The Euphemism Presidency

posted at 3:30 pm on April 7, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Jonah Goldberg skewers the new administration for its attempt to roll back the nomenclature of the Bush era, one euphemism at a time.  At times, it seems as though the word change substitutes for actual policy change.  Doesn’t the government have higher priorities than acting as a Roget’s Thesaurus for bureaucrats?

He has put rhetorical innovation on an equal footing with policy innovation. Exhibit A: “Overseas contingency operations.” That’s the Obama administration’s term of choice to replace “the long war” or “the global war on terror.” No doubt they were inspired by the famous Leo Tolstoy novel, Overseas Contingency Operations and Cessation of Overseas Contingency Operations, later dumbed-down by the publisher to War and Peace.

Janet Napolitano, head of Obama’s Department of Homeland Security — primarily created to deal with terrorist attacks in the wake of 9/11 — has decided “terrorist attack” is too hard-edged. It’s “man-caused disasters” now. “That is perhaps only a nuance,” Napolitano explained to a German newsmagazine, “but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

Meanwhile, the White House has announced that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will no longer be called “enemy combatants.” No word yet on what the new term will be. No doubt the poetic euphony of “man-caused disasters” and “overseas contingency operations” sets a very high bar for Obama’s Office of Euphemism Generation. But surely “Men Prone to Disaster Causation” or “Overseas Counter-Contingency Operators” are the most obvious choices. My friend Mark Steyn, however, suggests going another way: “Future Facebook Friends.”

We had a lot of fun with that last one around the conservative blogosphere, in a gallows-humor sort of way — the kind of laugh Barack Obama himself enjoys now and again.  My preference: future security consultants.  Laugh if you will, but don’t be surprised to see MS-NBC hire one or two for that purpose, once we close Gitmo.

Jonah describes this as a “moral failing,” an inability to face tough choices.  Instead of actually dealing with the uncomfortable realities of terrorism, we call it “man-caused disasters” as a way to strip responsibility from the act, and therefore the need to deal with the intent to kill.  After all, a “disaster” like Katrina can be blamed on George Bush, but a man-caused disaster just happens.  In fact, maybe Napolitano can make up bumper stickers that say, “Man-caused disaster happens!”  They’ll sell like hot cakes … to the Code Pink, International ANSWER, and World Can’t Wait crowds.

What’s next from the Department of Orwell in the West Wing?  Shall we call homicides “early terminations”?  It’s on the same level as calling fish “sea kittens,” PETA’s attempt to propagandize children into vegetarianism.  The Obama administration thinks we’re all children, apparently.

Jonah Goldberg will appear tonight at the University of Minnesota at 7 pm to talk about his book Liberal Fascism and its application to the green movement.  I’ll try to be there to cover it for Hot Air, but if you’re in the area, CFACT will have the event at 125 Willey Hall in Minneapolis.  Here’s the web site announcement, too.


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Hey, getalife, have you enlisted to fight in YOUR president’s war yet?

OhioCoastie on April 7, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Oops. I meant YOUR president’s war overseas contingency operation!

OhioCoastie on April 7, 2009 at 4:37 PM

Hmm. Strikeout isn’t working.

OhioCoastie on April 7, 2009 at 4:39 PM

Use an adjective every now and then, getalive. Even if all you can come up with is “The big tall President with the funny ears has won over the world, they’re bowing to him in droves” would be an improvement over “The President has won over the world.” Or instead of “Adults are in charge” you could say “The goofy libs are in charge of changing the terminology of white house policies so that the world will be fooled into thinking they’ve invented something new. Practice! You can do it!

scalleywag on April 7, 2009 at 4:41 PM

Meanwhile, the White House has announced that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will no longer be called “enemy combatants.” No word yet on what the new term will be.

They’ll be called “plaintiffs” in the inevitable civil lawsuit they’ll file against the U.S. for billions of dollar in damages for their wrongful imprisonment in Gitmo. And shortly after Obama’s Justice Dept., under the brilliant supervision of Eric Holder, agrees to a settlement of their claims, they’ll be called “America’s newest billionaires.”

AZCoyote on April 7, 2009 at 4:41 PM

Yoohoo! Are you enlisting, getalife?

OhioCoastie on April 7, 2009 at 4:43 PM

My boss told me today, and he’s a frequent visitor to Guantanamo, that the latest complaint/lawsuit from the inmates there is that our government, by giving them three nutritious meals a day, is trying to make them fat. He was giving me chocolates for Easter at the time and wanted me to know that wasn’t his motive in doing so. hahahaha

scalleywag on April 7, 2009 at 4:45 PM

This is the decade of euphemisms.

They call it “victory” in Iraq, say that Afghanistan is an important strategic place, say that Saudi and Pakis are valuable allies, say that Islam is peaceful, etc.etc.

Nothing new with an Arab backed imposter.

BL@KBIRD on April 7, 2009 at 4:50 PM

Cwaedh DSchoen on April 7, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Question, what was World War 1 (WW1)called in 1927?

Hint: it wasn’t World War 1, no World War 1(WW1)till World War 2(WW2).

From some old history book I gave away some years ago (written in the 1930s):
The Great War
The War to End All Wars
The European War
The World War
But, in essence, you are correct, it wasn’t referred to as WW1 until WW2 was realised as such.
I’m fairly sure that by 1942 it was being referred to as “The First World War”.
But what was your point? “Overseas Contingency Operations” is disingenuous, not just an updating of terminology.

fronclynne on April 7, 2009 at 4:50 PM

What’s the euphemism for ‘failed presidency’?
Vashta.Nerada

“Transparency”

Kinda like”The Emperor has no cloths”

An emperor President of a prosperous city Nation who cares more about clothes than military pursuits or entertainment hires two swindlers Pelosi and Reid who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth.

This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position.

(Sound familiar?)

The Emperor President cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers Minions, Saps, Lackeys, MSNBC do the same.

When the swindlers Pelosi and Reid, report that the “suit” is finished, they dress him in mime. The EmperorPresident then goes on a procession through the capital World showing off his new “clothes”.

During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth.

The EmperorPresident, however, holds his head high and continues the procession.

Close?

DSchoen on April 7, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Unlawful abortions?

Ultra late-term abortions.

crazy_legs on April 7, 2009 at 4:51 PM

What am I thinking, those are not euphemisms, they are lies. Sorry.

BL@KBIRD on April 7, 2009 at 4:51 PM

a “disaster” like Katrina can be blamed on George Bush, but a man-caused disaster just happens….
————————————————————

such an astute observation. the comparison REALLY shines a light on the absurdity of the far-left….who seem to be multiplying faster than humans in the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” What the hell is happening to our country?

Goodeye_Closed on April 7, 2009 at 4:53 PM

Didn’t read all the blogs, but did it occur to anyone that the new name change for war on terror (as I like to still call it) could qualify the “war on Climate change” under the Dept of Homeland Security?

demigogue on April 7, 2009 at 4:56 PM

You want Orwell, I give you some Orwell.
-
How’s this grab you?
-
“Postpartum abortion”
-
“Post”, as in anytime, even up to 70 to 80 years after the blessed event.
-
Hitler & Stalin did a lot of this.
———-
And a little economics:
-
Wealth is created only by mining and manufacturing, not by passing laws and printing money.
-

esblowfeld on April 7, 2009 at 4:56 PM

I just want to know one thing. How does Obama describe the attacks on 9/11? Or the previous WTC bombing, for that matter?

Were those events “Overseas contingency operations”? Would Napolitano say that many NYC emergency responders are suffering from lung problems due to a “man caused disaster”?

hawksruleva on April 7, 2009 at 5:01 PM

What’s the over/under on # of bearded freakzoids who will show up at Jonah’s event with the express purpose of shouting him down and not allowing him to speak??

Roxy Roxborough says 15. I am taking the Over.

Mike D. on April 7, 2009 at 5:02 PM

But what was your point? “Overseas Contingency Operations” is disingenuous, not just an updating of terminology.
fronclynne

Who cares what it’s called. Win it and move on.

Changing the name of something solves nothing.

Example:

LA Cal. South Central LA, ever heard of it?

Ever wonder why you haven’t heard of it in years?

LA decided to get tough and solve the crime problem in South Central LA, it, South Central LA caused a “negative” impression of the city, LA.

Whad day do?

Changed the NAME!

South Central LA no longer exist!

Crime problem SOLVED!

They changed the name to “South LA”

Changing the name of a problem does nothing to solve the problem, unless your as stupid as CA politicians.

DSchoen on April 7, 2009 at 5:03 PM

…Perhaps you could take his place in front of a podium one day…

scalleywag on April 7, 2009 at 4:31 PM

There may be less uh and ums even with a teleprompter.

shick on April 7, 2009 at 5:09 PM

Instead of dwelling in negativity, look for the positive articles for there are many.

getalife on April 7, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Of course there are many. Libs own the papers, the network news and Soros funded websites. And here we try to get the straight news and have to put up with trolls.

Christian Conservative on April 7, 2009 at 5:12 PM

“Doesn’t the government have higher priorities than acting as a Roget’s Thesaurus for bureaucrats?”

Operation RushBo.
Operation Glenn Beck
Operation …….?

DSchoen on April 7, 2009 at 5:13 PM

“Adults are in charge.”

Yep and the proof is the massive amounts of “Adult beverages” being consumed.

As a former Drunken Sailor, I couldn’t have kept up with Obama’s spending.

“The President has won over the world

Yep now that the WORLD KNOWS it can ROLL OVER OBAMA!
“getalife”

Seriously “getalife” are you a Republican sock puppet?

DSchoen on April 7, 2009 at 5:20 PM

Social security: Provisional retirement income
Welfare: Food security services
Unemployment compensation: Worker transition income
Medicaid: ??????????????
Medicare: ??????????????

It’s easy to nuance the policy by calling it something else! ;-)

LEBA on April 7, 2009 at 5:25 PM

helpless sufferers of acute cranio-rectal impaction
OhioCoastie

Will “plexotomys” be covered under “Obama Kare?”

DSchoen on April 7, 2009 at 5:36 PM

Adults are in charge.

The President has won over the world.

getalife on April 7, 2009 at 4:08 PM

/fart

bluelightbrigade on April 7, 2009 at 5:39 PM

And the new name of the President will be…..Court Jester.

right2bright on April 7, 2009 at 5:42 PM

And the new name of the President will be…..Court Jester.

right2bright on April 7, 2009 at 5:42 PM

Awesome…

How ’bout “one who clings to teleprompters”?

Jarhead68 on April 7, 2009 at 5:52 PM

“Man”-caused disasters? Don’t they mean “person”-caused disasters? or “human”-caused disasters.

Facebook should create a euphamism name generator.


Earl Pitts on ‘Sea Kittens’

ricelchew on April 7, 2009 at 5:52 PM

Hey, gang, isn’t is a little ironic that a person who has all this time to troll on this web site has a handle like “getalife”? Does everyone see the humor in that? Or am I repeating someone else’s ancient observation here?

Jarhead68 on April 7, 2009 at 5:54 PM

Instead of dwelling in negativity, look for the positive articles for there are many.

getalife on April 7, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Yeah, like North Korea’s rocket.

Since, per getalife, Obama “has won over the world”, that’s a good thing… right?

malclave on April 7, 2009 at 6:13 PM

malclave on April 7, 2009 at 4:18 PM

Okay, I’ll admit I walked into that one.

Ryan Gandy on April 7, 2009 at 8:41 PM

Donald Young was unavailable for comment.

ex-Democrat on April 7, 2009 at 9:33 PM

Reminds me of The Giver, with euthanasias called “Releasing.”

ableushoe on April 7, 2009 at 10:15 PM

The trolls keep giving us North Korean fortune cookies.

Dhuka on April 7, 2009 at 11:14 PM

Given that there are those who in public called the 9-11 victims ‘little Eichmanns’, those who perpetrated those murderers as ‘freedom fighters’, and in the same breath say it was an inside job, and say that ‘the chickens have come home to roost’ I think it matters little what these Communists have to say anymore nor how they dress it up.

Because few of the PTB spoke out against them…that’s disturbing and shows that we’ve lost the moral, intellectual, and certainly the political struggle for this country long ago.

Think about about how Hollywood views America’s past, especially the 1950s and you’ll see how the Communists think. We were already seeing their revulsion to the peace, prosperity and values of the middle class of the 1950s during that decade. Notice how things have been steadily declining since the Beatnik Generation…education, economics, government, industry, etc.? No coincidence. They have infiltrated all key areas of our society.

But we’ve been taught that Senator McCarthy was wrong, that Walter Cronkite was right, that nobody in their right mind would want to be a Conservative buffoon like Archie Bunker or Major Burns. Our fundamental beliefs in equality, liberty, fairness and open-mindedness have been used against us…and we didn’t even realize it at the time. Call somebody a Communist and the Average Joe will laugh at you…’there are not Communists in America, silly.’

Perhaps the America we believed in decades ago was already a shadow of what once was. If so, how long did it all really last? I don’t think we can afford to be delusional and not call it the way we see ‘em, because that’s what got us in this mess in the first place…blind faith. We can no longer accept those that claim to love America and are Patriots really are…judge by their words and you’ll see many for what they are…Communists and their (well-meaning) sycophants, the Liberals, that Soviet agents called ‘suckers’.

Dr. ZhivBlago on April 8, 2009 at 1:54 AM

If you end the use of ‘War on Terror’ and eradicate the word terror from the lexicon, President Obama will take claim for ending the war and victory. This is the psychological tactic, “out of sight out of mind” equals not existing.

But, it will never go away no matter how you want it to because the enemy has been at this for centuries. The only way we are going to win is eradicate the brain washing of the youth of Fundamentalist Islam that claims they are the only people who will rule.

MSGTAS on April 8, 2009 at 10:14 AM

Whats next from the Obama Newspeak Dictionary?
His little trip to the continent? Magical Misery Tour!

gordo on April 8, 2009 at 3:06 PM

The left is full of postmodernists. They seem to believe that they can shape reality by controlling how every talks and thinks. That is a poor description of the issue. For a better one, visit Jeff Goldstein’s site, Protein Wisdom. Postmodernism seems to explain most of the word games the left keeps on playing. The left really seems to believe that if we stop calling terrorists “terrorists,” they’ll stop being terrorists! It’s insane, but they’ve won enough elections that they’re in power.

Al in St. Lou on April 8, 2009 at 5:33 PM

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