also used Pentagon, census and Zip code data. A different analysis, released by the conservative Heritage Foundation a few days later, was reported by other media outlets.

Because as we all know, unless we give the wingnuts equal time to air their phantasmagorical pep squad rah-rah "war good" spin, they might complain to one’s editors.

Which they obviously did.

Concludes Howell:

My bottom line on polls and surveys, no matter what kind: Look for the widest context. Ask as many experts as possible what the numbers mean. Numbers can be right but not tell the full story, and that’s the case with the article on recruiting.

Her final word: the wingnut interpretation is the right one, the common sense version is highly overrated and that Jerome Corsi is one sexy muthafucka, ain’t he though?

We know Ms. Howell has only has only been on the job as public editor a brief time but we look forward to the day when she actually represents the public.

(hat tip to reader Teddy)

Update: The NPP refuted the Heritage Foundation analysis and says "NPP stands by its conclusion that youth from low and middle income areas are being heavily recruited." Obviously this context was a little too "wide" for Deborah’s inclusion.

The WaPo really had to scrape the bottom of the intellectual abilities barrel to find someone who thinks the military isn’t using poor people for cannon fodder, didn’t they? (thanks to tryggth in the comments)