Jewish World Review Oct. 14, 2004 / 29 Tishrei 5765

Dan Abrams

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Politicians play on words: Much ado about Bush and Kerry's awkward phrases | Watching both campaigns dissect words, and often take them out of context reminds me of well, lawyers.

The latest flap is over Senator Kerry's use of the word "nuisance" in an interview with the "New York Times." Kerry talked about how he hoped to reduce the threat of terrorism, to the point where terrorists are "not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance."

The Bush campaign saying this shows Senator Kerry doesn't understand the nature of the threat. That it demeans those who died. They say for him to compare to prostitution and illegal gambling shows a pre-9/11 mentality that would be dangerous for this country. Of course, Kerry never compared threat of terrorism to either. He only said that terrorism would never go away, like prostitution or illegal gambling.

Bottom line, it was a somewhat inarticulate way of saying that he hopes to beat the terrorists to the point where they lose power and influence; they'll never go away altogether. To suggest otherwise is just intellectually dishonest and just nitpicky lawyering.

President Bush got a legalistic smear on the same topic. After an interview with Matt Lauer, the president was asked whether we could win the war on terror. He said, "I don't think we can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in part of the world."

The Democratic attack dogs went after him saying that John Kerry thinks we can win the war on terror and he has faith in our firefighters and police officers.

This, too, was a somewhat inarticulate way of saying that he hopes to beat the terrorists to the point where they lose power and influence; that they'll never go away altogether. Bush makes exactly the same point Kerry made about what he realistically hopes to achieve when it comes to terrorism.

Yet, the lawyers and spin-meisters are just taking it all out of context on both sides, doing all of us a disservice. Lawyers take all the heat for parsing and twisting words, but politicians, who are, yes, often lawyers, are often even more disingenuous and sanctimonious in their efforts to convince and deceive.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



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