I was listening to National Public Radio's morning "news" Monday on the way to work, during which the newsperson read the apparently "factual" statement that the United States is the only developed country that does not provide "comprehensive" health care coverage.
Perhaps only those of us who are highly trained ideological vigilantes would leap to attention on the use of the word comprehensive. To most people, the word comprehensive sounds good. Of course, those who opposed "comprehensive immigration reform" a few seasons ago might have started twitching on hearing the word applied to health care reform.
Comprehensive, as the dictionary defines it, means "including all or everything." It is very similar in meaning to the definition of total, which the dictionary defines as "complete, thorough." If something includes everything, it is complete.
Of course, it is not surprising that NPR uses the White House talking-point word "comprehensive" rather than its synonym "total," because total health care coverage easily might sound like totalitarian health care coverage. And by the way, the dictionary defines totalitarian as "having and exercising complete political power and control." Note that pesky word complete -- a synonym for comprehensive -- in the definition of totalitarian.
And of course, the word "reform" (as in the phrase "comprehensive health care reform"), which is defined as "to improve by alteration, correction of error or removal of defects; put in better form" is itself subjective and assumes several facts not in evidence -- most pointedly that a reform will "improve" or "correct" an "error" or "defect."
The foregoing is not intended as merely overdrawn semantics. Words convey concepts, which shape public thoughts, which lead to public support for legislation, which may change the way we live our lives -- and meet our deaths.
So to provide comprehensive health care reform suggests that defects and errors in our current limited health care system would be improved and corrected with complete health care services for all. What could be wrong with having new, improved and complete stuff for all? After all, for generations we have heard on television similar words: "Improved Tiger Flakes provide complete calcium and vitamin needs for your children's health."
But sometimes, partially hidden meanings in persuasive-sounding words may be unwelcome truths that advocates don't want the public to think about.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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