Jonah Goldberg

President Obama had a grand time in Europe. He wowed the press, met the queen, gave some wonderful news conferences and got virtually none of the major policy concessions he wanted. But he did do a lot of talking, for what that's worth.

And for Obama, that's worth a lot. During the campaign, then-Sen. Obama made it clear that he thought words meant a great deal. "Don't tell me words don't matter," Obama proclaimed. " 'I have a dream' -- just words? 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' -- just words? 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' -- just words? Just speeches?"

Give the man points for consistency. 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."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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