He Said/She Said

I have been listening with some amusement as people try to make a big moulage (as Barney Fife would say) out of the “he said/she said” comments made by Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson over a conversation he and President Bush had in Nashville shortly before the Iraqi invasion. In case you have somehow missed it, Pat Robertson told CNN in an interview Tuesday night that he urged President Bush to “prepare the American people for the prospect of casualties” before launching the war in March 2003. Robertson said Bush told him, “‘Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.'”
A White House spokesman denied that President Bush told Robertson that he did not expect casualties from the invasion of Iraq. “The president never made such a comment,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. McClellan said Bush did meet with Robertson in Nashville before the invasion, as Robertson stated, but McClellan said Bush always has said that war “requires sacrifice” and that there would be American casualties. McClellan noted it was possible Robertson misunderstood President Bush.
Sen. John Kerry, Bush’s Democratic challenger was quick to jump on Robertson’s statement. Kerry’s campaign issued a statement Wednesday challenging Bush to say whether the Robertson was telling the truth. “We believe President Bush should get the benefit of the doubt here,” Kerry spokesman Mike McCurry said in a news release. “But he needs to come forward and answer a very simple question: Is Pat Robertson telling the truth when he said you didn’t think there’d be any casualties, or is Pat Robertson lying?”
I guess these people never have had a misunderstanding over a conversation before. I suppose they have never mistaken what a friend said. They have probably never made an off-the-cuff comment before that could be misunderstood. Perhaps all their conversations and communications are always completely clear.
On the other hand, I often have to ask a friend to repeat or clarify what they say, and when I have not stopped to ask, at times I have completely misunderstood a comment. In addition, I have been known to make a droll, off-the-cuff comment to a friend which I assume they will know is just a dry remark and not to be taken verbatim. Sometimes I don’t even remember a dry remark I made… especially if some years have passed…
I was not present at the conversation between President Bush and Mr. Robertson, so I will not even try to make a guess at what point the misunderstanding occurred, but I do know how easy it is for a simple miscommunication to take place. I understand President Bush is the President and should measure carefully each and every word out of his mouth. However, it is possible President Bush might drop his guard around a close friend and not measure his words as carefully.
Perhaps Mr. Robertson misunderstood. Perhaps President Bush dropped his guard and made a pithy, off-the-cuff remark. Either way, it is not worth the big moulage the Kerry folks and media Fifes are making over it. After all, Bush’s predecessor dropped more than his guard…

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