In January 2009, as Barack Obama was preparing to take over the White House from George W. Bush,Slate columnist John Dickerson wrote a piece on rhetoric, with the subhed “When politicians declare war on something, it’s not usually a good sign.” The nut:
Politicians are fond of comparing things that aren’t war to war. It’s both an abuse of language and a rhetorical trick. [...]
Obama campaigned against Bush’s use of fear as the justifying language of public policy. But he has almost matched his running mate Biden in his use of dire language to describe the severity of the economic stakes.
Well, that was then. Last week, Dickerson, who is also political director of CBS News, had a new piece out, headlined “Go for the Throat! Why if he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party.” His argument now: