Particles in Motion
Jul 16, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 41 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Obscenity of Obamacare
The Scrapbook does not pretend to be particularly innocent, let alone oblivious to the salty language that is common parlance when discussing politics. An occasional expletive can be used to great rhetorical effect, even if we don’t necessarily condone its frequent usage. The late, great John Wayne was fond of handing out engraved cigarette lighters to politicians with the message that one should, metaphorically speaking, not-so-gently engage in carnal relations with communism. And there should be no illusions about how politicians talk privately—Nixon’s secret recordings will pin your ears back, and recall how a live mike accidentally caught Dick Cheney commenting on the proctological enormity of a certain New York Times reporter.
That said, our inner fuddy-duddy recoils in disgust from the casual obscenity that seems to have become a routine feature of the president’s reelection campaign. In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare, the president tweeted that his unwieldy health care legislation was “still a BFD,” with a link to a $30 T-shirt on his campaign website with that same message on it. This, of course, was a reference to Joe Biden’s infamous hot mike moment at the signing of the legislation where he referred to the bill as a “big f—ing deal.”
This isn’t an isolated incident, either. White House press secretary Jay Carney recently admonished reporters not to “buy into the B.S. that you hear about spending.” Stephanie Cutter, the singularly grating operative in charge of the Obama campaign’s “Truth Team,” has also repeatedly accused the president’s opponents of spreading “B.S.” in official campaign videos and messages.
Making matters worse, the GOP, nominally the party of traditional cultural values and standards, is starting to get into the act. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) posted a photo on its Facebook page of a T-shirt that reads “Obama Care Still a BFTax.” According to the NRCC, if the photo got shared 5,000 times they would start selling the T-shirt.
We’d like to see the GOP keep it clean, but at least they were making a specific point in response to the president’s vulgarity. Which brings us to perhaps the worst thing about vulgarity in political messaging—it makes for bad messaging. Swearing, The Scrapbook was always taught, is the recourse of those lacking the facility with language to get their point across otherwise. (In this respect, it’s Joe Biden’s métier.)
The spectacle of a White House press secretary and head of a presidential campaign’s self-described “Truth Team” decrying B.S., when their job is to sling it, is unseemly to say the least. And who among us does not think that Obamacare is a BFD? That says nothing about whether the president’s health care reform is a good thing. Indeed, Obamacare is a BFD—as was the Hindenburg.
While Julian Assange is holed up at the Ecuadoran embassy in London hoping to gain asylum from the rape and sexual assault charges pending in Sweden, his enterprise marches on. Last week WikiLeaks began publishing the “Syria Files,” which comprise “more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies, dating from August 2006 to March 2012.”
The documents—“from the intimate correspondence of the most senior Baath party figures to records of financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations”—will be published in a number of newspapers throughout Europe and the Middle East and, in the United States, by the Associated Press. While the media buildup surrounding the Syria Files is hardly comparable to Cablegate, the cache of U.S. diplomatic cables published in 2010 by WikiLeaks, the Syria batch is many times larger.
Perhaps Cablegate’s most surprising revelation was that the U.S. Foreign Service is a competent and literate bureaucracy that clearly understands the world—even as the State Department’s policies frequently suggest otherwise. Since the Syria Files are drawn from a period that includes much of the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, this project will inevitably show a much darker and seedier aspect of international affairs.