Irritating phrases and words are not confined to political circles, or solely to Washington, although here in the nation’s capital they burrow in and proliferate like obsolete, but entrenched, government programs. This is a call to arms to fight them—but only metaphorically.
15: “WAR ON [FILL IN THE BLANK]” Syria’s civil war has produced 2.5 million refugees and a death toll of 160,000, a tragedy that has galvanized neither major political party into action. So next time a Democrat brays about the so-called Republican “war on women” or a Republican trumpets the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” tell them you’ve seen what real war looks like—and ask what the U.S. can do to stop it.
14. “TAX HIKE” It’s not a “hike.” What are you going to do, put it in a knapsack and take it for a walk? It’s a tax increase. This usage was coined by headline writers because it’s shorter. Speaker of the House John Boehner, who often employs this phrase, has no such excuse.
13. “RIGHT-WING” This term is bandied about carelessly, usually as a pejorative. In “The Devil’s Dictionary,” Ambrose Bierce defined “conservative.” Here is the entry, in its entirety: “CONSERVATIVE, n. a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” The converse of “right-wing,” a label freely applied to Fox News and countless Republican elected officials, is not “liberal,” it’s “left wing.”
11. “TALKING POINTS” Pols who recite self-serving spin written by others while answering basic questions about their jobs are essentially reading the stage directions. It suggests they are too lazy to invent their own fibs or excuses—or that they work for control freaks who don’t trust them to know their own subject matter. This is a discordant trait in a high-ranking official, such as U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice or anyone who attended top-notch schools, which also fits Rice. She was a history major at Stanford and a Rhodes scholar with a master’s degree and a doctorate from Oxford.