Sixteen Words vs. Ten Words

In his State of the Union speech on January 28, President George W. Bush claimed that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Those 16 words have proven to be more than kin and less than kind to the Bush administration.

Did W. lie when he spoke those 16 words? Was he misled or was he misleading us? And is he misleading us now about whether or not he knew he was misleading us then? What's the difference between a misleading statement and a lie? Does W. know the difference?

There's only one thing we know for sure: W. doesn't write his speeches, especially one as important as the State of the Union address. Oh, he performed the speech, but he didn't create, research, or fact-check it. W. has never written any of his speeches. Do W.'s supporters understand that he employs a team of gifted speechwriters? Much like a television situation comedy, a roomful of homely, bitter, and hilarious white men have created W.'s presidency. He enjoyed only a cursory relationship with the 16 words that damaged his presidency, so maybe we liberal whiners shouldn't be so eager to call W. a liar. After all, did we blame Charlie McCarthy for Edgar Bergen's fabrications?

Puppetry jokes aside, I'm not one of those stupid liberals who thinks W. is stupid. He's got the brains that earn you a 77 average at Yale. But he is incapable of delivering a coherent answer to an impromptu question. He rarely utters an unscripted word, and on those rare occasions when he attempts to improvise, he invariably mangles and devalues the English language. At those awful moments, W. would communicate more effectively with a few hand signals and monosyllabic grunts than he does with nouns and verbs.

As a commie pinko bastard, I am horrified that a right-wing Republican is my president, but as a commie pinko bastard writer, I'm more horrified that he is a malaproping right-wing Republican. Sure, Bill Clinton was a liar, but he was a genius liar. He was a triple-threat liar; he created, wrote, and performed his own bullshit. In a presidential cage-match debate, Clinton would smash a chair over W.'s head and pin him in 30 seconds. We've gone from Arkansas Rhodes Scholar to East Texas road kill. I long for the days when we felt secure enough to impeach a president for lying about blowjobs. I'm nostalgic for the president who called for more Oval Office hummers than U.S. Army Humvees. But, no, we have to live with a militant president who couldn't fight or negotiate his way out of a paper bag.

Hell, Saddam Hussein is a psychopathic monster who should be sealed up in an iron box and fed water, oranges, and protein bars through a mail slot for the rest of his life, but earlier this year, when he challenged W. to an internationally televised debate, I realized that Saddam is a witty psychopathic monster who understands the power of language. Even if English is his second, third, or fourth language, Saddam would have kicked the crap out of W. in a debate.

"President Bush, you say you are tough on crime. You say you killed 152 prisoners while governor of Texas. But I kill 152 prisoners a minute. Beat that, you American dog!"

I'm crushed that our president cannot defend himself in a war of words. But I'm even more distressed when his most intelligent advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, attempt to defend W.'s diminished English-language skills by diminishing the English language itself. On the talk-show circuit, Rice and Rumsfeld both contended those infamous 16 words were a minor part of the entire speech. Those 16 words were just words. How can 16 words hold so much power? Well, W. bases much of his politics on these 10 words: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." Only the first three words are verifiable. Here are Barbara Tuchman's six powerful words: "War is the unfolding of miscalculations."

Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the gang miscalculated. Nobody wins a war. Ask Jesus.