Political Language

Isn’t political language wonderful? Listening to the Republican response by Thom Tillis to President Obama would have been great on Comedy Central. The first part was pure political autobiography to show how much he had accomplished in his personal life except to claim that everyone else could have done what he did. That turned out to be the good part before he turned to the President. Here were his big points:

  • 1st, he told us the President hasn’t gotten us out of the recession – unstated but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that Republicans blocked everything he tried to do, so who’s fault is that?
  • 2nd, he told us the President has left us with a huge deficit – again unstated but I know you realize that’s the legacy of a Republican administration that refused to pay its debts and a Republican House that blocked payments and refused to pay down the debt, so again, who’s fault is that?
  • 3rd, he told us the President got us into a huge mess in the Middle East – again unstated but we realize that Obama is struggling to figure out how to get us out of the mess in the Middle East that the previous Republican Administration left us with. No wonder President Bush did not want to be involved in nation-building – it’s long and hard – plus you can blame the problems on the next guy. But again, is that Obama’s fault? There is certainly a legitimate argument about what he should do, but get us into this mess? No way.
  • And of course Republicans have been saying forever that Obamacare doesn’t work, except of course that it’s turning out that it does.

Republicans will no doubt respond that I’m making tired old charges. Yet somehow the misinformation isn’t tired or old to them; it’s cutting edge.

I work hard to make sure I’m speaking to you accurately. If I can’t get my facts right, I rewrite til I can stand behind what I’m going to say, or tear up what I put together and start over. But if I were a politician none of that would matter. I could just keep repeating whatever I think folks want to hear because my supporters would believe me the first time and everyone else would eventually believe me because they’d know they heard it before so it must have been true. Politics is so much easier when repetition makes things true and the facts become irrelevant.

If only this were just theatre, instead of political theatre. These issues matter big time. Misunderstand who is responsible for what and we will remain deep in the muck.

Yes I know the instinct to deny having done anything wrong is almost universal. But these boners have been so thoroughly exposed that it is astonishing to see politicians refusing to say sorry and admit the facts.

In our political life, we have increasingly gone after people for personal peccadillos and ignored the big policy mistakes, the ones that cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, thousands of American lives and so many foreign ones that the losses have destabilized our world. So what counts? Does dishonesty matter or only when Democrats are caught? Do Republicans have no shame? What are our standards? What does matter anymore? Or are we just adrift, so lost we decide things by whether people talk like us or we like the way they comb their hair? Oh, did I mention, Tillis is leading in his Senate race.

— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, September 30, 2014.

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