April 1, 2004

Ridiculous turns of phrase. I have two. There's this, from a NYT story about Kerry's shoulder operation taking him out of active campaigning:
"The Bush people have seized the vacuum," said Carter Eskew, a senior adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign

Isn't that a bit ... askew? Seized the vacuum? I don't think the image is of the housecleaning appliance. You're referencing nothingness. Not seizable. Fillable.

The second one is a Bush quote that appears in Michiko Kakutani's review of Richard Clarke's book (which is worth reading generally--the review, I mean. Key line: "The narrative of 'Against All Enemies' is very much a story in which Mr. Clarke depicts himself as the prescient gunslinger trying, often in vain, to rally a bunch of dilatory bureaucrats.") Here's the locution I'm going to critique:
"I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring [bin Laden] to justice and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn't feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling."

Boiling blood is extreme hyperbole for anger. It is enough to say, after 9/11 my blood was boiling. Even that is too extreme. How could one carry out the duties of the Presidency if one fell into the greatest extreme of rage? I would think after 9/11, a person in the President's position would feel a crystalline concentration of the mind, not boiling anger, but a state beyond anger, to an instant resolve to do all the things that need to be done. Boiling blood is nevertheless an acceptable trope for the 9/11 state of mind. But the expression "my blood was not nearly as boiling" enfeebles the whole statement. You mean your blood was boiling before, but at more of a slow boil as opposed to a rolling boil? Absurd! His blood was not yet boiling, but he doesn't want to concede that he wasn't intense enough about the war on terrorism before 9/11. He wants to be able to say 9/11 really changed him without admitting that he didn't care enough before 9/11. I do understand the impulse, though. Politics makes people use ridiculous expressions that they would not use if they spoke straightforwardly.

No comments: