Tag Archive | "Bill Clinton"

The Tyranny of Words

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“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”  The familiar expression coined by American writer Gertrude Stein conveys a simple truth: no matter what something is called, its inherent qualities remain the same.  In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare expressed a similar view through the utterance of Juliet – “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”


And yet, today, we live in an age in which a new form of language is utilized, often to circumvent the truth or conceal the fact that nothing much is actually being stated.  Who can forget the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.  A master of circumlocution and the parsing of words, President Clinton will forever be remembered for remarks like “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” and “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”  Of course, politicians have long been noted for “stretching” if not “shredding” the truth.  And, this behavior is not confined to one political ideology.  Consider that when Richard Nixon was found to have lied, his handlers characterized his remarks as “inoperative,” or that, in attempting to justify war with Iraq, George W. Bush stated that a search of Iraq uncovered “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities” – whatever it is that that means.  Today, as Congress debates healthcare reform, Democrats and Republicans alike choose their words with extreme care as they explain or answer questions regarding their respective positions on this issue, lest they reveal the unvarnished truth.


Totalitarian regimes have long known that by controlling language, they can control the thinking of their subjects.  Those who disagreed with political oppression were branded “enemies of the revolution” in Stalinist Russia and “enemies of the Reich” in Hitler’s Germany.


In free societies, framing the terms of debate facilitates political gain.  And so, adroit politicians such as Ronald Reagan demonized the term “Liberal” at the expense of their political opponents.  Likewise, Congressmen give euphemistic titles to their bills that belie the actual content of the legislation.


Of course, political expression owes much of its development to Madison Avenue where advertising think-tanks continually find new ways to promote products that separate consumers from their hard-earned money.  Using colorful adjectives and adverbs, advertising language can create in the mind of the consumer significant differences between essentially homogeneous products like gasoline or bottled water.


In the classic dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell describes a fictional language that he terms “Newspeak.”  “Newspeak” is a scaled-down form of English employed by the despotic regime in power to maintain control over its subjects.  By narrowing the vocabulary of the language, the government could limit alternative ways of thinking and consolidate its power by eliminating words describing concepts such as freedom and revolution.  One wonders how close our language of today comes to the fictional “Newspeak” of 1984.


And so, when you read or hear a statement that you do not understand because the language employed is purposefully evasive, question the writer or speaker.  Force him to state his position in more concrete terms.  You may be striking a blow for freedom, or at the very least clarity.

British Monarchy vs. U.S. Presidency

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1 Queen = 12 Presidents!!!

 

In an economic downturn, one wonders whether our Founding Fathers made the right choice in breaking away from England.  During the reign of England’s current Queen Elizabeth, we in the United States have had 12 U.S. Presidents!  Yes, that’s 16 elections, 12 inaugurations, and 11 pensions while our neighbors across the pond have had but 1 coronation.  Hmm!

 

Harry S. Truman with Queen Elizabeth

The haberdasher from Missouri looks a little uncomfortable in the presence of Royalty.

Queen with Truman

 

 

Dwight Eisenhower with Queen Elizabeth

Dwight compliments the Queen on her dazzling smile.

Queen with Eisenhower

 

 

John F. Kennedy with Queen

JFK appears a little preoccupied.  Maybe, he was expecting a call from Marilyn Monroe.

Queen with Kennedy

 

Lyndon Baines Johnson without Queen but with Dog with Floppy Ears

Apparently, LBJ had no photo ops with the Queen; however, he did take a photo with a dog named “Queen” (I made that up).

Queen Not Present - LBJ

 

 

Richard Nixon with Queen Elizabeth

Dick explains to Queen, “I’m not a crook.”

Queen with Nixon

 

 

Gerald Ford with Queen Elizabeth

What this bust shot does not show is the fact that the Queen is smiling through the pain of Gerry – noted for his clumsiness – stepping on her toes.

Queen with Ford

 

 

Jimmy Carter with Queen Elizabeth

Check out the smiles (or should I say grimaces).  These two clearly do not like each other.

Queen with Carter

 

 

Ronald Reagan with Queen Elizabeth

The Queen has just told a dilly, and the Gipper is either having a hearty laugh or yawning.

Queen with Reagan

 

 

George Bush with Queen Elizabeth

If you’re thinking that these two look like stiffs, you’re right!  This picture is actually of two mannequins.

Queen with George Bush

Bill Clinton with Queen Elizabeth

Clinton’s “cat that ate the canary” grin is because he had just been introduced to the Queen’s chubby intern.

Queen with Bill Clinton

 

 

George W. Bush with Queen Elizabeth

“Dubyah” is regaling the Queen on the bliss of rounding up cattle at the ranch in Crawford.

Queen with George W. Bush

 

 

Barack Obama with Queen Elizabeth

Now it’s the Queen’s turn to appear uncomfortable in the presence of our first African-American President (unless, of course, you count Bill Clinton).

Queen with Obama

 

 

Queen

Just thought I’d throw this picture in.

Queen

 

 

Thank you to Small Town Girl for the idea for this article.

We Get the Government We Deserve

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Election day 2009 is rapidly approaching and, while there are few races of national significance, perhaps we should all consider the fact that our votes have put our current leaders in power.  While Bill Clinton as President was the master of circumlocution (“it all depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is”), many of our representatives in Washington seem to lack his coherence.  In fact, in some instances, they do not appear to have a grasp of the English language.  Take Nancy Pelosi.  In the video above, she appears dumbfounded attempting to answer a simple question posed her by Maria Bartiromo.  Well, Ms. Pelosi, is allowing a tax cut to expire a tax increase or not?  Would someone like to translate her answer?  One has to wonder about the linguistic abilities of the voters of California’s 8th Congressional District who continually reelect her to public office.

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