Thursday, 19 July 2007

A Person given to uttering terminological inexactitudes

The phrase 'terminological inexactitude' was coined by Winston Churchill to get around the House of Commons rule which bans the use of the word 'liar'.

A similar rule applies in the House of Representatives. The Manual states:-

Personal abuse, innuendo, or ridicule of the President, is not permitted (VIII, 2497; Aug. 12, 1986, p. 21078; Oct. 21, 1987, p. 8857; Sept. 21, 1994, p. 25147). Under this standard it is not in order to call the President, or a presumptive major-party nominee for President, a ``liar'' or accuse him of ``lying'' (June 26, 1985, p. 17394; Sept. 24, 1992, pp. 27345, 27346; Nov. 15, 1995, p. 32587; June 6, 1996, pp. 13228, 13229; Mar. 18, 1998, p. 3937; Nov. 14, 2002, p. ----; July 15, 2003, p. ----; Mar. 24, 2004, p. ----). Indeed, any suggestion of mendacity is out of order. For example, the following remarks have been held out of order: (1) suggesting that the President misrepresented the truth, attempted to obstruct justice, and encouraged others to perjure themselves (Feb. 25, 1998, p. 2621); (2) accusing him of dishonesty (July 13, 2004, p. ----; June 29, 2005, p. ----), charging him with intent to be intellectually dishonest (May 9, 1990, p. 9828), or stating that many were convinced he had ``not been honest'' (Mar. 5, 1998, p. 2620); (3) accusing him of ``raping'' the truth (Apr. 24, 1996, p. 8807), not telling the truth (Oct. 29, 2003, p. ----), or distorting the truth (Sept. 9, 2003, p. ----); (4) stating that he was not being ``straight with us'' (Nov. 19, 2003, p. ----); (5) accusing him of being deceptive (Mar. 29, 2004, p. ----; Mar. 31, 2004, p. ----), fabricating an issue (July 6, 2004, p. ----), or intending to mislead the public (Oct. 6, 2004, p. ----; June 9, 2005, p. ----); (6) accusing him of intentional mischaracterization, although mischaracterization without intent to deceive is not necessarily out of order (July 19, 2005, p. ----).

Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) fell foul of this rule when he said in the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee - “He’s the same president who lied to Congress and to the American people about the easons for going to war, the president who put people in jail without even bringing any charges against them and rendered them to other countries for questioning,” . The video of the offending remarks and a discussion with Representative Watt is currently available at http://www.c-span.org/VideoArchives.asp?z1=&PopupMenu_Name=Congress&CatCodePairs=Issue,C; (under the title 'Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC)' - 7/18/2007: WASHINGTON, DC: 35 min.). A Rollcall Article is available at http://www.rollcall.com/issues/53_6/news/19376-1.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

I look forward to any suggestions to help Al Franken - if he is elected to Congress (http://www.alfranken.com/) he'll need the appropriate euphemisms should he wish to refer to his book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them"!

(Note: "the Senate rules on decorum and debate do not prohibit personal references to the President. Senate Rule XIX governing decorum and debate is applied only to fellow Senators and “does not extend to the President, the Vice President, or Administration officials and a Senator cannot be called to order under rule XIX for comments or remarks about them...” (Senate Procedure, p. 741). The Senate rules also provide that Jefferson’s Manual is not part of the Senate rules (Ibid, p.754). "

Footnote: You might be entertained by the audio of some unparliamentary language and its consequences at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/a-z_of_parliament/t-z/81999.stm (Dennis Skinner MP asked to withdraw on 02-07-92).