Eliding can be economical, but it can also be distortion. When it is, it’s wrong. Take this from the master of civility himself, George Will:
>Wednesday’s Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb “tried to avoid President Bush,” refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, “How’s your boy?” Webb replied, “I’d like to get them [sic] out of Iraq.” When the president again asked “How’s your boy?” Webb replied, “That’s between me and my boy.”
He says this in order to demonstrate Webb’s incivility.
>Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb’s more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being — one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.
But the incivility here is Will’s, since he distorts the Post article he refers to as evidence of Webb’s rudeness:
>At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia’s newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn’t long before Bush found him.
>”How’s your boy?” Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.
>”I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.
>“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”
>”That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.
The emphasized portion is missing from Will’s account (even though his op-ed links to it). The boor, in this account, is Bush, not Webb. Webb’s response makes it obvious how his boy–and many other boys and girls–is doing: not very well, wanting to leave, wanting to come home.
A more tactful President could have said simply, “so do I.”