Although many Americans view politics as akin to warfare, politicians often obscure its most unpleasant aspects with euphemisms that deceive their opponents or even themselves. Here are three currently circulating: 1) "special interests"; 2) "economic uncertainty"; 3) "peace process."
Few terms are used more often by President Obama than "special interests." It is shorthand for anyone who opposes his policies. They are found in Congress, in the media, in the business community and in the Tea Party movement. Now it might seem odd for me to refer to this term as a euphemism when it is clearly pejorative. But when one reflects on what is being critically tagged, its euphemistic properties emerge.
The fact that special interests are so ubiquitous gives the game away. The special interests in question are politicians, journalists, business people and ordinary citizens. These categories of Americans practically define our nation. But when they exercise their rights under the Constitution to object to everything from bailouts and ObamaCare to deficit spending and seizure of private property, they become transformed into special interests.
It is evident that the real targets of Obama's determination to remake America are those who hold responsibilities in our fundamental institutions. Calling them special interests obscures Obama's real motive, which is to reduce their power in order to facilitate centralized government.
As long as many imagine that he is singling out specific scoundrels rather than making war against those who make the country work, we give the President the benefit of the doubt. But Obama was not engaging in rhetorical excess when he said he intended to transform America. He meant it.
The next euphemism for consideration is "economic uncertainty." One of the most powerful arguments that Obama's critics have against his refusal to extend existing tax rates beyond January 1 is that investors are uncertain about their opportunities. Creditors are sitting on money because they are not sure if much of it will be confiscated by the government.
Actually, there is no uncertainty at all. Only those who, like Charlie Brown, believe that Lucy will not pull the football away just before he kicks, imagine that Obama will change course and ask Congress to retain the current rates of taxation.
The same people said that Obama was not as leftist as indicated by his writings, speeches and actions (not to mention his personal history and his circle of friends). The narrow support in Congress for his health care plan, and especially the victory of Scott Brown for Senator in Massachusetts that eliminated the Democrats' veto-proof majority, was supposed to move Obama toward the political center. But it didn't. Instead, the 2,000-plus page legislation (read by few) was jammed through with bare majorities in both houses.
Now, as polls indicate a Republican landslide, the same voices say that Obama will be forced to pivot a rightward and compromise with Republicans. But this is just about uncertain as the economic prospects. The President would rather die than admit that he was wrong about his policies.
Finally, there is the "peace process." This euphemism has suddenly found new application in Afghanistan, where the media report that our government is facilitating peace talks between President Karzai and the Taliban. If these reports are true, then Obama is about to bring about in Afghanistan what he previously demanded for Iraq: defeat.
To distract us, Obama insisted as a presidential candidate that, by taking down Saddam Hussein's tyranny we had "taken our eyes off the ball" in Afghanistan, the base of al Qaeda. Many of us found it hard to take him seriously.
Our pessimism was warranted. With an unrealistic withdrawal date for July 2011, Obama has sent a disquieting signal to our friends and enemies that America had more important objectives than crushing terrorists.
As the deadline draws near, the warring parties are each trying to make the best–or take full advantage — of the situation. Our allies are pulling out and the Afghan president is negotiating with the Taliban with what assets he still possesses. After the American withdrawal there will not be peace but the restoration of the Taliban to power.
Euphemisms can be useful in taking the hard edge off things. But when they obscure the truth, they keep us from doing what needs to be done. The size of the Democrats' defeat next month will be an indication of the extent to which Americans have seen through the euphemisms.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of " Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at email@example.com.