Curses From an Old Manse

Winston Churchill: a cool man with a quip.
Winston Churchill: a cool man with a quip.
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:
Teddy Roosevelt stated the problem well when he said, “A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”  Obama got in trouble for saying that the Cambridge Police acted “stupidly” when they arrested Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  You know what’s stupid?  People thinking that Obama was wrong for using the word stupid.  I’m just happy to finally have a president who knows when to use an adverb.  In days of yore, politicians ripped each other apart leaving a path of verbal destruction as far as the monocled eye could see, and people didn’t care.  (However, TR also said “Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.”  So maybe sometimes it’s actually better not to say exactly what you think, especially if your opinions are stupid.) 


Many moons ago, political figures could speak freely.  This was probably because they had just invented freedom of speech, and everyone was all excited to try it out.  Thomas Jefferson was known for yelling “fire” during dinner at Monticello, and then as his slaves frantically fled the house he would laugh and laugh and laugh, but then the slaves realized he was kidding and they laughed too, and everyone thought that was a very good joke. 


My personal favorite is Winston Churchill, who was a complete boss.  This one time, an annoying lady told him he was drunk.  He replied, that yes he was, but “you are ugly.  In the morning, I shall be sober.”  Burn!  John Randolph, a senator from Virginia, said of Edward Livingstone, “Like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks.”  Napoleon called Charles Mourice de Talleyrad-Perigord, a French diplomat, “a silk stocking filled with dung.”  (To which he replied, “What’s that?  Sorry, I can hear something, but it just sounds like tiny tiny ants squeeking.”)  Then Jefferson called Napoleon “a cold-blooded, calculating, unprincipled usurper, without a virtue; no statesman, knowing nothing of commerce, political economy, or civil government, and supplying ignorance by bold presumption.”  He probably also added “USA USA USA,” after that but people couldn’t write fast enough to get it down.


People were also allowed to be more blunt in their opinions on religion.  Patrick Henry said, “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” (Homer looked down from Heaven and said, “You’re lucky printing hadn’t been invented in my day.  Also, you’re lucky I’m blind and can’t see your face so as to better punch you in it.”)  Abigail Adams said, “A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest man without the fear of God.”  Today, if someone said any of these things, they would have so many religious and first amendment groups on their cases, and rightly so.  Abigail Adams was pretty adorable, though, especially in the HBO movie.


In conclusion, I strongly disagree with anyone caring about this “stupidly” business.  Politics is serious, and sometimes people get fired up.  Diplomatic speaking is for diplomats. 


The end.


Wait, remember that time George W. Bush called that New York Times reporter a “major league asshole?”  That was funny.


Ok, now The End.


3 thoughts on “Curses From an Old Manse

  1. I like those points. One caveat though: a censorious approach to language useage by public figures has generally been a hallmark of pundits, activists and mouthpieces on the leftward end of the political spectrum over the past quarter-century (it wasn’t always so). That’s why it’s now necessary for politicians to be neurotically uptight, scripted, impersonal and politically correct in their public statements lest some opportunitst target them with a career-destroying “-ist” word (the -ist words always stick).

    The irony here is that, of the three of them (Gates, Obama, Crowley), it was Crowley’s response to Obama’s subsequent forays that were the most professional, restrained…and intelligent. I think that’s what saved him, though (of course) no one is allowed to point this out. Obama erred in allowing himself to be baited into the controversy.

    That said, Gates probably shouldn’t have been taken into custody.

  2. Usually I don’t read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, very great post.

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