Friday, June 10, 2005

Effective elective invective perspective

Political invective just ain't what is used to be (Of course, nothing has ever been what it used to be.). Via Brad DeLong, the Valve laments the current low standard of political insult and recalls Eugene Debs on Teddy Roosevelt:
This political pet of the plutocrats, this bogus reformer, this shreiking charlatan, this raving mountebank, this crazy-horse of Oyster Bay ranch, this blood and thunder prophet, this opera bouffe ghostdancer, this blatant quack hero, this freak of froth and foam and buncombe, this nauseating moralizer, this dysenteric scold, this chattering midwife and meddler and all-around nuisance has buncoed the people long enough and they at last know him for what he is, at least those of them who have mentality above a shell-fish, and who can tell a jibbering fraud after he has exhibited himself to them daily for a score of years.
Mrs. Semiquark recently came across this in Put Downs: A Collection of Acid Wit. H.L. Mencken describes the virtues of Warren G. Harding as a prose stylist:
... the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
Does that remind you of anybody in the White House today?

Nowadays, Republican skins are oh, so tender. Crybaby conservatives raised a huge stink about Howard Dean and his recent words. Dean didn't howl a Menckenesque aria of vituperation. He merely pointed out a couple of simple truths. First, Dean said that many Republican leaders "have never made an honest living in their lives."

And second, the Republican party is
not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. They pretty much--they all behave the same and they all look the same, and they all--you know, it's pretty much a white, Christian party. And the Democrats here adopt everybody you can think of in our party.
To illustrate this, John Aravosis at Americablog helpfully provides a group portrait of all the black Republicans in Congress. It's empty white space, with an ornate frame.

What Dean said, and how the Republican reacted, reminds me of Harry Truman's, "I don't give them hell, I just tell them the truth and they think it's hell."


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