Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Those Phrases


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So far, I haven't noticed too many similarities between Barack Obama and Richard Nixon--not that I've been looking for them very hard. I did think of the two in conjunction when I heard Obama say several times, "Let me be clear." Nixon used to say, "Let me be crystal clear" or "Let me make this crystal clear." Of course, Nixon was and Obama is ambitious, bright, and politically shrewd: how do you get to be president without being so? Even Gerald Ford had to be smarter than he seemed, and he became president only because Nixon resigned.

Nixon and Obama both chose tough, hardened, bare-knuckles men as chiefs of staff--Obama's is Rahm Emanuel, and Nixon's was H.R. Haldeman. Obama's the far better orator, and at least so far, Obama seems to have none of the Nixonian paranoia or tendency toward self-destruction. I do think Obama, like most if not all politicians, has some interesting contradictions to work out, including the issue of gay and lesbian citizens and civil rights. Most politicians choose simply not to work them out but to finesse them, so this will be interesting to watch. Constitutionally, there just seems to be no good reason to treat gay and lesbian citizens differently, but then again, I'm no Constitutional scholar. Morally and ethically, I can't think of a reason to treat such citizens differently either, in terms of civil rights, etc.--the purview of politicians.


Those Phrases

To be honest, I don't know why
I'd start a sentence with "to be
honest," unless I were implying honesty
might be a new technique I was about
to try out. In all candor, I don't
have to say I don't like "in all
candor," but I don't. "I must say"
nothing. When people say, "Just let
me say . . .," to me, they've already
started saying it, so it's not a
question of my letting them. Quite
frankly, I prefer the phrase
"Somewhat frankly" because it's
more entertaining and honest. To
tell you the truth, "to tell you
the truth" is just an expression,
neither truth nor lie but a dweller
on the idiomatic frontier. Let me
be clear, or let me be obscure:
your choice! Confidentially,
and just between you and me, there
seems to be no confidentiality.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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