Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the agreement with the syndicators means this colu,m appears here a week after its newspaper release)


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Don’t you sometimes wish that for once, someone would break off a romantic relationship by saying, “It’s not me, it’s you.” Or that a boss firing an employee would end the memo with, “We wish him the very worst.”

The point is, there are so many situations when it would be wonderful if those involved simply said what they meant, instead of using platitudes that are transparent anyway.

That’s certainly the case in politics. In fact, it is almost always the case in politics. Imagine how refreshing it would be if everyone just bleated the truth instead of putting lipstick on their spinning piggishness.

The president could get over his “let’s reason together” act and hammer away at the Republicans with his real feelings. Instead of calling for a “balanced approach,” he’d shout: “These tea-party crazies are out to destroy the country. Their fanaticism is matched only by their simple-minded understanding of government.” Instead of telling big business, “I’m convinced we can and must work together,” which is what he told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce meeting a few months ago, he’d tell them: “You guys are predators who have wreaked havoc on the country just to fill your financial bellies to the point of obesity. Instead of coddling you, we should arrest you — or at the very least tax you blind!”

But no, the president prefers subtlety, based on the mistaken belief that people are in the mood for reasoned nuance. And certainly, he’s not the only one who uses words as subterfuge.

Rick Perry is a master. With his ready-shoot-aim gun-slinging rhetoric, like when he called the Federal Reserve chairman “treasonous,” he actually was saying “I ain’t altogether comprehendin’ all this complex stuff.”

Michele Bachmann has got it down pat. Her mix of harsh simple-mindedness and never-ending factual errors leaves everyone wondering what she was saying. Fox News’ Chris Wallace caused an uproar when he asked her, “Are you a flake?” The question should have been, “Yes, you’re very clever, but do you have the brains for this job?”

It’s not only the wing nuts. Mitt Romney’s “Corporations are people” obviously was referring to the rich people who laid off millions of other people. When John Boehner insists on calling any tax increase “job killing,” he really means “campaign-contributions-from-the-wealthy killing.”

For that matter, “campaign contribution” is just another term for “bribe.”

Look, it’s not only the politicians who play these word games. How about all of us media hangers-on. When a Rush Limbaugh makes one of his outrageously bigoted or mind-bogglingly nasty comments, he’s really saying: “Look. I didn’t mean a word of this. No rational person would. But I gotta tell you, it’s making me a boatload of money.”

We all play this game. When we respond to the most vitriolic email from readers and viewers with “First I want to thank you for your thoughtful remarks, etc., etc.,” translate that to “That’s probably the most insane comment I have ever gotten. Have you considered therapy?”

And don’t get me started on “Fair and Balanced.”

All of this does the disservice of masking the anger that is consuming our society. Instead of glossing over a vicious fight with some platitude about compromise, wouldn’t it be great to see one of the combatants extend his hand to the other and say, “Hard feelings.”

At least it would be honest. Because, sad to say, what too many of the politicians really mean these days is really mean.

© 2011 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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