Condi's alleged Freudian slip.

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April 26 2004 6:36 PM

Condi's Inner Life

What Freudian slips do—or don't—tell us about politicians.

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Rice: Tim, this is not a matter of preference; this is a matter of principle. It has long been a legal and constitutional principle that assistants to the president, the presidential staff, do not testify before legislative bodies. But this is not a matter of preference …

And on she went, and the interpreters supplied the obvious interpretation, which was that the administration was stonewalling. And when Rice finally did testify under oath, what did we hear? Meaningless generalities, right on script.

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If the media get whipped up when politicians make slips of the tongue, lining up to play the interpretation game, it's like co-dependents handing a corkscrew to an alcoholic: a form of complicity. Bush and Rice assure us that we're winning the war as the body count mounts, the administration vastly expands presidential power and executive secrecy, and the press keeps busy parsing sentences and monitoring slips, including jumping all over Bush for stumbling on the dumb press conference question about his "biggest mistake" since 9/11. As if there were one mistake that could be singled out?

But we want to know the inner man—you know, who George Bush really is. Except that it's not the slips and errors that reveal the truth about this man, Condi's Stepford-wife act, or this political moment: That's a game. Everything to know is right there on the surface.

Laura Kipnis' new book, How To Become a Scandal, will be out in paperback in September. Her previous books include Against Love: A Polemic, and The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability.