Lead Balloons at Bad Attitudes has some commentary on the weird way Bush repeatedly stumbled over the prounciation of “Abu Ghraib” during his speech the other day: A pronounced level of incompetence. And I have to admit, it is a pretty interesting thing to speculate about.
No, it’s not a huge deal in and of itself. Bush supporters can relax on that point; they don’t need to get huffy with me about how I can’t even let the guy mispronounce a word from time to time without seeing it as some monumental character flaw.
But still. The whole point of that speech was to make Bush look like he was on top of this Iraq thing. He trotted out lots of numbers, lots of basically useless detail designed to do one thing: prove that Bush knows what he’s doing in Iraq. Increasingly, the public doubts that, and the speech was intended to counter those doubts.
He clearly had worked hard on his delivery. He spoke forcefully, with audible conviction. He didn’t stumble over the many numbers in the speech: US troop totals (115,000 originally estimated to be needed at this point in time, 138,000 actually there now), the number of troops in the planned Iraqi army (260,000), the number of divisions in that army (27), daily oil production (two million barrels), number of donor nations in the reconstruction effort (37), amount of aid they have pledged ($13.5 billion), and so on.
So why was it that when he got to the name of the prison, the place that has been the focus of world attention for the past several weeks, he stopped, dead in his tracks, for a long, embarrassing pause? It sure seemed like he was trying to decide how to pronounce an unfamiliar word. And then, when he did finally say the name, he pronounced it strangely, and then pronounced it differently upon subsequent mentions. I mean, really, what was up with that?
Is it part of the Bush personality disorder, the narcissim that prevents him from acknowledging even the possibility of error? As in, Abu Ghraib has turned into such a debacle that he has shunted it off into the mental black hole reserved for things that can’t be reconciled with his fantasies of infallibility?
Did he not rehearse that part of the speech? Wouldn’t his staffers have pointed out the mispronunciation then? Is Bush like Shaquille O’Neal at the freethrow line, maybe: able to pronounce the word fine in private, but tripping over it when the spotlight is on?
I really can’t figure it out. And I can’t help wondering about it.
Update: Here’s some more detail, courtesy of Reuters (Bush trips over Abu Ghraib pronunciation):
During the half-hour televised address, Bush mispronounced Abu Ghraib each of the three times he mentioned it while announcing U.S. plans to tear down the infamous jail and replace it with a new facility.
The prison, the scene of torture under Saddam Hussein (news – web sites) and the setting for the Iraqi prison abuse scandal under the U.S. military, has a name that English speakers usually pronounce as “abu-grabe”.
But the Republican president, long known for verbal and grammatical lapses, stumbled on the first try, calling it “abugah-rayp”. The second version came out “abu-garon”, the third attempt sounded like “abu-garah”.
White House aides, who described the speech as an important address on the future of Iraq, said Bush practised twice on Monday before boarding his helicopter for his trip to the speaking venue at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.