Friday, July 20, 2007

"Issuing a stunning rocket"

You probably know about the letter from Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman, directly accusing Sen. Hillary Clinton of …
reinforc[ing] enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.
It's more than a little odd to have high Pentagon officials declaring that a sitting US senator and major presidential candidate is aiding and abetting people we're at war with. Nobody has yet noted, that I've seen, that this comes on the heels of an Executive Order from Bush that the government will confiscate the property of anybody seen as "undermining efforts" in Iraq, remarkably broadly defined. (No joke, here's the White House release.) So, maybe this is a ploy to seize Hillary's campaign funds.

But there's a little language angle: I see on that Kate Phillips, who writes for The Caucus, opened her discussion of this topic like this:
The Pentagon Issues Warning to Clinton
Issuing a stunning rocket, one of the Pentagon’s top officials sent a letter to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton …
I'm with wonkette on this one:
We have no clue what it means but we like it and may begin all of today’s posts with it.
Well, on second thought,it's pretty clear what it means. I can see cliches you might build off of to get this: shot across the bow, fire a warning shot, etc. Rocket is rich in figurative uses and meanings — check UrbanDictionary's three-page entry. (We can leaving aside people who use it for the salad ingredient I know as arugula.) It turns out, it even has an appropriate extended meaning, 'a severe reprimand' in Army officers' slang, according to Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. If that's what she was reaching for, I've got to ratchet up my assumptions about that blog.

But even beyond rocket, wow, is that an awkward phrase: Some weapons are of course designed specifically to stun (rather than maim or kill) and to issue works fine with 'press release' or something, but it also means 'to discharge' and such.

The only way to kill reader comments on this blog, I'm learning, is to invite comment so I won't, but if I had to complete a sentence starting with "Issuing a stunning rocket …", I wouldn't get close to Phillips' usage. I'd go more with bad sci-fi.

The image, by the way, is from here, and the article included this:
Treason is a strong word, but not too strong to characterize the situation in which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, and indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be.
Note that the author of the piece (a nine-part series) is also named Phillips. Big difference from the current example is that it was part of the Progressive effort to rid congress of corruption, especially "to weaken the influence of large corporations and other major financial interests on government policy making". Sounds kinda like where we are today.


Anonymous said...

Issuing a stunning rocket from the gaping hole in his chest where a human's heart would be, Acting President Cheney destroyed the already weakened foundation of American democracy. He later fired three more missles, 'to make sure it's good and dead'.

Joe said...

On the serious side of this post, you should read Matt Rothschild's new book, You have no rights: Stories of America in an age of repression (The New Press, 2007).

But this Clinton story echoes a long tradition of 'with us or for the terrorists' rhetoric. Recall Ashcroft early on: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists. … They give ammunition to America's enemies."

The Ridger, FCD said...

Until CLinton commits acts of violence undermining the government of Iraq, her campaign funds are safe ... under this EO, anyway.

But I do like the "Issuing a stunning rocket from the hole in his chest..." bit, though I might add the rocket's colors - like the rocket in Hatari, perhaps, the "the great silver red-and-blue rocket".

The Ridger, FCD said...

By the way, TPM has this:

In response to our inquiries, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has issued a statement responding to the uproar over the letter from Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman to Sen. Hillary Clinton condemning her for reinforcing "enemy propaganda." Says Gates:

I have long been a staunch advocate of Congressional oversight, first at the CIA and now at the Defense Department. I have said on several occasions in recent months that I believe that congressional debate on Iraq has been constructive and appropriate. I had not seen Senator Clinton’s reply to Ambassador Edelman’s letter until today. I am looking into the issues she raised and will respond to them early next week.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, I was going for hyperbole on the seizing of Hillary's campaign funds, although I did pause like you do when you make a joke that's a little too close to reality.

The Gates response was a step forward, I hope. Judith Warner has an column in today's NYT arguing that he's cut from different cloth than the rest of the current crew.

We could build a graphic novel around the stunning rocket thing, probably.