White House Spokesman Josh Earnest and Secretary of State John Kerry finished President Barack Obama's final term with fitting acts of propaganda.
Had you listened uncritically to Earnest, you would have thought a male soldier imprisoned for leaking classified documents was a "young woman."
Had you listened uncritically to Kerry, you would have thought the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was a "raging capitalist" country.
And, if you agreed with both, you would qualify for a job at the New York Times.
On CBS on Wednesday, Charlie Rose asked Earnest about Obama's decision to commute the sentence of former Pfc. Bradley Manning-who, after he was imprisoned, legally changed his name to Chelsea Manning and requested that the U.S. military give him (as the New York Times put it) "gender reassignment surgery."
"What you have in the case of Chelsea Manning is a young woman who has acknowledged that she committed crimes," Earnest told Rose. "She took responsibility for committing those crimes. She expressed remorse for committing those crimes. And has spent most of the last seven years behind bars at Leavenworth. So I think you would be hard pressed to make the case that somehow the justice system went easy on her."
Earnest showed remarkable discipline. He never once slipped and called Manning a "he," a "him" -- or, worse, a "young man."
He -- Earnest, that is -- showed exactly the sort of rhetorical skill a president like Obama needed in his official spokesman. He denied the truth repeatedly -- with great poise and confidence.
A human being's sex does not depend on what the meaning of "he" is. It is a biological fact.
On Tuesday, John Kerry was in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. This group describes itself as "the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation" and says it is "committed to improving the state of the world."
Kerry was interviewed on stage at the event by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.
"Vietnam is now one of our strongest partners," Kerry told the world-improvers.
"Vietnam," he added, "is a raging capitalist country -- authoritarian, one party, yes, but no longer communist."
So, what is the "authoritarian, one party" that governs Vietnam and has turned it into a "raging capitalist country" and "one of our strongest partners"?
As this column has noted before, Kerry himself released the latest State Department human rights report on Vietnam. It says: "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam."
The CIA World Factbook calls Vietnam a "communist state."
So, is Vietnam a raging capitalist communist state?
State-owned enterprises "continue to dominate key sectors of Vietnam's economy, such as mining and energy," the Congressional Research Service reported in May. "In addition, according to a study by the Vietnam Report Company, 46% of the 500 largest enterprises in Vietnam are SOEs."
Some Vietnamese state-owned enterprises have undergone the corporate equivalent of "gender reassignment surgery." They took on the cosmetic appearance of private companies while retaining their Communist chromosomes.
"Many of Vietnam's SOEs have been converted into quasi-private corporations through a process known as 'equitization,' in which some shares are sold to the public on Vietnam's stock exchange, but most of the shares remain owned by the Vietnamese government," explained CRS.
If John Kerry calls Vietnam -- where 46 percent of the 500 largest enterprises are owned by a Communist regime -- a "raging capitalist" country, what would he call a country where 64 percent was owned by a Communist regime?
Would that be merely a "capitalist" country?
What percentage of a nation's largest enterprises would a communist regime need to own before Kerry called it a raging communist country?
After Bradley Manning announced he wanted to be known as Chelsea Manning, the New York Times revealed it would heed his wishes and refer to him by female pronouns. In an August 22, 2013 blog, the paper's "public editor" published a section of the paper's in-house style manual.
"Transgender (adj.)," it said in part, "is an overall term for people whose current identity differs from their sex at birth, whether or not they have changed their biological characteristics."
"Unless a former name is newsworthy or pertinent, use the name and pronouns (he, his, she, her, hers) preferred by the transgender person," it said. "If no preference is known, use the pronouns consistent with the way the subject lives publicly."
It did not say: Use the pronoun that is factually accurate.