“…and then there’s, um, alcohol, and algorithms, and Al Gore, and…”

The thing about Lindsey Graham is that he’s normally dumb enough that when he says a thing that could either be a bad joke or something extra dumb, you’re never sure which way to go with it. So it is with this gem of a quote:

“Everything that starts with ‘Al’ in the Middle East is bad news,” Graham said at a dinner in Boston on Monday with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to investigative journalist Uri Blau.

Graham was referencing the Arabic word for “the.”

“Al-Qaida, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula,” he continued. He went on to discuss U.S. relations with Israel and the Arab world, threatening the funding of the United Nations if it tried to “marginalized” Israel.

Did you catch the stupid part there? Let’s let Haaretz emphasize it for you:

The problem – linguistically – with Graham’s comment is that “Al” is the definite article in Arabic (i.e. equivalent to English’s “the”), and usually appears before most Arabic proper nouns, especially place and personal names.

“Place and personal names” like, oh, al-Iraq, which is kind of an important place for American interests at the moment. Or a place called al-Wilayat al-Muttahidah al-Amrikiyah (if this site’s stats are accurate, you probably live there). Other instances of “things in the Middle East” that start with “al” include:

  • algebra
  • algorithm
  • alcohol
  • alchemy, from whence we got chemistry

Disgruntled high school students might think that at least three of these four things are bad news, but you’d hope for a more nuanced view from a US Senator who claims to be his party’s leader on foreign policy.

But heck, Graham was just trying to make a joke, right? Right????

“Yes, it was a joke. I am a joke maker.”

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