The Bush administration's relationship with the English language, I confess, just drives me up the wall. How can these people be so comically doofus with the language one minute and so brilliantly Orwellian the next?

President Bush's misadventures with the dictionary are legendary, and they're the gift that keeps on giving. Perhaps my favorite classic came while Bush was trying to sell his Social Security program in Upstate New York, and he uttered this timeless sentence: "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

The frightening thing is that we all understood what he meant. We even understood him when he made his recent assertion about the imprisoned evildoers at Guantanamo Bay, that they are "people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble." Before you could wonder where they were getting their hands on the screwdrivers and wrenches, he added, "That means not tell the truth."

No, it doesn't, Mr. President. But never mind.

Of course, the president's father waged his own battle against the tyranny of syntax and the dictatorship of grammar. His fumbles became a running gag on "Saturday Night Live" and even prompted gentle gibes from his peers: Once, the president of Uruguay welcomed George Bush the First to Montevideo and, as the two leaders stood together, the Uruguayan told reporters he would "answer any questions in my broken English, which is, of course, our common language here."

George W., however, makes his father sound like Seneca. He hasn't received the same kind of ribbing from other world leaders, but maybe they're afraid they might provoke an invasion or something.

Then there's Vice President Cheney, who suddenly has a different problem with the language: He's taken to blurting out things that just manifestly are not true.

The Iraq insurgency is in its "last throes''? In all the damage control that followed that little outburst, functionaries found it hard to come up with a defense that didn't begin, "What the vice president meant to say was . . ."

Undaunted, Cheney then described the life of the hundreds of prisoners being held at Guantanamo: "They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want." He made it sound better than most of the vacations I've paid good money for, although as a general rule I take a pass on constant interrogation and occasional abuse.

No, there's nothing sinister about Bush's fumbles, and, yes, Cheney does seem to genuinely believe the alternate reality he describes. But for an example of truly Orwellian doublespeak, consider the following:

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

That is what Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, said to a group of New York conservatives last month, and I don't know how to describe it other than as a Big Lie that could have been ghostwritten by Big Brother. Rove is making an outrageous attempt to rewrite history. There was no "liberal" or "conservative" response to the Sept. 11 attacks; there was an American response. Liberals and conservatives alike died in those world-changing attacks; liberals and conservatives alike experienced the horror of that September morning and resolved to take action.

There was support across the political spectrum for Bush's decision to go into Afghanistan, destroy al Qaeda, and capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Karl Rove knows that, but he says otherwise.

A year later, yes, there was disagreement over whether the United States should invade Iraq. Many people, including many liberals, believed there was no evidence that Iraq had been involved in Sept. 11 or that it presented enough of a threat to the United States to divert attention from the hunt for bin Laden.

"Liberals" were right, in my view. But even if the "liberal" view had turned out to be wrong, Rove's charges still would be baseless and libelous. That's like saying that "conservatives" favor bombing abortion clinics, or that "conservatives" favor establishment of a state religion.

In his speech, Rove alternates his references to generic "liberals" with mentions of, Michael Moore and Howard Dean, as if they represented a single view of the world; they don't. Since then, in explaining -- but not retracting -- his remarks, he has tossed in George Soros as well.

He uses the language skillfully, all right. It's just that he seems to be using it to compile his own growing list of Enemies of the People.