Lee: Obama Wears Out “Unprecedented”

Obama’s speech-writers and publicists are lazy.

Before we explore the assertion, let us give thanks to Wild Bill for passing along a link to Carol E. Lee’s Politico essay on the Obama administration’s excessive, improper use of the words “unprecedented” and “historic.”

Here is a LINK.

Lee does a good job of playing fairly, acknowledging that some aspects of Obama’s presidency and of the problems it faces may legitimately be characterized as historic or unprecedented.

She notes, however, that the Great Depression and the New Deal serve as precedents for the “unprecedented” economic crisis and the stimulating package (goodness gracious!) of the Obama Era. One might quibble a bit with this observation, as Bush left Obama with two wars, in addition to an economic crisis, and Clinton left Bush and Obama with the deregulation of investing and lending, so that the monstrosity of the “derivatives” market may have been unprecedented. “Bubble” doesn’t quite describe that vicious scheme.

(We might note that, to a thinking person, “derivatives” are about as economically appealing as Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics. By all means, give me something that is, at best, derived to invest in! And yes, even when prosperity is “trickling,” it is ONLY trickling, for heaven’s sake! “Oh, joy, I feel some economic moisture from above!” If you are one of the few who recall Hell In the Pacific with Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, you may recall the trickle-down scene.)

But back to our historic an unprecedented analysis of Obama’s word-people: Their use of “historic” and “unprecedented” has a long history and innumerable precedents, and Lee’s examples are excellent. Therefore, the word-people need to pay more attention to their words, if indeed they see themselves as communicating not just with the True Believers.

Let us call it “The ‘Unique’ Rule.” Unless something or someone is, in fact, one-of-a-kind (difficult to achieve this status), do not describe it, him, or her as “unique.” Try “distinctive,” and then ask if, indeed, that is too much to say. If any event, decision, or policy is generic–of a type often seen–then do not describe it as “historic” or “unprecedented.” –Unless, of course, you are just bullshitting and enjoying yourself. As Lee does, apply the “‘Unique Rule'” to what you hear and read–and have some analytic fun of your own.


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