Decoding Presidential Rhetoric

Words are the currency of politics.

That currency has been devalued greatly since the days of peripatetic Aristotelian philosophers wandering the grounds at Lyceum.

Where our forefathers of self-governance sought to attach deep meaning to political discourse, today’s politicos seek mainly to remove significance from the words they speak.

Locally, a Governor of Illinois can win re-election by promising that he is “getting things done for people.”  If Rod Blagojevich could have been more vague, he would have been.  It just was not possible.

At the national level, we get the silliness of Presidential candidates arguing over who is the greater “agent for change” as if the inevitable needed an agent.

“Yes We Can” becomes a Pavlovian applause line with no one daring to ask the uncomfortable question, “Yes we can, do what?”

Hillary Clinton un-ironically promotes her back-to-the-future health care plan predicated on mandated coverage as a triumph of consumer “choice”.  If I understand this, Americans will be afforded the “forced choice” of “freely purchasing” Hillarycare.  Call it a “jumbo shrimp” in every pot.

Barack Obama and his surrogates tell us that it is time to “stop the partisan bickering” and “get to work”.  What Obama means is that it is time to do what he wants to do, which oddly includes punishing people who do “get to work” by increasing taxes on that exercise.  In Obamaspeak, that’s called rolling back the “tax cuts for the rich.”   

How do you know if you are “rich” in this hazy realm of confused vocabulary? 

Since 1 in 3 Americans pay no federal income tax after taking advantage of deductions and tax credits, you are “rich” by the Obama standard if you do pay taxes.  But with Obama at the helm, that is sure to, ahem, “change” — you’ll pay more.

In the spirit of bi-partisanship, the Republicans have shown a similar rhetorical propensity.  After Super Tuesday, the likely GOP Presidential nominee will be the guy who has said he served his country “for patriotism, not profit.” 

If you are wondering when making a profit became an unpatriotic act in America, you can query John McCain when he and his “Straight Talk Express” (also promoted un-ironically) campaign at a job site near you.

The only thing we can be certain about from the remaining political linguists in 2008 is that there will expressly be no straight talk.