A Kiss From a Used-Car Salesman—and why it’s important to tie Romney’s “47%” comment directly to his Orwellian lies
In a terrific article published on Friday, Slate’s John Dickerson asks: Which Mitt Romney DoYou Trust Most? Is he a cold-heartedconservative or a moderate Republican from Massachusetts? How can we know?
As for the second of those three questions—Is he a cold-hearted conservative or a moderate Republican from Massachusetts?—I think there’s a third possibility. I think he’s George Orwell.
Or, rather, that he’s channeling George Orwell. Not Orwell, the person. Orwell, the writer.
Orwell, of course, is most famous for his book 1984, in which politicians and government officials say exactly the opposite of what they mean. Thus, the term “Orwellian,” which is not limited to politicians’ statements, but which refers to the use of common language terms that have a fixed meaning, and using them to suggest exactly the opposite of what those terms actually mean—and exactly the opposite of what the speaker does mean.
Up means down, left means right, black means white. You get the picture. Some people will think that when you say “up,” you mean “up.” Others will understand that when you say “up,” you mean “down.” It’s sophistry, con artistry.
It’s also a key tactic that dictators use to gain or keep power. Hitler, of course, used it routinely. But so did Mao Tse-tung. In fact, another word for “Orwellian” was, during the Mao era, “Mao Speak.” You just change the definition of common words to mean exactly the opposite of what the words have meant. That way, you can continue to claim that you’re doing something in particular, or will do something in particular, when you’re actually doing or planning to do the opposite.
In democracies, when politicians do that, it has another synonym: lie. Or at least that’s been so until now. On Wednesday night, Romney changed the meaning of many words and phrases so that they mean the opposite of what they have meant. Not the least are the words “win” and “debate,” at least as the former normally is applied to the latter, although it was largely the news media that redefined “win,” and of course Jim Lehrer helped with the redefinition of “debate.”
But another word that underwent a quick transition Wednesday night from its normal meaning to the opposite of it is “plan.” As in, he has a plan to cover preexisting medical conditions. The word “plan” normally means, y’know, a recommendation or intention to change something from its current status. The phrase “a plan to cover preexisting medical conditions” normally means a requirement that insurance companies provide medical insurance to people who have preexisting medical conditions such as, say, multiple sclerosis or breast cancer, beyond what federal law already requires. That is, beyond the status quo.
Which is that people who have, say, multiple sclerosis or a malignant breast tumor and have had no healthcare insurance within the previous three months can get treated at the emergency room, and then maybe file for bankruptcy if the hospital actually does provide, um, treatment for these medical problems. Then again, Romney had redefined the word “treatment” even before the Wednesday debate, so I guess we now have to understand the phrase “medical treatment” to mean something like, “But you have no insurance and you need the sort of medical procedure that isn’t done in emergency rooms.” Romney already had redefined the word “plan” to mean promised goals rather than the specific, credible means of achieving them.
But that redefinition had applied only to his economic plan—a plan that he said on Wednesday night might not work, and which—although it escaped the punditry—he seemed to be admitting that he (the successful businessman!) had devised without any actual economic basis for thinking that the revenue/tax-deduction ends could meet as designed. But this second redefinition of the word “plan” was something else entirely, because by saying that he has a plan to provide healthcare insurance to people who currently are denied it because of a preexisting medical condition, he was telling them that he plans to something specific that he plans not to do. And it concerns some truly fundamental things, in some cases life or death, in others financial security or instead financial devastation.
What kind of person stands on a stage speaking to 67 million people, and just plain lies about something of that sort? Dare I say it—the kind of person who speaks derisively about 47 percent of Americans, none of whom are Bain investors, have overseas bank accounts, hire PriceWaterhouseCoopers to tally their tax returns, and have their IRA accounts in the Cayman Islands. Nor contribute to Republican PACs or attend Romney fundraisers in Boca Raton. Or anywhere else.
Maureen Dowd, in her New York Times column today, uses humor to run through many, but by no means all (she’s only allowed a limited number of words per column, after all), of Romney’s bald debate-“winning” lies. And she includes the preexisting-medical-conditions one. But I think it’s Paul Krugman who, in his Times column on Friday, titled “Romney’s Sick Joke,” best highlights that this particular lie is particularly brazen and particularly pernicious. And Ezra Klein points out that Romney’s mendacity about his plan for healthcare coverage—and in this context it is indeed a plan, as that word is defined the old-fashioned way—runs even deeper.
It’s been said, accurately, many, many times now that this election will determine the basic nature of American government. But until now, that’s meant budgetary, taxing and regulatory policy. It now means something even more fundamental, in addition: Whether or not we allow a redefinition of the word “democracy.” Romney asks us to believe in America. It turns out that he means an America of the sort that George Orwell feared.
Or at least one run by a used car salesman. Read the fine print on that contract. And on that separate warranty you’ll be charged for.
A kiss is not a kiss when it’s described as one by someone with a forked tongue.
The reason he lies, Bev, is because he thinks it will get him what he wants and he believes he is entitled to whatever he wants. Why does he want to be President? He wants it as a title, an award, and a status symbol. He doesn’t want it for any policy or visionary reason. He simply wants it and there is no telling what he would do with it if he got it. Giving it to him would represent the classic example of buying a pig in a poke. It is probably reasonable to assume that he would do things favorable to his own economic interests and those of his class and to believe his statement to his financial supporters that he is unconcerned with the 47% or the needy in the populace although I suppose it t\is possible that he was just telling those donors what he thought they wanted to hear.
The sad thing is that Romney’s 47% “gaffe” is true. Witness the Obamaphone clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAOwJvTOio
It’s called “votin’ yo pocketbook.”
You want free stuff? Vote for the O.
Hey, it’s election time…Sammy’s back.
So, Sammy, I get it! If one Romney supporter says, “I ain’t gonna vote for no Nigger”, then all Romney supporters are racists. Did I get that right?
Romney lies because it is a core quality of his personality. I only came to understand this when I learned more about his choice of religion. Lying is not only acceptable it is encouraged as a proper presentation for the sake of his church.
I would say, that people such as Romney who accept lying as a normal quality of a relationship do not view their lying as lying. When you consider that lying as we define it is natural to such persons, then Romney’s means of relating to persons and people can be easily understood (in a detached observer kind of way).
People such as Romney do not talk in complete thoughts, thus what they said just a moment ago has no relation or bearing on what they are saying currently which has no bearing or relation to what they will say next. Each sentence is a unique and independent thought. Each sentence is real and reflects their reality at that moment. It is kind of the “I think therefore I am” processing. Each unique and independent thought is based on a catalog of personas and will be tailored to the persona they have interpreted you (or whom ever they are talking with) to have guided by what their intent for having the conversation is for. Their intent is rarely if ever concerned with you or others. Their person will change depending on the persona they are confronting.
When you first begin a relationship with such a person, you will find yourself doubting yourself and question whether you do understand reality. You may actually find yourself wondering if you are not going crazy. If you are secure in your identity, eventually you will realize it is not you. It is a very draining experience to have a relationship with such a person.
It is one of these two reactions that the populace of the nation is currently manifesting.
You must remember this:
A kiss is not a kiss.
A lie is not a lie.
The little folk need not apply,
For apple pie.
— Play it again, Uncle Sam
Your religious analogy reminded me of the George Carlin monologue on god: “firstly of all your god is all powerful. He can throw a boat over a hedge. Secondly of all your god is all knowing. He knows what you thought, what you think you thought, he knows what you think you thought you thought. He knows what I’m gonna say next, and I don’t even know what the hell it is myself.” ….
Ironically, Romney’s 47% diatribe is true, but not in the way he wanted his friends to think.
“All right, there are 47 percent …who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing…”
Gradually since 1980 or so, the American people have become victims, falling under corporate control while at the same time losing the support of the government they pay for.
Government, as skeptical as some are of it, is the only real backing individuals have against a multitude of big players ranging from criminal gangs to big business and finance.
Under law, government really does have a responsibility to care for citizens, who really are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.
The only way for government to get out from under direct provision of these duties of care is to indirectly provide them by regulation and law enforcement — that is, to provide a formal container within which citizens can do all those self-reliant things the Republicans keep recommending.
yet when I point out that Social Security provides a way for people to pay for their own retirement…protected from inflation and market losses.. i get shouted down both
by those who don’t want the people to be able to protect themselves.. and by those who don’t want the people to pay for themselves
Romney – Ryan – Peterson are liars and predators, but the “progressive” response to them is to turn the people into victims who can’t take responsibility for themselves.
yes. i have dealt with people like that. usually unsuccessfully.
coberly: “the “progressive” response to them is to turn the people into victims who can’t take responsibility for themselves.”
That reminds me of a class I took in which one other student and I preferred to talk about the “poverty cycle”, while the textbook and professor talked about the “victimization cycle”. 😉
It is true that people are adaptable, and if people are victimized, they can take on the role of victim, which is one of helplessness. That does not mean that they cannot break out of that role, but doing so often comes at a cost. One cost can be the loss of support from people in the helper role (who are often politically progressive). At the same time, playing the role of victim often invites further victimization, such as being looked down upon by the likes of Romney. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
thanks. i agree with you about the poverty cycle. I don’t think most workers think of themselves as victims. What I was talking about mostly was the “progressives” who want to turn Social Security into welfare. Or think that saying “regressive tax” says something profound about the nature of all social – economic problems.
And, sad to say, people i have known in my own life who use their relative “poverty” as an excuse to … well, see themselves as victims, “the rich” as “owing” them “justice”.. and, perhaps, some people at AB who are pretty sure the answer to the poverty cycle is to talk about the rich as if they were criminals.
please note that i am what most people would call a liberal. i think taxes are too low, for now, and that “we” need to have an adequate welfare system, and that “government insurance” is the answer to “entitlements”.
what i don’t think is that we get anywhere talking about the rich as if they were criminals, or the “obvious” source for answering all of our needs.
but the funny thing about that is that as much as i regard that as a political mistake… it is just as likely it is the right “political” answer to the right’s characterization of the poor as “lazy.”
coberly: “what i don’t think is that we get anywhere talking about the rich as if they were criminals”
IIUC, the term, bankster, goes back to the Great Depression. Back then the Pecora Commission revealed the criminal and irresponsible conduct of big bankers and others. What about the massive fraud involved in our latest financial crisis? Where is our Pecora Commission? Where are the prosecutions? (Bill Black agrees: http://holdfastblog.com/2011/05/03/bill-black-on-fraud-in-the-financial-crisis/
Only a small percentage of the rich are criminals, but when are we going to treat those criminals as criminals?
i agree entirely.
maybe it will be easier to prosecute the real criminals when “we” don’t talk at all times as though all rich people were criminals.
i hate to find myself defending the rich. there is a lot i don’t like about “the rich” just as i don’t like “economists” or a number of other groups of people identified with bad behavior..
but, again, the politics of demonizing “the rich” or thinking all problems can be solved… ought to be solved… by taxing the rich… is politics that will fail, is failing.
it’s fine with me that you point out the crimes of the rich… i agree with you and it’s good if the people get to hear about them. i am really talking about someone else when i talk about the over generalization and general futility of that as a political strategy, not to say a moral one.