Category Archives: Obama

Marx New York Times Obama

Obama and Marx: Similar sentences?

“It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

How could I ignore this now infamous sentence spoken by Barack Obama and the controversy swirling around it over the past ten days? William Kristol has a brilliant op-ed The Mask Slips in the New York Times in which he likens Obama’s comment about small-town Americans to other famous words spoken by Karl Marx about religion: “It is the opium of the people.”

I’ll leave the political analysis to others and focus on the language. If Obama had wanted small-town Americans to sound dumb and irrational, he couldn’t have used a better word than “cling.” Webster’s defines it: “to have a strong emotional attachment or dependence.” So those small town folks act on emotional rather than making logical decisions like the rest of us educated city people – right? And those folks in podunk places are so swept away by emotion they can’t even focus on their real frustrations? Obama’s choice of words is patronizing. However, rather than making a conscious choice, I think he let his true feelings of disdain show all too well in that sentence.

Clinton Obama

Clinton Obama Word War

For lovers of language, the current Democratic Presidential race is fascinating. The candidates speak well-chosen words yet there’s often more meaning in what is unsaid. They hide malicious things in the subtext, or the content underneath their words.

In orchestrated chants, Obama’s crowd said “yes, we can” and in response Clinton’s crowd yelled “yes, she will.” The word change is subtle but, of course, her real meaning is that he is a “sayer” not a “doer.”

Continuing to reinforce that subtext, Clinton said this week, “Together, we will turn promises into action, words into solutions, and hope into reality.” You know, unlike that guy on the other side who’s just a puff of empty promises.

Obama has been using stronger subtext recently. Since he has been criticized for being short on specifics, he’s using the word “real” more often as in, “…that’s the kind of vision I hope to make real as President of the United States. “

To present himself as the change candidate, Obama said, “I didn’t spend my career in the halls of Washington..” Translate the subtext to mean unlike my Washington establishment opponent. As a Senator he must know those halls pretty well himself — but perception is reality!

The subtext is so obvious sometimes I can almost see a little thought bubble over the candidates heads containing the real words they want us to hear. Watch for it — it can provide needed comic relief to the current battle.