Friday, May 25, 2007

Tongue Truth Twisters

The Language of Deception

I have a few thoughts after looking over a number of posts about Monica Goodling's testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Station Agent's post (Live Blogging Monica Goodling's Testimony) and this post from The New Republic both focus on the language that has been used by one after another of the Bu$hCo™ gang members as they struggle to wriggle off a sharp legal hook without breaking the law of Omerta (silence) that is at the center of their corrupt enterprise.
Asked whether her efforts to hire GOP-leaning prosecutors was legal or illegal, Goodling replied, "I don't believe I intended to commit a crime."

Now it's clear enough why she didn't say merely, "I didn't commit a crime." (In all likelihood, she did.) But why not say "I did not intend to commit a crime"? Why add one more level of uncertainty to her denial? I mean, she presumably knows whether or not she was consciously breaking the law. Why not either fess up or lie flat-out?

My first observation is that Goodling should not only have been sworn in on the Bible, it should have been opened to Exodus, ch. 20 and the passage from the ten commandments about not bearing false witness read to her. It's high time that someone in this administration learned that loyalty to George W. Bush does not supersede all other considerations. In Goodling's case I would prefer that she recognize her obligations to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law in general, but I'll take what I can get. Oops, I see that Jon Stewart has already made that observation about swearing in, although in a much funnier way than I could have.

TDS on Goodling Testimony

One constant in the testimony of all players in the Prosecutor's purge is the use of passive voice. In the Bush Justice Department, the tactic of avoiding responsibility is implemented through the linguistic legerdemain of things, 'just happening.' Nobody actually does anything. It's like the list of prosecutors to be fired magically appearing apparently out of nowhere. (*cough* Rove's office *cough*) Things, to use Biblical language, just "come to pass." I don't understand how anyone could fall for this ploy. "Mistakes were made", even though it is legalistic, still has the meaning, "somebody made mistakes", however you want to parse it.

A continuing meme that the administration is trying to push in this scandal is that there was nothing improper about how and why these prosecutors were fired and slated for replacement by the worst Bushbots available. So why all the secrecy as to what really took place? And why are all of the principle players in the Department of Justice so concerned with passing it off like a particularly hot potato? Even a legal dunce like Goodling is careful (though clumsily so) to avoid admission that she deliberately broke the law. I'm surprised her answer didn't include something like, "The law? Oh, you mean the LAW? Like statutes in that criminal code thingamajig!! Now I get it. I thought you were talking about the ten commandments. I would never break any of those."

It might have been her best bet.

UPDATE: Don't miss this Countdown video, courtesy of Crooks and Liars. Jonathan Turley and Keith discuss the slam-dunk case against Gonzales for witness tampering, per Goodling's testimony.

UPDATE, Mark II: Slate has this totally different take on Goodling's testimony, focusing in on how well Goodling played the 'little girl' card. From ruthless to innocent in one easy step.
What really shot Goodling into the stratosphere of baby-doll girls were her own whispered words: "At heart," she testified, "I am a fairly quiet girl, who tries to do the right thing and tries to treat people kindly along the way." [Late-breaking discovery, courtesy of a sharp reader: Goodling used the word girl in the written rather than spoken version of her testimony.] The idea, of course, was to scrub away her past image as ruthless, power-mad, and zealously Christian. But—as professor Sandy Levinson noted almost immediately over at Balkinization—it was in calling herself a "girl" that the 33-year-old did herself a great favor. It was a signal to the committee that she was no Kyle Sampson. Or Anita Hill.
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