Whenever I hear a lawyer include a qualifier in a statement, my suspicions are aroused. When that lawyer is Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama, I am doubly suspicious, because the man has a history of evasive qualifiers that is almost Clintonian.
So when he spoke about his relationship with Bill Ayers in the ABC News debate Wednesday night, I was struck by this usage [emphasis added]:
"This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis."
"On a regular basis" means keeping to a schedule. Weekly meetings to exchange ideas, or maybe a semi-annual retreat to compare notes. But it leaves plenty of room for the occasional phone call, a luncheon now and then, or maybe even a get together with other Hyde Park radicals every once in a awhile.
It does not rule out exchanging ideas. Which is quite interesting, isn't it? Obama could have chosen much stronger language to distance himself from the unrepentant terror bomber, but he didn't.
I didn't bother commenting on this little language game because I thought it was so transparent. But reader Jim Head advises me that it seems to have escaped media notice. He notes that Obama seems to throw in "regularly" as a qualifier now and then (if not regularly).
It is time to put Obama on the same short list as Bill ("it depends on what the meaning of is, is") Clinton, as someone whose words must be very carefully parsed, because he has learned how to convey a false impression while sticking to the literal truth.