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Word Watch

November 20, 2005|BRENDAN BUHLER

After a week of the White House rebuking critics of the Iraq war, and Congress rebuking the White House for the war, a quiet word is in order.

Rebukes -- literally sharp scoldings -- are the sort of thing you hear about only in Victorian drawing rooms, Vatican seminaries and newspapers.

In the last year, 543 articles about rebukes ran in the Los Angeles Times (144), the New York Times (219) and the Washington Post (180). The presidency was involved 193 times, the Senate 118 and voters 80. In 32 cases, it was the dreaded "stinging rebuke."

When the Senate slapped the president's wrist over Iraq, a pundit parsed the message in the Washington Post. "This was the easy way out -- an implicit rebuke, not an explicit rebuke. But this was a rebuke," he wrote. The headline said, "Bipartisan Amendment is Rebuff to Bush." Senators claimed it was neither. So if we might offer a gentle reproof: Knock it off.

-- BRENDAN BUHLER

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