Cliche expert testifies

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While going though the tedious process of converting hundreds of old Wordstar files to MS Word, I occasionally happen across tidbits that I barely recall writing. I wrote the following in 1991, shortly after the first Gulf War, for my own amusement.


George H. Smith

Q. Mr. Simpleton, you have just completed a five-year government study on political chiches. What conclusions have you reached?

A. Tentative conclusions. Preliminary results that allow us to get a handle on the problem.

Q. You are the world's leading expert on political cliches, are you not?

A. You can say that without fear of contradiction.

Q. Do you agree that something should be done to curb the incessant use of political cliches?

A. Let's not jump the gun. There are two sides to every issue. This needs further study, a detailed review, and a public hearing. But we can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Q. Why do politicians use so many cliches?

A. They're only human. Nobody's perfect.

Q. Okay, let's back up a bit. What motivates the politician?

A. He cares about people. He wants to serve the public, to give something back to America, to make the world a better place. He has a vision.

Q. What kind of vision?

A. A vision of a bright future, a new beginning, a fresh start -- an America strong and free and proud.

Q. How will the politician accomplish all this?

A. By cutting through the red tape of bureaucracy. By fighting those fat cats in Washington. By opposing special interests. By standing up for the little guy.

Q. Be more specific. How will the politician do all this?

A. With the courage of his convictions. He will roll up his shirtsleeves, put his shoulder to the wheel, and get the job done. He will stay the course with hands-on management.

Q. What do you think of voting?

A. It's the duty of every American to vote.

Q. I suppose, then, that those who don't vote...

A. Shouldn't complain. Right.

Q. What else can a disgruntled citizen do?

A. Write to your congressman. Let him know how you feel. Get involved. One person can make a difference.

Q. What kind of values does America need?

A. Family values.

Q. Do all politicians agree on that?

A. They engage in constructive dialogue and agree to disagree, but they all care about the future of America's children.

Q. What are children?

A. Our most precious national resource.

Q. How do politicians decide what to do?

A. They listen to the voice of the people.

Q. What does that voice say?

A. The people want safe streets.

Q. What have our cities become?

A. Urban nightmares.

Q. And our schools are...

A. War zones.

Q. Crime, therefore, is...

A. Our number one problem.

Q. What is our judicial system?

A. A revolving door.

Q. What do we do to criminals?

A. We coddle them.

Q. What kind of judicial system do we need?

A. One that is tough but fair.

Q. How do we get that?

A. We need to bite the bullet and get tough on crime.

Q. I suppose that means higher taxes.

A. No, never, but we should consider revenue enhancement.

Q. Do you think we should cut government spending?

A. Yes, to the bone.

Q. But what if we cut too deep?

A. That would have a negative impact on essential services.

Q. So how do we find a solution?

A. We should reevaluate our priorities, pass landmark legislation, and balance the budget.

Q. What have we done with our national debt?

A. Mortgaged our future.

Q. What about the homeless?

A. They're a plight.

Q. What do the poor need?

A. A safety net.

Q. Very interesting, Mr. Simpleton. I assume you are also concerned about the drug problem in America.

A. Of course. It's a plague, an epidemic, a curse.

Q. Are we winning the war on drugs?

A. We're turning the corner.

Q. Mr. Simpleton, must you mix your metaphors so outrageously?

A. Who's the cliche expert here, you or me? Please continue with your questions.

Q. Okay, let's turn to international affairs. How do you feel about free trade?

A. I'm all for it, provided we start with a level playing field. And we should buy American. The American worker is second to none.

Q. How do you feel about the high cost of our defense establishment?

A. Freedom isn't free.

Q. How can we prevent war?

A. By preparing for war. The best offense is a good defense.

Q. When we send our military to bomb faraway places, what kind of strikes do they make?

A. Surgical strikes.

Q. Must the strikes be surgical? Why not call them precise or accurate?

A. Surgical is the preferred cliche.

Q. Why do we go to war?

A. To preserve the democratic way of life.

Q. Why did we lose the Vietnam War?

A. Because we let the politicians run it.

Q. Why did we win the war with Iraq?

A. Because we let the military run it.

Q. What did that war do for us?

A. It rekindled our national pride and patriotism. It showed that America still has that "can do" spirit.

Q. Naturally, you support...

A. Our men and women in uniform.

Q. And you are...

A. Proud to be an American.

Q. Excellent, Mr. Simpleton! You certainly know your cliches.

A. Everything is grist for my mill.

Q. The money for your government grant was well spent.

A. Thank you. I gave it my best shot. But I've just laid the groundwork, so I will require additional funding.

Q. Of course, Mr. Simpleton, of course.


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The presentation was interesting and informative, fair and balanced reporting. He did not pull any punches. Although this is 20 years old, it can be relevant both for tax-and-spend liberals and maverick Republicans. However, right now, we must cut federal spending while maintaining our quality of life. American needs bipartisanship to create jobs. In the immortal words of Charles E. Weller, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party." (... or their country, if they prefer).

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An excellent parody of the shallowness of contemporary political discourse.


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