Saturday, September 22, 2012

Large Points

There is a great Curb Your Enthusiasm episode from Season 7 in which Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David discuss the proliferation of the phrase, “Having said that.”  They point out correctly that the phrase “Having said that” can be translated to mean “I am about to contradict what I just said seconds ago.”  Curb is one of the best shows on television.  Having said that, it is an acquired taste, not for everyone.   

Let’s practice:  “I believe the Nationals have a great chance to win the World Series in 2012.  Now, having said that, they face an uphill climb against several teams with more post-season experience.” 

See what I did there?  One little phrase allowed me to take both sides of an argument, thereby covering my bases for all eventualities.  Regardless of the outcome of the playoffs for the Nationals, I can argue that I was right.  It’s a handy little phrase, and there are others like it.

My current phrase of choice around the house is “In any event.”  I place these three words in front of any sentence to draw my children back into a discussion.  My kids, like yours and everyone else’s, love to change the subject when the topic veers too close to household chores, homework assignments, or an attack on their general sense of entitlement.  “In any event” makes it clear to them that I am ignoring any attempts to distract me and avoid the conversation at hand.

Here’s how it works:

Me:  This weekend we need to clean the bathrooms and scrub the kitchen floor.
Kids:  Hey, did you see that the neighbor bought a new car?  By the way, my hand hurts.
Me:  In any event, we’ll start first thing Saturday morning.

In this example, “in any event” can be loosely translated to read “I will pretend you weren’t speaking and we will remain on the topic of chores until your ears bleed”, or something like that.

I am finding that as the presidential campaign heats up, the political intelligentsia (I know, oxymoron) has been pushing a new phrase that has deeper meaning just below the surface:

“….but the large point still stands…”

This simple little comeback conveys to the listener that “While my initial statement is misleading or false and cannot be defended, I am right regardless.”  “But the larger point still stands” is a bit easier to say and doesn’t on its face give you the sense that your arguments are being ignored.

Here’s an example of this phrase in action:

Fox and Friends had a report Thursday morning on “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” a strangely popular holiday destined to inspire a series of associated greeting cards at a Hallmark outlet near you. The Obama campaign celebrated, tongue firmly in cheek, by tweeting a picture of the president posing in the Oval Office with a pirate. “Arrr you in?” read the tweet.  See?  The President is not a robot.  He’s someone you’d like to have a beer with.  Pretty harmless fun from the campaign, and another attempt to humanize the candidate prior to the election.  The Romney folks should be paying attention.

Instead of the Romney campaign trying to mimic the lighthearted approach of the frontrunner, his morning campaign press conference (aka Fox and Friends) instead featured this headline across the screen: 


 “This pirate got a sit-down in the Oval Office yesterday,” Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on-air.  “So much for the Middle East peace (which Romney admits in his 47% video is so impossible anyway that he will not even try during his term if elected). The White House doesn’t even have time to meet with Israel, but the president got a private sit-down with a pirate yesterday in the Oval Office.  Sorry, Bibi,” Steve Doocy added.

Clearly Doocy has no time for fact checkers, but they could have helped him out in this instance.  The photo in question was taken in May 2009 as part of a joke used at the White House Correspondents’ dinner.  Not to single out Fox and Friends, Romney’s other campaign arm, the Drudge Report, filed the same story.  You can be certain that Sarah Palin saw this photo and thought, “There he goes again, palling around with high seas terrorists in the Oval Office.  ARRGGHHH!!”

The Fox and Drudge headlines allude to Obama reportedly denying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to meet during the United Nations General Assembly. The White House version, admittedly weak, is that scheduling conflicts prevented the face-to-face meeting.  Whether they instead spoke on the phone, etc. is not clear.  The point of the Fox story is unambiguous.  Obama is not committed to the security of Israel, and he is too busy having fun and campaigning to focus on our national problems, including a potential nuclear armed Iran.  And we have the photo to prove it.

Except the vehicle used to advance this argument is unrelated to the President’s current schedule.

Fox and Friends’ Twitter account later admitted that the photo was not exactly breaking news, but offered no on-air correction.  Without question, the defense from Fox and Friends is simple – “…but the larger point remains…”  I say that if the underlying facts are false when you are making your point, then the larger point does not remain.

Paul Ryan is using the same comeback to defend Romney’s “inarticulate” words to donors in May about how 47% of our citizens believe they are “victims” and out looking for free health care, free food and free housing.  Yes, Romney was “inarticulate” (just what we’re looking for in a Commander in Chief), “…but the larger point remains.”

Let me be honest with you.  No, it doesn’t.  When you make stuff up, the “larger point” should not remain.

Uh oh, “let me be honest with you” is another one that means a lie is coming next!  Except in this case, of course, because my larger point remains.

1 comment:

  1. I used to work for a guy who would always preface the act of shooting down a proposal or argument with the phrase: "Your point is well taken…"

    God, I miss working for that guy. :)