WASHINGTON – This one has gotten a little ic-ky for the White House.
President Bush said Monday he wasn't trying to disparage the party now running Congress by referring to it as the "Democrat majority" — as opposed to the "Democratic majority" — in his State of the Union speech.
"That was an oversight," Bush said in an interview with National Public Radio. "I mean, I'm not trying to needle."
Bush's dropping of the "ic" at the end of the word prompted grumbling by Democrats that he purposely got their name wrong.
This is not a new charge. The late President Reagan used to refer to the "Democrat Party." Democratic leaders have long considered it demeaning when their suffix is omitted, and some of them figured it was no accident in a speech as highly choreographed and rehearsed as Bush's State of the Union.
Bush said he wasn't even aware that he had done it.
"I meant to be saying, why don't we show the American people we can actually work together?" Bush said.
The verbal slip came in the same breath as the president was congratulating Democrats for winning the House and Senate in the November election.
In the language the president was supposed to read, the reference was "Democratic," not "Democrat."
Bush said the theme of his speech was about cooperating with Democrats on big issues such as Social Security.
Yet, after another bitter campaign season in 2006, that talk of bipartisanship comes with plenty of skepticism.
"There is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town," Bush said. "And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."
Then the president conceded: "I'm not that good at pronouncing words anyway."
Bush plans to speak to the House Democratic Caucus at its conference this weekend in Virginia.
On the president's schedule, that event is referred to as the "House Democrat Conference."