Jewish World Review June 23, 2008 / 20 Sivan 5768
Cracking the confusion code
By Roger Simon
Politicians say things without seeming to say things because everybody knows what they are saying.
Take John McCain and his age. McCain is 71, will soon be 72, and if he wins the presidency will be the oldest president ever inaugurated.
John McCain talks about his age directly, though he uses humor to defuse the issue. "I am older than dirt and have more scars the Frankenstein," he likes to say.
And late night comics like to joke about McCain's age from, "John McCain is so old his Social Security number is one!" to Jay Leno's recent, "Did you know John McCain does not use the Secret Service for protection? Yeah, yeah. He hasn't been using them. He has his own team. In fact, you know what you call those six guys that surround John McCain all the time? Pallbearers."
But that is not code. That is straight humor though some would say it is not particularly funny.
Code comes into play when McCain's political opponents talk about his age.
In a speech in Des Moines a few weeks ago, Barack Obama attacked McCain this way:
"This year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that is the contest John McCain won," Obama said, and then he pointed out that that McCain "arrived in Washington nearly three decades ago."
Translation: My opponent is not only as bad as George W. Bush, but he is also really, really old.
And you are going to hear a lot of that kind of code in the weeks ahead.
Wednesday, McCain was asked on the "Today" show if he had an estimate of when American troops could return from Iraq. "No, but that's not too important," McCain said. "What's important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany that's all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw."
The Obama campaign responded immediately in a conference call with Obama surrogates saying that McCain was "confused" and in a state of "confusion."
Need a translation for that code?
Susan Rice, a former United States assistant secretary of state for African affairs now on leave from the Brookings Institution to campaign for Obama, said McCain's comments reveal a "real confusion and lack of understanding of the situation in Iraq."
Rice also said McCain in the past "repeatedly ... confused Sunni and Shia," and said he's been "confused about who the leader in Iran with maximum power is."
John Kerry, also an Obama surrogate, said of McCain: "He confuses who Iran is training, he confuses what the makeup of al-Qaida is, he confuses the history going back to 682 of what has happened to Sunni and Shia."
Confused, confuses, confusion. Old, old, old. That's what they meant, right?
No, Rice said, when asked about it. "I'm not ascribing it to any particular function," Rice said. "I'm simply pointing out a pattern."
Kerry said it is "unfair and even a little bit ridiculous" for people to "jump to the conclusion" that he was talking about "somebody's age."
Age being code, of course, for age.
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© 2008, Creators Syndicate