Was That Cocoa or Coca?
White House struggles to defend Bush on recent bloopers
Sometimes the most interesting articles about events in the USA come from outside the USA. Here, Agence France Presse reports on president-designate George W. Bush's problems with grammar.
by Maxim KniazkovThe White House lashed out against the media, arguing that those who deride US President George W. Bush's most recent verbal gaffes were "discordant with the American people."
"They don't care what you think about his grammar, they care about what he's going to do that affects their lives," White House counselor Mary Matalin told CNN.
She went on to upbraid journalists for emphasizing style over substance in their analysis of Bush's remarks during his first press conference as president last Thursday.
"And to parse it and pick it apart in the way that it is discordant with the American people, not your ears, but the American people," said Matalin, a former co-hostess on CNN's political debate show "Crossfire," noting that US citizens would not warm to media criticism of Bush's grammatical style.
The new president drew muted chuckles and guffaws from the Washington press corps when he delivered a couple more of his trademark blunders during Thursday's event.
He said he was concerned about how much land was used in Colombia for "the growth of cocoa leaves."
Far from being a foe of the popular beverage, the Colombian government is trying to eradicate illegal plantations of coca, a raw material used to produce cocaine.
With British Prime Minister Tony Blair due in the US capital later that day, Bush mangled English grammar when he proceeded to announce that he was "looking forward to having a private dinner with he and Mrs. Blair Friday night," rather than using the correct pronoun: him.
Conservative columnist Bob Novak, a long-time member of the Washington establishment, deplored what he called "a third-grade grammatical error" by Bush.
But Matalin, who works for Vice President Richard Cheney, dismissed the criticism, saying attacks over style would not deter Bush from directly communicating with the American people.
"It was designed from the beginning to show and telegraph we'll be giving many and frequent press conferences, so the American people can understand what it is we're doing, not so the grammarians in the press can have a field day," she said.
Bush is no stranger to grammatical flops. During the election campaign, he provided a steady supply of fodder to stand-up comedians -- much to the dismay of his aides.
He was quoted as portraying himself as a "compassionated" conservative anxious to "get to the bottom of the answer."
At one of the rallies in Iowa last August, he vowed to "end terrors -- tariffs and barriers -- everywhere across the world" and not to allow "rogue nations hold this nation hostile and hold our allies hostile."
He meant to say "hostage.".
The president, who has made education a cornerstone of his agenda, is widely reported to have pondered aloud once: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"
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