Ban­ish the gob­bledy­gook, PDQ

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pol­i­tics oc­ca­sion­ally drive John Boehner to tears, but rarely to plain English. Gob­bledy­gook is the Wash­ing­ton disease, and the Repub­li­cans have a bad case of it. Wonkery was not in­vented in Wash­ing­ton, but Wash­ing­ton is where it thrives.

Cor­po­rate-speak is closely re­lated to gov­ern­ment gob­bledy­gook, and those most flu­ent in the tongue have been care­fully trained and tu­tored in us­ing words not to am­plify mean­ings, but to hide them. One way to do this is to use five words when one or two will do. Per­fumed words are pre­ferred. Ini­tials and acronyms are best of all.

The Democrats are rarely word­smiths, but they un­der­stand that plain peo­ple — i.e., most of us — un­der­stand plain words. Short words are good, Win­ston Churchill ob­served, and fa­mil­iar words are bet­ter. Short, fa­mil­iar words are best of all. Ron­ald Rea­gan knew this, which is why he was called the great com­mu­ni­ca­tor. Many Repub­li­cans, hav­ing in­her­ited cor­po­rate genes, have never learned it.

This be­comes cru­cial when there’s a cri­sis, and no­body wants the fur­ther mis­ery of try­ing to fig­ure out in­side-the-Belt­way terms of art, when con­gress­men speak of the CBO and OMB, the GDP and the AMB, and the politi­cians ar­gue about whether a CR will sat­isfy the grunions at the EOB. FBI, GOP and maybe AFL-CIO are about all the al­pha­bet soup that most Amer­i­cans can digest.

Facts, the wise man said, can’t speak for them­selves and de­pend on some­one else to dis­tort them. In the cur­rent cri­sis, Pres­i­dent Obama and the Democrats have the me­dia at their back, as they nearly al­ways do. The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported this week that its na­tional poll finds that Mr. Obama’s ap­proval rat­ing has fallen deeper into Jimmy Carter coun­try, with only 37 per­cent of Amer­i­cans say he’s do­ing OK. The As­so­ci­ated Press, once the gold stan­dard for neu­tral­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, re­ported this un­der the head­line: “Poll: GOP Gets the Blame in Shut­down.” The preva­lence of such bait-and-switch jour­nal­ism is why the Repub­li­can lead­ers must do more than rant, rave and scold. If they hope to suc­ceed, they must agree on a clear and eas­ily un­der­stood goal — and learn how to talk about it.

There’s lots to talk about. The pres­i­dent is us­ing the gov­ern­ment to ha­rass peo­ple, and it’s not just the Na­tional Park Ser­vice rangers who have been in­structed to make life as mis­er­able as they can for as many peo­ple as they can. As though to rub salt in the wounds of the vet­er­ans who were evicted from the World War II Me­mo­rial on the Mall, the White House ap­proved an in­vi­ta­tion to im­mi­gra­tion amnesty groups to hold an amnesty rally near the very place the Park Ser­vice blocked the vet­er­ans, many in their 90s, who had come from thou­sands of miles away. The gov­ern­ment’s mes­sage was plain and clear: thou­sands of il­le­gal aliens are wel­come, but the vet­er­ans, all of them Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, are not.

Imag­i­na­tive abuse is what the Repub­li­cans should be talk­ing about, abuse and in­sult as a con­se­quence of Mr. Obama’s shut­down — only some­what of a shut­down, ac­tu­ally — and they should be talk­ing about it in plain, blunt terms. No more talk of CRs, of OMB pro­jec­tions and the sta­tis­tics beloved by the wonks and geeks.

The Repub­li­cans stum­ble into oc­ca­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­ploit, if only they could fig­ure out how and screw up the courage to do it. When the House and the Se­nate ap­proved an ex­cep­tion to the shut­down with fund­ing to pay death ben­e­fits for vet­er­ans, the White House said no way. “The leg­is­la­tion is not nec­es­sary,” his White House spokesman told re­porters Thurs­day. “Our view has been, this piece­meal fund­ing is, again, a gim­mick. The pres­i­dent was not pleased to learn of this prob­lem.”

No doubt. But why should he worry? He will be treated to a mil­lion­dol­lar fu­neral on that dis­tant day when his fam­ily needs one (even mes­si­ahs from Chicago will one day die), with his cof­fin rest­ing on Abraham Lin­coln’s catafalque in the Capi­tol Ro­tunda as thou­sands of mourn­ers pass by to shed a solemn tear. He might even get a tomb at Ar­ling­ton. No one will call that a gim­mick. But nei­ther is it a gim­mick to pay for a fu­neral for an old guy who lost an arm on Iwo Jima or left a leg on Omaha Beach. Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.