There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of.It turns out, he means this in the only sense Merriam-Webster's gives:
to attend to or provide for the needs, operation, or treatment ofThe usual sense here is positive: "She's taking care of her elderly parents" doesn't call to mind euthanasia, at least to me. But there's possible ambiguity in there, for sure, so that in the right context you could can make a wicked (in the old sense) joke.
If you reach for your Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy for the entry on ambiguity (or click here, if, like me, you're not in the room with your hard copy right now — it's by Kent Bach), you can read this:
'pragmatic ambiguity' is an oxymoron. Generally when one uses ambiguous words or sentences, one does not consciously entertain their unintended meanings, although there is psycholinguistic evidence that when one hears ambiguous words one momentarily accesses and then rules out their irrelevant senses. When people use ambiguous language, generally its ambiguity is not intended. Occasionally, however, ambiguity is deliberate, as with an utterance of 'I'd like to see more of you' when intended to be taken in more than one way in the very same context of utterance.I imagine that back in 2003, I heard this phrase in context (I do remember the quote) in the more marked meaning of "see that he gets punished" without consciously considering the other meaning — I figured it for grandstanding, not deception. Is this a case where Bush chose his words carefully or where the Boy Genius fed him the right line? No, he just got lucky.
Now, I just need to understand why the mavens aren't pecking his eyeballs out over subject-verb agreement.*
*Just kidding. I think I understand.
Image from here. The caption there is: The Judgment of Solomon — putting ambiguity to use (from Iconum Biblicarum, 1627).
Update 1:30 pm: Others are declaring Bush to be Solomonic here, more directly: Talking Points Memo says:
Tony Snow explains Bush's Solomonic decision -- you "need to respect the jury system," you see. It's just judges, apparently, who don't require such respect.