Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Telling Choice of Words

In his latest screed, after endorsing the least flattering interpretation of every statement associated with the Obama campaign, Michael Gerson makes an interesting choice of words:
It is one thing to mischaracterize a federal waiver; another to accuse an opponent of being the Angel of Death.
Overlooking the absurd level of hyperbole, let's recall who Gerson is, the former leader of G.W. Bush's speech writing team, and his self-professed expertise in political rhetoric. As a partisan hack, he finds it easy to dismiss all of Romney's lies as fair game, distort the statements of anybody associated with Obama in the manner he sees as most beneficial to his own political party, and engage in the aforementioned hyperbole.

But "Angel of Death"? Not "an angel of death" or even "angel of death", but the "Angel of Death"? Really?

I'm sure Gerson would attempt to defend himself by arguing that the Obama campaign's suggestion that policies Romney endorsed as a business leader and presidential candidate actually can cause people to lose their insurance, and that losing your health insurance in this country carries potentially devastating medical consequences, was tantamount to comparing Romney to the mythic figure who taps you on the shoulder when it's time for you to die. Absurd? Absolutely. It doesn't work on a literal level, nor for that matter does it work on a metaphorical level.

But if Gerson were honest about it, I suspect he would admit that he intended something quite different with his deliberate and inflammatory choice of words. He's using rhetoric that invokes Nazism, specifically "Angel of Death" Dr. Mengele. It would be difficult to believe that Gerson's intended message is anything but, "Can you believe it? Obama's suggesting that Romney has the values of a Nazi."

Recall, right in that column, Gerson is whining about Biden's flubbed "chains" joke. Which case is stronger - Gerson's prattle that Biden engaged in "racially charged hyperbole" or my argument that Gerson, master of political rhetoric and nuance, would not have accidentally invoked Mengele.

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