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November 2, 2003 Other Mail

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  • Bushisms - making sense of nonsense 
  • Notes on Fox suing Fox



Jacob Weisberg in Slate, the online magazine (www.slate.msn.com), for the last several years has been publishing quotes from president Bush under the heading Bushism of the Day.  These are direct, puzzling quotations from Bush.  In fact Weisberg has two books of these in print - George W. Bushisms: The Slate Book of The Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President along with More George W. Bushisms: More of Slate's Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Our 43rd President, both published by Fireside Press. 


I glace at Slate every day and on the 27th found this from Weisberg, directly quoting President Bush.

"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the - the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world.  And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice."  - Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003 

I forwarded this to my discussion group and noted that I had no comment other than there seems to be a serous "disconnect" here.


Rick brown commented:

In fairness, I think this bite needs to be put back in context. I'm sure he was commenting on the fact that some bombing in Iraq gives the impression that everything is out of control there, followed by this comment.

I replied:

Perhaps so.  Better to assume that than to think the fellow just has a store of stock phrases he strings together randomly, knowing any words will do - those who trust him and support him don't care at all about just what he says or what he might mean.  Words don't matter.  Actions matter.  So he tosses out some random bullshit no one cares about or believes - because he knows that what he says, what anyone says, doesn't really matter very much.  Hell, it's all just words.

And those who neither trust him nor support him will get all upset and this "random catch phrase generation" - thinking what one says actually matters, that words actually matter.  Bush spouting such disjointed nonsense pretty cleverly puts these opponents in their place with the implied in-your-face message, "Hey, listen up you pointy-headed intellectuals - I can say anything, and make no sense at all, and I'll still win the next election in a landslide and you can't do a damned thing about it - so fuck you, assholes."

Rick, your explanation is fine.  Mine gives him too much credit.

The next day Slate posted another Bush statement, verbatim. 

"[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

Rick commented:  "I really can't discern the context on this one at all.  What the hell is he talking about?"

I replied:

Press conference today....  Bush hardly ever has these.  He was making the reporters feel welcome - kind of sort of saying all questions were welcome.  Not like the press conference when the war started - when questions were submitted beforehand and only friendly reports were recognized.  At that one Helen Thomas had to sit in the back and he wouldn't call on her.  Remember that?  Well, Helen Thomas is a strange old lady who has made many a president uncomfortable with her questions.  Anyway, he was saying that this time was different - Bush was saying that these reporters could ask anything at all.  It just came out a little mangled.

The MSNBC woman who covers the White House - I forget her name - felt emboldened to ask GWB about that "Mission Accomplished" sign on the aircraft carrier May 1st - you remember he landed out there and said "we won."  She wondered if he still felt that way. 


GWB: "The 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from staff - they weren't that ingenious, by the way." 


A few hours later the White House said senior navy officials had confirmed the sign was in fact produced by the White House.  Oops.  From the AP wire: "After the news conference, a White House spokeswoman said the Lincoln's crew asked the White House to have the sign made. The White House asked a private vendor to produce the sign, and the crew put it up, said the spokeswoman. She said she did not know who paid for the sign."

As on blogger put it: "Who cares who asked for the sign! The White House thought it was a grand idea, and worked hard to incorporate it into its photo op. To blame the troops for it now is simply deplorable. ... So he claims he never said those words, and then pins the fault on the troops. What a classy guy." See: http://www.dailykos.com/ (Markos Moulitsas Z˙niga)


And one more curious statement...


Yesterday GWB spoke about the recent spate of suicide bombings in Baghdad, particularly the four Monday, including the Red Cross folks getting hit: "There are terrorists in Iraq who are willing to kill anybody in order to stop our progress. The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react."




John Kerry said that was like the "light at the end of the tunnel" crap during the Vietnam War. "Does the president really believe that suicide bombers are willing to strap explosives to their bodies because we're restoring electricity and creating jobs for Iraqis?"


John McCain in Newsweek: "This is the first time that I have seen a parallel to Vietnam, in terms of information that the administration is putting out versus the actual situation on the ground."


Dana Milbank and Thomas Ricks in the Washington Post: "Experts in public opinion said it would be difficult for Bush to convince Americans that the violence was a byproduct of success."  Indeed.


But it's all minor stuff.


And the transcript from the press conference.

Q: Mr. President, if I may take you back to May 1st when you stood on the USS Lincoln under a huge banner that said, "Mission Accomplished." At that time you declared major combat operations were over, but since that time there have been over 1,000 wounded, many of them amputees who are recovering at Walter Reed, 217 killed in action since that date. Will you acknowledge now that you were premature in making those remarks?

THE PRESIDENT: Nora, I think you ought to look at my speech. I said, Iraq is a dangerous place and we've still got hard work to do, there's still more to be done. And we had just come off a very successful military operation. I was there to thank the troops.  The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff - they weren't that ingenious, by the way

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You recently put Condoleezza Rice, your National Security Advisor, in charge of the management of the administrations Iraq policy. What has effectively changed since she's been in charge? And the second question, can you promise a year from now that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: The second question is a trick question, so I wont answer it.

The question is, does language matter?  And was that a trick question?


A little more on language...


Consider Trent Lott everyone's favorite Republican - offering advice on Iraq.  Just kill them all.  "If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens."


There does not seem to be a lot of diplomatic nuance in this suggestion.  But it is one way to fix things in Baghdad and Mosul and Tikrit and all those other places.


This was from The Hill, October 29, 2003

GOP unity is strained by attacks
Geoff Earle  URL:

Excerpt .


Asked whether he favored any policy changes in Iraq, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) responded: We need to have a different mix of troops, is the key. We may need to move some troops around.


Lott suggested moving more troops from the relatively stable south closer to the region around Tikrit, where attacks on U.S. forces have been common. He said there was a need for more trained military police, adding that his comments were not a criticism.


"Honestly, it's a little tougher than I thought it was going to be," Lott said. In a sign of frustration, he offered an unorthodox military solution: "If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You're dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out."


Second Item: Fox sues Fox

The Simpsons is one of my favorite comedy shows.  Our readers in Paris may not get the absurdity in this article, below, but can catch The Simpsons dubbed into French on Canal+ (or if not buying their service they can go to Les Simpson at http://www.canalplus.fr/divertissement/simpson/home.asp).  Anyway, Fox seems to be turning on itself.  Rupert Murdoch rules over an unruly roost.

This has been all over the news, but the clearest summary was from The Independent.

Doh! Murdoch's Fox News in a spin over 'The Simpsons' lawsuit
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington  29 October 2003  The Independent (UK)
URL: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=458311

Serious news is no laughing matter. Especially at Fox News Channel. That, at least, is the allegation of The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who has accused Rupert Murdoch's "fair and balanced" news channel of threatening legal action after a particularly pointed episode poked fun at Fox.

The episode in question featured a "Fox News Crawl" at the bottom of the screen, which parodied some of the more unlikely items featured by the right-wing news channel.

The cartoon ticker read: "Pointless news crawls up 37 per cent ... Do Democrats cause cancer? Find out at foxnews.com ... Rupert Murdoch: Terrific dancer ... Dow down 5000 points ... Study: 92 per cent of Democrats are gay ... JFK posthumously joins Republican Party ... Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple ..."

Mr Groening told National Public Radio that, after the cartoon was broadcast last year on Fox Entertainment Channel, he was threatened with legal action by the news channel.

He said: "We did the crawl along the bottom of the screen. Fox said they would sue the show. And we called their bluff because we didn't think Rupert Murdoch would pay for Fox to sue itself. We got away with it.

"But now Fox has a new rule that we can't do those little fake news crawls on the bottom of the screen in a cartoon because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it's real news."

Yesterday, Robert Zimmerman, a spokesman for Fox News Channel, denied that the news channel had ever threatened a lawsuit.

"We are scratching our heads over here," he said. "We liked the cartoon. We thought it was great." Earlier this year, Fox tried to sue the comedian Al Franken over his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The suit was thrown out of court and the publicity helped Mr Franken's book become a bestseller.

I did research the "cartoon ticker" the crawl at the bottom of the screen.

RIGHT WING OF CHICKEN [cuts off here]

Phillip from Atlanta had a comment:

While not putting cannibalism beyond FOX or Rupert this inability to take a joke could surely be led by lynch leader wannabe Bill (shut-up) O'Reily.  I'm worried if there is a story here really if the head sue-er for FOX doesn't know about it.  Smacks of the "good ol' days" - the conservatives long for when the boss man could whip the uppity help.

Well, to me it just seems the guys at Fox News need to lighten up.