Calling out the White House

Last fall, in an exchange over tactics from national Republicans that helped liberal Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) narrowly avoid defeat by a conservative primary opponent, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and I got into a somewhat heated dispute about the definition of the word “egregious” (which I used to characterize the tactics that helped rescue Chafee, who went on to lose the November election.)

At the gaggle (early morning briefing) at the White House today, Snow and I did not have harsh words, but he nonetheless left me a bit confused about the President’s use of the word “contiguous”, which Mr. Bush only yesterday used to describe his vision of a Palestinian State. 

At an address on Middle East policy in the East Room of the White House yesterday, the President said that current negotiations “must guarantee that a Palestinian State is viable and contiguous.” 

According to Webster’s Dictionary, “contiguous” means “to have contact with” and synonyms cited for the word at “touching” and “adjoining.”  The last time I checked, the Gaza Strip portion of the current Palestinian Directorate does not touch or adjoin the remaining portion because it is separated by Israel.

When I asked Snow how the Administration defines a Palestinian State that is contiguous today, he told me “contiguous is the term of art for a Palestinian State that includes Gaza and the West Bank.” Beyond that, the President’s top spokesman added, he was “not going to get into final status negotiations from the podium.”

Go figure.