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Sun Dec 9, 2012, 09:34 AM

Paul Begala on Washington’s Euphemistic Deceptions

Dec 10, 2012 12:00 AM EST

‘Reform’ taxes? ‘Fix’ Medicare? Yeah, right.

“Political speech and writing,” George Orwell wrote in a biting and brilliant critique, “are largely the defense of the indefensible.” The most political of writers bemoaned the fact that “political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Orwell was reacting to the desperate euphemisms employed by members of the British intelligentsia in his day who had taken to defending the indefensible savagery of Stalinism, but there are plenty of examples in today’s debate over America’s debt.

I tried to persuade Bill Clinton to mock one of today’s more egregious euphemisms—the Republicans’ use of words like “fix” to describe what they want to do to Medicare—as he prepared his speech to the Democratic National Convention in September. Here’s the line I pitched him: “Every time I hear Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan say they want to ‘fix’ Medicare, it reminds me of when that veterinarian said he wanted to ‘fix’ my old dog Buddy. But it was not a fix. It was a cut, and there’s a difference.”

Our former president, you may be comforted to know, thought it best not to include in one of the most important speeches of the election a dog-castration joke. But the point I was trying to make remains important: beware of euphemisms—they mask mischief.

Republicans don’t want to “fix” Medicare or “reform” Medicare. And Lord knows they don’t want to “modernize” it or—as the deeply disingenuous Paul Ryan says—“protect and strengthen Medicare.” No, they want to end it. Newt Gingrich showed admirable clarity of language in 1996 when he said of the agency that financed Medicare, “We believe it’s going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it.” When something withers on the vine, it dies.

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Reply Paul Begala on Washington’s Euphemistic Deceptions (Original post)
DonViejo Dec 2012 OP
JLII Dec 2012 #1
CTyankee Dec 2012 #2

Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 10:40 AM

1. Are euphemisms...


...limited to Republicans as Begala suggests?

Labor Democrats of a certain age remain disgusted with Clinton's enthusiastic endorsement of "modernization" as a euphemism for "screwing the middle class".

Clinton "modernized" trade with NAFTA early on. In the terminal phase of his corporatist regency Clinton seemed positively giddy with enthusiasm signing bills "modernizing" banking (by repealing Glass-Steagall) and "modernizing" commodities futures trading (by removing the possibility of CFTC regulations on derivatives).

Begala seems a day late and a dollar short.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 11:25 AM

2. I emailed Joe Scarborough about this. He would say he was a small government conservative in

one breath and then turn around and say we have to cut medicare to "save" in another breath. I told him that I simply didn't believe him and that what he was up to was urging cuts to medicare in the full knowledge that weakening the program will eventually make people think it wasn't worth it. I siad that I knew full well that his endgame was the destruction of medicare and he knew it and was being purposely deceptive.

In other words, I called him a LIAR.

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