Sunday, February 12, 2006

Warning: not to be taken literally

On January 31, 2006, President Bush gave his State of the Union address, and among the issues he mentioned were America's "addiction" to oil. On February 1, 2006 -- less than 24 hours later -- two administration officials, the energy secretary and the national security advisor told us this was not to be taken literally, that these words were only meant to be spoken in terms which the American People could understand. Bush didn't really mean we had to break our oil addiction. It was just an "example", they said, but what they meant was that it was a metaphor, which Merriam Webster defines as 'an elaborate or fanciful way of expressing something <"it's raining cats and dogs" is just a colorful metaphor and not a meteorological announcement> -- see CONCEIT '. So apparently it was only a figure of speech; something between truth and untruth.

This past week Bush spoke in Los Angeles -- presumably to defend his domestic spying program -- and in it he disclosed for the first time a 2002 plot to fly a plane into a building in L.A. Indeed, the president went into more detail than has ever been usual regarding threats to The Homeland, and even told how the plot was thwarted. Almost immediately, the mayor of Los Angeles responded by saying he had never heard about the plot before. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also said he had requested meetings with Bush in the past to discuss homeland security issues and as yet there have been no meetings. However, former administration officials said that there was no direct threat to Los Angeles -- not in 2002, and not at the present time. So was this just another example of something the President said that shouldn't be considered seriously?

We seem to be entering a new realm of administration prevarication. Previously when Bush has been questioned on the "truthfulness" of his statements, his lackeys have been quick to cover it up by saying "the President misspoke". Now the spin is "it wasn't meant to be taken literally." Just an example, random musings, presidential ramblings spoken off the cuff ...

Could this mean when Bush said Iraq had WMDs -- Rumsfeld even said he knew exactly where they were; "around Tikrit" -- that he didn't mean it literally? Was that actually just a postulate, a hypothetical scenario?

How about his statements regarding "not knowing Ken Lay or Jack Abramoff"? Did he really mean that when he said it? Or was it another statement we shouldn't take seriously?

We've been told since the 2000 campaign that Bush is a straight shooter. Over and over again, press secretary Scot McClellan has said, "The President meant it when he said ..." Is 'straight-shooter' a figure of speech? A metaphor?

Perhaps the Traditional Media should consider running a disclaimer when broadcasting a Bush speech, as a crawl beneath his picture: Warning: Not to be taken literally. Or perhaps the corporate press corps could simply ask Bush or designated spokespeople a permanent followup to every other question they ask: "Can we take that literally? Or is it just a metaphor, a figure of speech, a hypothetical scenario, random musings ... ? "

A disturbing hypothetical scenario to consider: when Bush took the oath of office and swore to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States, did he mean it metaphorically?

Was that not to have been taken literally?

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