Thursday October 04, 2001-- Rajab 16,1422 A.H
Bush is a master (of sorts) of the English language
By Kaleem Omar
Apart from all his other attributes (former baseball-team-owner, geography whizz, leader of the free world, etc.), US President George W. Bush is also a master of the English language, or a master of sorts at any rate. This mastery was evident yet again from his first remarks to the American people on the evening of September 11 when he was pointlessly, even comically belligerent in saying that the United States wants Osama Bin Laden brought to justice "dead or alive" and that the US would hunt the terrorists down, "smoke 'em out of their caves and get 'em."
By initially calling his retaliation plan "Operation Infinite Justice," Bush gave it a needlessly religious and messianic colour, an impression that was reinforced a few days later when he referred to his "war against terrorism" as a "crusade." Bush administration officials spent the next several days backpedaling furiously, explaining that when their boss said "crusade," he didn't mean to imply a crusade in the sense of a war between Christianity and Islam.
Such lexical boo boos are nothing new for Bush, however. Referring to how far the United States would be willing to go to defend Taiwan, Bush said on the Good Morning America television show on April 25, 2001: "Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend theirself."
Talking about trade between the United States and Canada, Bush said at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City on April 21, 2001: "It's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce." If he hadn't said that, people would never have known.
Declining to answer reporters' questions at that same summit meeting, he said he wouldn't do so in any language, "neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican." It didn't seem to matter to him that there is no language called Mexican. People speak Spanish in Mexico, of course, as even Bush should have known given the fact that he - wonder of wonders - speaks Spanish himself, having learned to speak it in school in Texas, a state that shares a long border with Mexico and that has a large Spanish-speaking population.
Addressing students at Concord Middle School in Concord, North Carolina on April 11, 2001, Bush said: "I think we're making progress. We understand where the power of this country lay. It lays in the hearts and souls of Americans. It must lay in our pocketbooks. It lays in the willingness for people to work hard. But as importantly, it lays in the fact that we've got citizens from all walks of life, all political parties, that are willing to say, I want to love my neighbour." So if you've been wondering about the source of America's power, now you know.
Speaking about tax cuts in Washington on April 10, 2001, Bush said: "The Senate needs to leave enough money in the proposed budget to not only reduce all marginal rates, but to eliminate the death tax, so that people who build up assets are able to transfer them from one generation to the next, regardless of a person's race." Just what a person's race has to do with taxes or assets, Bush did not say.
Speaking at the Radio-Television Correspondents Association dinner in Washington on March 29, 2001, Bush said: "I've coined new words, like, misunderstanding and Hispanically." He may well have coined the word Hispanically, but somebody really ought to tell him that the word misunderstanding has been around for a long time - even in Texas.
Addressing a press conference in Washington on March 29, 2001, Bush said: "And we need a full affront on an energy crisis that is real in California and looms for other parts of our country if we don't move quickly." A "full affront" on the energy crisis! The mind boggles.
At a photo opportunity with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington on March 20, 2001, Bush said: "I assured the prime minister, my administration will work hard to lay the foundation of peace in the Middle - to work with our nations in the Middle East, to give peace a chance. Secondly, I told him that our nation will not try to force peace, that we'll facilitate peace and that we'll work with those responsible for a peace." That's very reassuring indeed, and "peace in the Middle" can now only be a question of time.
Bush went one better than that on the subject of peace at a media roundtable conference in Washington on March 13, 2001 when he said: "But the true threats to stability and peace are these nations that are not very transparent, that hide behind the - that don't let people in to take a look and see what they're up to. They're very kind of authoritarian regimes. The true threat is whether or not one of these people decide, peak of anger, try to hold us hostage, ourselves; the Israelis, for example, to whom we'll defend, offer our defences; the South Koreans." You can make of that what you like. Personally, I think its gibberish.
Under the Constitution of the United States, Bush is commander-in-chief of US military forces. Even so, he evidently doesn't even know that a soldier is a trooper, not a troop. Addressing military personnel at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on March 12, 2001, Bush said: "I do think we need for a troop to be able to house his family. That's an important part of building morale in the military."
Since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, Bush has been echoing his father's words in saying that "this terrorism will not stand" (Bush Senior said at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that "this aggression will not stand"). That is not surprising given that he said in an interview with the Washington Post on March 9, 2001: "I suspect that had my dad not been president, he'd be asking the same question. How'd your meeting go with so-and-so?...How did you feel when you stood up in front of the people for the State of Union Address - state of the budget address, whatever you call it." State of the Union Shunion...Budget Shudget - it's all one and the same thing, as far as Dubya is concerned.
There are many views about the death penalty in America, but Bush seems to think that it is somehow connected in some way to (wait for it) agriculture, of all things. Speaking in Omaha, Nebraska (yes, the very same Omaha to which he fled on September 11 after the attacks on New York and Washington) on February 28, 2001, Bush said: "Those of us who spent time in the agricultural sector and in the heartland, we understand how unfair the death penalty is."
If that leaves you baffled, consider this: Addressing the US Congress on February 27, 2001, Bush said: "My pan plays down an unprecedented amount of our national debt." His "pan"! Again, the mind boggles. Make that, BOGGLES.
Talking to reporters about the federal budget in Washington on February 5, 2001, Bush said: "The budget caps were busted, mightily so. And we are reviewing with people like Judd Gregg from New Hampshire and some other budgetary reform measures that will reinstate - you know, possibly reinstate budgetary discipline. But the caps no longer - the caps, I guess they're there. But they didn't mean much." Maybe they didn't mean much, but, then, neither did Bush.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks and Pakistan's subsequent pledge to cooperate with the United States in action against Osama Bin Laden, President Bush has waived the Glenn, Symington and Pressler sanctions against Pakistan. One shouldn't be too surprised at this development given Bush's views on sanctions in general. Speaking at a press conference at the White House on February 22, 2001, he said: "I have said that the sanctions regime is like Swiss cheese - that meant that they weren't very effective."
Speaking at a school in Townsend, Texas on February 21, 2001, Bush said: "You teach a child how to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test." Speaking at the Nalle Elementary School in Washington on February 9, 2001, Bush said: "One reason I like to highlight reading is, reading is the beginnings of the ability to be a good student. And if you can't read, it's going to be hard to realise dreams; it's going to be hard to go to college." It certainly is!
A pet expression of Bush's in recent days has been: "Make no mistake about it..." If he's used it once, he's used it a dozen times, in the wake of the September 11 attacks. But this was a favourite expression of his even before the attacks. Speaking to reporters in Washington on February 7, 2001, he said: "We're concerned about AIDS inside our White House...make no mistake about it."
Then, there was what he said in Washington on January 11, 2001, nine days before he was sworn in as president: "I want it to be said that the Bush administration was a result-oriented administration, because I believe the results of focusing our attention and energy on teaching children to read and having an education system that's responsive to the child and to parents, as opposed to mired in a system that refuses to change, will make America what we want it to be - a literate country and a hopefuller country." That's all very well, but how about America also becoming a country with a literate president? I mean, just how much "hopefuller" can a country get?