Thursday, September 08, 2005

The language of this hurricane has proven to be very charged. I have been following the debate over the word "refugee" and appreciate the fact that people are desiring to use language that is respectful and appropriate and inclusive. The language coming from Washington, on the other hand, is anything but. Our administration gloms onto certain phrases--"we're making progress", "it's hard work", etc.--and repeats them ad infinitum to drill them into our brains, to appease us, block us out, shut us down. You hear the anointed phrases coming out of every mouth--Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, McClellan--as if they are shared mantras, incantations. The current phrase of the day is "blame game." "We don't want to play the blame game," they say, knowing full well that they are the ones to blame. Look at this exchange at a White House press conference (which I first found on Salon):

Reporter: Scott, does the president retain confidence in his FEMA director and secretary of Homeland Security?

McClellan: And again, David, see, this is where some people want to look at the blame game issue, and finger-point. We're focused on solving problems, and we're doing everything we can --

Reporter: What about the question?

McClellan: We're doing everything we can in support --

Reporter: We know all that.

McClellan: -- of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

Reporter: Does he retain complete confidence --

McClellan: We're going to continue. We appreciate the great effort that all of those at FEMA, including the head of FEMA, are doing to help the people in the region. And I'm just not going to engage in the blame game or finger-pointing that you're trying to get me to engage.

Reporter: OK, but that's not at all what I was asking.

McClellan: Sure it is. It's exactly what you're trying to play.

Reporter: You have your same point you want to make about the blame game, which you've said enough now. I'm asking you a direct question, which you're dodging.

McClellan: No --

Reporter: Does the president retain complete confidence in his director of FEMA and secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

McClellan: I just answered the question.

Reporter: Is the answer "yes" on both?

McClellan: And what you're doing is trying to engage in a game of finger-pointing --

Reporter: There's a lot of criticism. I'm just wondering if he still has confidence.

McClellan: -- and blame-gaming. What we're trying to do is solve problems, David. And that's where we're going to keep our focus.

Reporter: So you're not -- you won't answer that question directly?

McClellan: I did. I just did.

Reporter: No, you didn't. Yes or no? Does he have complete confidence or doesn't he?

McClellan: No, if you want to continue to engage in finger-pointing and blame-gaming, that's fine --

Reporter: Scott, that's ridiculous. I'm not engaging in any of that.

McClellan: It's not ridiculous.

Reporter: Don't try to accuse me of that. I'm asking you a direct question and you should answer it. Does he retain complete confidence in his FEMA director and secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

McClellan: Like I said, that's exactly what you're engaging in.

Reporter: I'm not engaging in anything. I'm asking you a question about what the president's views are --

McClellan: Absolutely -- absolutely --

Reporter: -- under pretty substantial criticism of members of his administration. OK? And you know that, and everybody watching knows that as well.

McClellan: No, everybody watching this knows, David, that you're trying to engage in a blame game.

Reporter: I'm trying to engage?

McClellan: Yes.

Reporter: I am trying to engage?

McClellan: That's correct.

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