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Seamans: The Meaning Of "Dither"

10/28/09 7:55AM By Bill Seamans
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(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans has been thinking about the meaning of words again - well - the meaning of one word in particular.

(SEAMANS) The cohort of pundits and talking heads labors daily to come up with a fresh angle to enliven their commentaries.  It might be a sensational leak like Gen. McChrystal's demand for more troops.  Or a clever new phrase that would be picked up as the sound bite du jour by the Leno-Letterman comedy cabal.  Or the pundits might become enraptured by just one word which they will belabor in their opinions - we recall some prime examples like pander, robust, and gravitas.

The latest comes from Dick Cheney who has put the word "dither" into play.  We recall that he accused President Barack Obama of "dithering" over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.  I could not remember when I last ran across "dithering" while observing the battle of political polemics, so I turned to my dictionary to make sure that  I knew what I might be talking about.  "Dither," I learned, means more than  just being indecisive or to vacillate.  It also describes one who is in a "highly nervous, excited or agitated state."

However, our White House Obama watchers have not reported that POTUS - the President of the United States - has fallen into a "highly nervous, excited or agitated state."  Obama's golfing and basketball game, his personal family activities and his frequent speechmaking - all appear normal so Cheney's "dithering" obviously means that he thinks Obama is indecisive and vacillating but has not been reduced to a highly agitated bundle of nerves.  Obama replied this weekend when he told a military audience that he would never rush the solemn decision of sending them into harm's way - won't risk their lives unless it is absolutely necessary - and if it is he will back them up to the hilt.

And Cheney heard surprising criticism from some conservative icons like George Will who said "a bit of dithering might have been in order before we invaded Iraq in pursuit of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction."  Senator Orin Hatch added, "I would never call my president dithering."  Even John McCain remarked that he "wouldn't use that language."

We know that Afghanistan is an extremely complex problem involving more than a new surge of 40,000 more troops.  It also involves elements of strategy and casualty estimates - twenty-two of our troops have been killed in the past two days, making this the deadliest month in Afghanistan so far - all of which demand more than a quick-draw decision.

And back on Main Street, who among we the people can stand up and say "I have never dithered?"  While we're not directly responsible for military lives, dithering in our case can mean more than just procrastination - that we, too, take the time to search for the right answers.
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