Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Deanism: Howard Dean is venturing into the foreign affairs arena. Here's what he said on Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC:

Iran is a more complex problem because the problem support as clearly verifiable as it is in North Korea. Also, we have less-fewer levers much the key, I believe, to Iran is pressure through the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is supplying much of the equipment that Iran, I believe, most likely is using to set itself along the path of developing nuclear weapons. We need to use that leverage with the Soviet Union and it may require us to buying the equipment the Soviet Union was ultimately going to sell to Iran to prevent Iran from them developing nuclear weapons. [emphasis added]
Howard Dean's mistake of referring to Russia as the "Soviet Union" has gotten some attention among bloggers. Now, I'm sure the good doctor knows that the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. So his goof isn't that big of a deal. But some people have wondered, "What would happen if Bush had said that?"

We know that Bush would be raked over the coals and called a moron. Honestly, I've been perplexed by the standard of linguistic expertise we require from our current president.

As a journalist, I hear people misspeak all the time. When I quote them, I tend to fix any grammatical faux pas. If someone mispronounces a word, I quote him as if he said it correctly to convey the intent of the message.

Suddenly journalists couldn't do that with President Bush. I covered Bush a good deal when he was governor, but I've moved onto other topics since he's become president. I don't know if his tongue became clumsier once he stepped onto the national stage, but I suspect that he's getting unfair treatment.

True, Bush has made some pretty notable gaffes. I've read the Bushisms of Slate, and some of them are pretty funny:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
Others are understandable mispronunciations we all make every day:

"I'm plowed of the leadership of Chuck Grassley and Greg Ganske and Jim Leach."—Davenport, Iowa, Sept. 16, 2002
And others, I can't figure out why they're considered incorrect:

"Let me tell you my thoughts about tax relief. When your economy is kind of ooching along, it's important to let people have more of their own money."—Boston, Oct. 4, 2002
Perhaps "ooching" isn't in the dictionary, but people make up their own words all the time to make a point. And the conservative argument about taxes is that the government is taking your money. Bush believes tax relief will let people keep more of the money that was theirs to begin with. So then Slate started doctoring the quotes just to make Bush sound stupid:

"[A]s you know, these are open forums, you're able to come and listen to what I have to say."—Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2003
Volokh found the whole quote and discovered the Bush was talking about fundraising events and was commenting on how the forums are open to the media so they can report everything he says. Bush even explicitly says afterwards that "there's a difference between that and actually engaging potential opponents in a public discourse in a debate." Yet Slate took the quote out of context to change its meaning.

Whether you agree his policies or not, Bush is a smart guy. If you misunderestimate him, you're just falling for his strategery.


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