A President Off-Balance

Bill Tatro
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Posted: Jul 28, 2011 12:01 AM

The expression “beating a dead horse” means many things to many people, but to me it means repeating a phrase over and over again ad nauseam. 

Some of the more often used expressions are “at the end of the day,” “just a soft patch” (that’s Fed speak), or “it is what it is.” 

An ad nauseam phrase is most often employed politically though, when a politician has lost his political balance and is attempting to regain his footing with voters.   

My first experience with this political technique was former President Bill Clinton trying to survive the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  The first time I heard Clinton’s press secretary on a morning television program use the phrase “let’s just step back for a moment” it didn’t register with me. 

I then changed the channel only to hear a member of Clinton’s cabinet say “let’s just step back for a moment.”  Finally, I switched channels again and almost simultaneously I heard a member of the President’s party defending him using the same expression. 

That’s when it hit me. 

Either a late night Oval Office meeting or an early morning conference call, the political spin machine was in full operation.  The spin operation probably included overnight polling in order to evaluate the most accepted phrases, but most important, what appeals to the Independent voter, since both bases were more than likely thoroughly entrenched. 

The punctuation point was that afternoon when former First Lady Hillary Clinton was asked if she would “stick by her man.”  She immediately responded “let’s just step back for a moment.”  The circle was complete. 

All the players had been given their scripts, and their performances were carried out right on cue.

Most recently, President Obama has introduced a new tact to the ad nauseam phrase arena. 

Unlike his predecessors, he wanted to be the very first one with the agreed upon poll-analyzed think-tank driven expression that will be the clarion call for the rest of his troops, while he attempts to find his footing. 

His most recent speech included use of the expression “balanced approach,” meant to sound centrist, pleasing, and very compromising. 

However, upon further examination, a balance between more taxes and more spending is not acceptable to most people, including the independent voters. 

However, ad nauseam phrases are not meant to be analyzed, they are meant to be heard and to pacify.  Expect to hear “balanced approach” a lot the next few days as all the players eventually get the memo. 

Obama has learned his lesson well from Bill Clinton, at least on beating a dead horse. 

Really, Mr. President, seven times in a fourteen minute speech?

That’s definitely buzzword ad nauseam. And good luck with your footing.                 


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