Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Than Distortion

It's ironic that The Weekly Standard's William Kristol, once Chief of Staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and now a pundit, would have served (albeit briefly) in the conservative chair of the op-ed section of The New York Times.

That role was held for a long time by William Safire, who also fancied himself, justifiably, as something of an amateur etymologist. For Safire, words were important, and not to be trifled with.

But this morning the Washington Post's website carried a piece by Mr. Kristol in which he claimed

But isn’t health care a crisis? No.

Indeed, the president acknowledged it isn’t: “But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future -- and that is the issue of health care.” In other words, health care -- unlike, say, the financial system a few months ago -- is not in a state of crisis.

So there is no health care crisis.

Mr. Kristol imagines there is no health care crisis. And he imagines that President Obama, in his speech to a joint session of Congress, "acknowledged" there is no health care crisis, stronger than even "implied," which itself would be an inaccurate interpretation.

Here is what Mr. Obama said (emphasis mine), according to Kristol and the transcript of the speech: "But we did not come here just to clean up crises."

"Just"- is not the preferred word here, given that its primary definition is as an adjective, meaning "fair" or thereabouts, rather than as an adverb. But as an adverb it can mean "merely, only" and that is clearly what the President was saying- saying, not just only meaning, but actually saying. Clarified (apparently necessary for Kristol), Obama stated "But we came here for more than to clean up crises."

Odd enough that the fellow's GOP would find the need to promote a health care plan (pdf) of its own absent a crisis. Still, Mr. Kristol is entitled to fantasize about having a health care system that's the finest in the world. But he is not entitled, without rebuttal, intentionally to misinterpret what the President said.

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