Rosetta Stone for Political Speak
How can you tell a politician is lying? His lips are moving.
That old joke has been around possibly since the first troglodytes gathered around a fire to plot how best to hunt down dinner. It has survived largely because it is true. Whether it is an outright lie or what we concede as ‘political doublespeak,’ politicians have a language of their own that emphasizes their belief in the stupidity of those of us who elect them.
It has always been so, but I believe it becomes a little worse each election cycle, and has reached a point that it may be the chief reason for citizens’ distrust of government. Very simply, whether they are politicians or bureaucrats, you can’t trust what they say. They lie! As lawyers for the most part, they have been taught the very best ways to manipulate, distort, and corrupt the language so that they can deliver a message to you that sounds, to the naive and uninformed, like one thing, but actually means something completely different. Even the non-lawyer politicians quickly pick up on this technique. “I did not have sex with that woman,” is a sentence that has become the poster child of disingenuous politispeak. I’m certain that politicians around the nation swell with pride each time they remember the Clinton pronouncement, and use it as the highest possible target at which to aim their syntax as they attempt to hoodwink the rest of us.
One great and longstanding example of this political mendaciousness is the decades-old debate about cutting government spending on just about any program you can name. Each election year, one party does its very best to frighten voters into believing the other party is going to “cut” their benefits in Social Security, Medicare, education spending, or any of hundreds of other programs. Whether the mantra is “Throw grandma under the bus,” or “Make America vulnerable to attack by cutting defense spending,” politicians would like us to tremble at the prospect of having important parts of our government benefits “cut” from beneath out feet. Personally, I think there are hundreds of government programs and agencies that deserve massive and real cuts in funding. That won’t happen, however, because politicians never really mean “cuts.” At best, they are talking about reducing the automatic rate of annual increase in spending, maybe from 5% to 4 ½. So you can define the word “cut” as meaning a real increase in spending that is ever so slightly less than it would have been otherwise. That is about as close as you can ever hope to see a politician actually “cut” spending. Ronald Reagan hit the bulls eye when he said, “A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”
I have never been accused of being “politically correct,” so I will say it plainly as I see it.
Those of us who work for a living, who contribute to society, who pay taxes, who actually vote for these politicians even though we know they are deceiving us with their campaign rhetoric, have become far too complacent for much too long in the face of political corruption that has economically disabled this nation and brought us to the edge of the abyss. Politicians know our attention is centered on family, work, paying bills, and other personal matters, so they are free to treat us as they will with relative impunity. To fill your mind with clichés, it is past time for us to “pull our heads out of the sand,” and to “look into the abyss to see if we have any character,” before the abyss engulfs us as a nation.
We need to look to the past for the ideals and truths that founded this nation and allowed it to grow into the undisputed leader of the free world. Our current status, under the leadership of our current batch of politicians, is shaky at best, and is greatly diminished from what it was only a few decades ago. We need to remember the politicians who spoke the truth and spoke it clearly so all could understand and believe.
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy
“If we lose this freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.”
Those words are all straightforward, heartfelt, and unimpeachable. When was the last time you heard a politician speak so clearly?