- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

We're shocked. Shocked. And so are a lot of the ladies and gentlemen of the press, even if (we suspect) nobody else is. George W. Bush, in a salty aside to his running mate, Dick Cheney, called a reporter traveling with him by a naughty name.

We would never repeat what he said, of course, but our Page One story yesterday put it as delicately as anyone could: "'There's Adam Clymer a major league [deleted],' employing a vulgar term for a rectal aperture."

This is actually pretty mild language in almost any newsroom this side of the Christian Science Monitor, the Presbyterian Ladies Gardening Gazette and, to our surprise, the New York Times. Mr. Clymer pronounced himself "disappointed in the governor's language."

Mr. Bush's vulgar euphemism is actually the most commonly heard term of art from the boys (and, alas, a lot of the girls) in the back of the campaign bus, used to describe nearly everyone, particularly editors.

A spokesman for Al Gore, a onetime seminarian who nevertheless has been known to talk naughty himself on occasion, sharply rebuked the governor, not for saying something children ought not to have to hear, but for offending Mr. Clymer and something he called "the Fourth Estate." And why not? The Fourth Estate, which did a lot of sneering at Mr. Gore only a fortnight or so ago, has been very kind to Mr. Gore over the past few days.

The television networks, which would never, ever broadcast anything coarse or crude, as we all know, bleeped out the offending term of art, and several pundits described themselves as shocked, stunned, appalled, dismayed, disturbed, startled, offended, repelled well, the newsroom thesaurus was soon dog-eared and utterly exhausted.

A man from NBC-TV told us solemnly he was clearly saddened by his message that "George W. Bush may have stepped on his message of restoring honor and dignity to the White House today, when a microphone caught him making an undignified remark about a newspaper reporter."

Salon, the on-line "magazine," looked to the therapeutic couch for answers, and, recalling a naughty word the governor used in 1988, said his description of Mr. Clymer not necessarily the unanimous opinion on the campaign bus was part of a dreaded "pattern."

Mr. Bush, for his part, apologized, sort of, at least to anyone in the audience who might have heard the remark. Curiously, almost no one had, since the remark was muttered only to Mr. Cheney and only the microphones of a few reporters caught it. Naturally they passed it on to the waiting nation so everyone else could be offended.

It's not at all clear what Mr. Bush can do to make amends, short of ripping out a row of seats on his campaign plane and installing a fainting couch for Mr. Clymer and his offended colleagues. Gen. Irvin McDowell, one of Abraham Lincoln's luckless early generals, is not remembered for much, since he was soundly thrashed at First Manassas and then soundly thrashed again at Second Manassas before finally disappearing into the West, to wind up after the war as the superintendent of parks in San Francisco. But he was a commander considerate of the gentlemen of the press. George W. might look to his example.

"I have made arrangements for the correspondents to take the field," he telegraphed Washington after several reporters showed up to tag along after his army, with demands for telegraph operators, bunks, breakfast and maybe even Jeeps. "I have suggested to them that they should wear a white uniform, to indicate the purity of their character."

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