In the age of Obama, we have come to expect Orwellian substitutes for words and phrases that already aptly describe a thing or action. Last month the Justice Department issued a directive to begin using a euphemism it had developed to replace juvenile delinquent. Henceforth, kids who get into trouble with the law are to be referred to as “justice-involved youth.”
The object of finding linguistic work-arounds is to avoid hurting the feelings of the groups and individuals so named. As another example, in 2014, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) devised a nifty substitute for welfare, which she suggested should be changed to “transitional living fund.”
The president himself is especially gifted at the art of circumlocution as he demonstrated yesterday with his reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a Texas abortion law credited with saving tens of thousands of babies’ lives. Here’s what he said:
We remain strongly committed to the protection of women’s health, including protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her right to determine her own future. Women’s opportunities are expanded and our nation is stronger when all of our citizens have accessible, affordable health care.
In his effort to avoid the dreaded A-word, he overgeneralized his comment to a point where he could have been referring to any number of health issues from the cost of insurance to the treatment of hangnail.
Granted, Obama has failed to live up to the praise heaped on him early on as a silver-tongued orator, when in fact he is tongue-tied without his teleprompter. And granted, he has put the lie repeatedly to his professed belief that the U.S. is not a patchwork of red states and blue states but one unified entity. But he’s always seemed willing to stand up for what he believes in, no matter how wrong-headed it might have been. Now he has failed even that modest test of leadership.