Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Daily Show on Bush and Language

[Transcript and embedded video below the fold]

On Tuesday's Daily Show, Jon Stewart started off by commemorating "Still President" George W. Bush's 134th overseas trip. It is doubly shocking to hear that President Bush has set a new record for most overseas visits by any U.S. President, considering that he had made the fewest overseas trips of any U.S. Presidential candidate in modern history. Up to age 50, not including border crossings into Mexico, Dubya had been abroad only once, visiting his father (at the time, the U.S. ambassador) in China for a month in 1975. As late as 1998, he had never been to Europe, never been to Australia, never been to Africa, never even been to Canada. He did manage to get in two trips towards the end of his term as governor of Texas, going to the Middle East and The Gambia in 1998 and 2000, respectively, but he was stunningly incurious about the rest of the world, for a man who held the ambition of leading the community of nations.

The bulk of Stewart's commentary, though, covered some of President Bush's linguistic legacy, not merely mangling and mispronouncing words, but proactively redefining them.

The video is in three segments, with transcript below.

Embedded video clips from TheDailyShow.com:

Thank you very much, you're very kind. Welcome to the show; my name is Jon Stewart. Man, the show tonight — from whatever the longitude and latitude is here in the studio. [roughly 40.76°N, 73.99°W] Seth Rogen's going to be joining us, from the film Pineapple Express. It's an incredible film: one man — I'm just gonna give you the brief plot point — one man has 24 hours to get a train full of pineapples across the country, or his nephew's luau-themed bar mitzvah — ruined!! You're not buying any of this shit; all right, fair enough.

But for now, all eyes on Beijing and the Summer Olympics; the opening ceremony, Friday, 8.8.08 at 8pm. By the way, bet that number in Pick-4; I'm sure no one else will — you can share the prize with 1.2 billion Chinese. People from all around the world, succumbing to Olympic fever — which, by the way, you can catch in China without the Olympics. Whatever you do, don't go near their pigs or birds. All right.

Of course, President Bush left for the games early, in an effort to beat the traffic. Landing in South Korea for a day of trade talks, the President received a mixed welcome, some hailing his arrival, others demonstrating against him, with a mix of synchronized "terrorist fist jabs" and characters from Nintendo's new game, "Wii Protest." It seemed like just another ordinary trip for the President, except [balloons and confetti] it's his 134th visit to a foreign country! It's a record! Hold on — [party "blowout" noisemaker] — he's now officially — this is true — our most-travelled President in history. It's a little suspicious, perhaps validating what I've been saying all along: President George W. Bush either has a thirst for international knowledge, or is a drug mule. You decide. [character voice:] I know there's one way to check, but I'm not goin' there.

But there's no denying the President's a hard-core man of the road; that's why, everywhere he visits, he leaves hobo symbols for future Presidents — you know, "10 Downing Street's got nice lady and good food!" Bush, of course, also holds the record for most Presidential vacation days: 506 and counting. You know, between that and the travel days, I think it's clear: there's something about being at the White House our President cannot stand. [Bush character voice:] "I can't help but thinkin', I'm sleepin' in the same bed where my mom and dad used to do it."

Now, seeing the President — that is disturbing onso many different levels — seeing the President overseas reminds us that he is still President, and that we don't really have that much more time with him to fully appreciate all that he's ... done for us. So, perhaps there's no time like the present to begin assessing the damage.

[graphics: "George Walker Bush — His Not Yet Legacy: Language"]

Tonight, we focus on the President's use of language, and we've all heard the jokes, how he stumbles over words, doesn't know how to pronounce them, has shit in his mouth — you know, "subliminable," "fool me once, can't be fooled the shame on who wanna wacka wacka wacka wacka." Laugh it up, a–holes, but the truth is this: George W. Bush's real contribution to language has been in redefining it. For instance, when people began suggesting that we think about leaving Iraq:

Bush, 2007-04-24: Well, what I won't accept is, you know, artificial timetables of withdrawal...

Bush, 2005-06-28: Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message ...

Bush, 2007-04-23: I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal, uh, uh, would be a mistake ...

NO!! artificial timetables — this is a free-range, organic war; that's why it costs so much. And then you remember Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki suggested that maybe the United States should think about gettin' out, in maybe the next 16 to 23 months, which the Administration thought might be a good idea, so in your mind you're thinkin', Isn't that an artificial timetable? It's not!

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 2008-07-21: What we want is a kind of "aspirational time horizon" ...

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2008-07-02: The strategic goals of having "time horizons" are ones that we all seek...

Andy Card, former White House Chief of Staff, 2008-07-21: A "timeline" is dangerous [flash forward] "horizon" that allows you to pay attention to what's happening in the real world, on the ground ...

See, timelines are dangerous; what we need is a horizon, a withdrawal strategy named after something that, no matter how long you head towards it, you never quite reach it; it's asymptotic.

Now, here's what the Administration has learned: that a rose, by any other name — could be anything! Might not even be a flower. For instance, when the Shia and Sunni started fighting each other for control of Iraq — you know, brother fighting brother, "Frankly, Mahmoud, I don't give a damn" kind of thing, "some day, we'll all look back on this with a chess set and a documentary." What was that called again??

Bush, 2006-08-07: Some people say, "Well, civil war this" and "civil war that" ...

Bush, 2006-11-08: You know, you hear all the time, well, maybe this is a civil war; well, I don't believe it is ...

Of course you don't believe it is!! That would've been a horrible thing for us to have caused! This is merely the —

Bush, 2007-01-16: Sectarian violence in Baghdad ...

Condi, 2006-08-04: They have sectarian differences, and some of those are violent.

Gen. David Petraeus, 2008-04-08: ... ethno-sectarian competition ...

Yeah, what's a little ethno-sectarian competition? I'll tell you what's a great weekend: take the kids, load 'em in the minivan, and drive 'em down to one of those ethno-sectarian competition reenactments. [kiss] Why is this important? Because the consequences of miscommunication can be devastating. For instance, let's say you're a giant business, and the business that you're in is home loans and you suck at it, and your name is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and someone says to you,

Bush, 2008-07-15: We are going to provide — if needed — temporary assistance through either debt or capital.

So, you might think, Oh my God! Temporary debt or capital? They're gonna give us money! We've been bailed out, everybody! Well, not only do you suck at your job, you also have poor listening skills.

Bush, 2008-07-15: By the way, the decisions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — I hear some say "bailout"; I don't think it's a bailout.

It's not a bailout, it's a — monetary shielding unit, a capital restraint system, fiduciary stilts —

Treasury Sec. Henry Paulson, 2008-07-13: It's a liquidity backstop.

Dammit! What difference does it make whether we call something a bailout or a civil war or any of those things? It's just semantics; no harm, no foul, nobody gets hurt.

Bush, 2007-10-07: We don't torture.

Bush, 2007-08-09: We don't torture.

Bush, 2007-10-17: We don't torture. We, we, we — I've said all along American — to the American people, we won't torture.

So, that's when this technique comes in handy: when the definition of the word is an internationally recognized war crime. So what do we do?

Former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft: Enhanced interrogation techniques ...

Douglas Feith, former Defense Undersec. for Policy: Counter-resistance techniques... [note: the C–SPAN caption reads "Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–NY)," but it is Feith on screen, responding to Nadler's question.]

Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey: The "shocks the conscience" standard ...

Feith: Grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing ...

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–NY): [reading from a report] "stress positions, isolation, nudity, the use of dogs ..."

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D–MA): "using the individual as a human shield ..."

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D–CA) [Ashcroft on screen]: "induced hypothermia or forced sleeplessness ..."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D–IL) [split-screen with Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales]: "mock execution ..."

Gen. Michael Hayden, Director, CIA: We've conducted renditions.

Rdml. Jane Dalton (fmr. legal adviser to Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs): working dogs in an interrogation booth, unmuzzled and snarling ...

Feith: Removing clothing is different from naked!

Hayden: Waterboarding has been used on only three detainees.

Feith: The idea was to induce stress ...

Vice President Dick Cheney: It's a tougher program for tougher customers.

Tough customers? You know, I've worked in some bad retail situations; not once did I ever shock a guy's nuts.

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Click below for embedded video clips and transcript...