Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Disassembling a Presidential Sentence

I couldn't believe the last sentence of this quote from today's "News" Conference when I heard it on NPR this afternoon, so I had to look it up in the transcript:

BUSH: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation.
The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way.
It's just an absurd allegation.
In terms of, you know, the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees.
It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of and the allegations by people that were held in detention, people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble, that means not tell the truth. [emphasis added]

No, it doesn't, George. It means "to take things apart". Dissemble, on the other hand, does have a meaning very close to "not tell the truth," only it's a little more subtle than that. Calling you a dissembler, for example, when discussing your intentions toward Iraq in the summer of 2002, would probably be closer to the truth than calling you a liar. Calling you a disassembler, on the other hand, would refer to your intentions toward Social Security and the United Nations and every other piece of FDR's legacy to this country.

But I can't help thinking that this easy emphasis on the presidential abuse of the English language, on his funny little "Bushisms", takes away from the heart of this ridiculous complaint about Amnesty International: "...they based some of their decisions on the word of and the allegations by people that were held in detention. . ." Does this mean that the torturers and other legal authorities are the only people Amnesty International should listen to? The victims should have no say? When Solzhenitsyn challeges Stalin and Khruschev, we should ignore him? There's the real Bushism in this sentence. Maybe we should start parsing, deconstructing, and disassembling, his language more carefully.

1 comment:

Paul the Spud said...

No, it doesn't, George. It means "to take things apart". Dissemble, on the other hand, does have a meaning very close to "not tell the truth," only it's a little more subtle than that. Calling you a dissembler, for example, when discussing your intentions toward Iraq in the summer of 2002, would probably be closer to the truth than calling you a liar. Calling you a disassembler, on the other hand, would refer to your intentions toward Social Security and the United Nations and every other piece of FDR's legacy to this country.

That was awesome. :D And you're quite right... as stated in The Bush Dyslexicon, it's very easy to laugh off his speech as "Bushisms," but the meaning behind his mistakes are usually more telling than what he actually says.