An 'interview' with a K Street master of campaign clichés
He likes to keep a low profile, so I will refer to him only as the cliché master, a spin control and sound bite specialist. He's the sort of consultant the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaigns prize. In a recent 'interview,' I tried to get at the nature of his business.
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Q: I see that you throw in oxymorons with the clichés and mixed metaphors.Skip to next paragraph
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A: Yes, it’s a Zen thing. But when you throw a Hail Mary pass, you can hit a home run.
Q: Speaking of which, how do you employ the language of sports?
A: Sports terminology is especially useful in looking at the horse race. Remember that a presidential election is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a real slugfest that will leave both candidates bloodied by the last round. So it’s better to be on offense than defense. In other words, language is a real political football.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
A: It that a gotcha question? Just kidding. Seriously, the only poll that counts is the one that’s taken on Election Day. Only one candidate can win, and when that person takes the oath on January 20, he will face an uncertain future. The world is still a dangerous place. The Middle East is a cauldron and a billion Chinese are working overtime to leave us in the dust. And we must be alert to cyber-attacks. Meanwhile, the graying of the Baby Boomer generation threatens to inundate us with red ink.
But for all of that, the future lies before us. That’s why we have to think anew and rise above the tired old phrases of the past.
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Q: But isn’t that phrase itself a …oh, I see.
A.: That’s why they call me the cliché master.
John J. Pitney Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College and coauthor of "American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy, and Citizenship."
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