Confusion abounds from the candidates themselves, giving new meaning to the term “Etch-a-Sketch,” a colorful description of the erasing-and-ever-shifting positions of a particular presidential candidate, who shall remain nameless.
Use of Language
The language of economics and individualism has replaced the language of our common circumstances and shared risks. That’s why what used to be considered social insurance is now noted as “entitlements,” viewed by some as a threat to our national well-being instead of as a safety net for family-income security. In the highly emotional issue of illegal immigration, we also see dehumanizing language.
The danger of using euphemisms for hard truths in the public arena is that you’ll eventually lose credibility and the trust of the people you’re trying to persuade. The audience rightfully feels that you think they are stupid.
After his treatment for prostate cancer, the journalist Dana Jennings cringed when he was described as being “brave” in his “fight” and “battle” against the disease. He says, “It pays to have a positive outlook, I think, but that in no way translates to ‘fighting’ cancer. Cancer simply is.” Later he says, “bravery entails choice, and most patients have very little choice but to undergo treatment.”
No matter how you feel about the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen laid out his personal position with great clarity and calm last week – an approach all too unusual when public figures talk about hot issues like gays in the military.
Barack Obama is a great writer and orator. But since becoming president, he’s had to focus his attention on a slew of mind-boggling problems. So, except for foreign travel and the occasional campaign-like drive-by into the “heartland” – where he riles up “real people” at fake rallies about healthcare or “fat cat” bankers – he’s holed himself up at the White House with experts.