Duck-billed Platitude

February 13, 2008

Republican presidential candidate John McCain recently used the word “platitude” to describe the inspirational speeches of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Recent polling suggests, however, that only 37% of the American electorate knows what the word platitude means.


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  1. Platitude – Definition from Wikipedia “A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement that is presented as if it were significant and original …The statements most commonly described as “platitudes” are short proverbs and aphorisms which are intended to motivate or encourage another person, but which are in reality overly-simplistic or cliché”

    I think this describes Obama fairly accurate so far, a lot of catchy phrases and slogans with no substance. From his website:

    “I am asking you to believe”
    “In the face of war, there can be peace”
    In the face of despair, there can be hope”

    Motivational and encouraging yes, but no substance.

    ““Senator Obama will bring the change we need here in Wisconsin and across America to strengthen the middle class and standing for regular Americans….. From saving jobs from being sent overseas and creating new ones for our hardworking families, to creating universal health care and making college affordable to all, Senator Obama is a leader who will change America.”

    Again – how, how, how ? – This guy been a junior Senator for a couple years and he is promising to accomplish (not just trying accomplish) feats that his party, his own Senate leaders and past Presidents (and their wives) couldn’t make happen. Charisma is one thing, but you would also need to believe the tooth fairy and Easter bunny if you think the entire political structure in Washington, along with corporate America is just going roll over and grant him a free pass at all his causes. Again HOW is he going to make all these promises and platitudes happen?

  2. I think you must have missed this, Bill.


    He has positions on a dozen or more issues and they’re just as detailed as those of any other candidate. I have no problem with it if his speeches are a little long on inspirational rhetoric and shorter on wonky policy-speak. That’s why candidates have debates and whitepapers and web sites.

  3. What really frightens me about the prospects of an Obama presidency is the law of unintended consequences. Look, either BO (we use GW and HRC….BO is only fair) is just feeding everyone an earful of pap to get to the presidency by any means necessary, or he is really a utopian idealist who believes in the platitudes he professes. In either case, America will pay dearly.

    If he is simply blowing smoke to cover his real agenda, then we will have a complete unknown in the oval office.

    If he really thinks “Change we can believe in” will work as national policy, we may be even worse off. When you change one thing, it invariably affects other things in the system. Pull out of Iraq in 60 days? Leaves a power vacuum that someone is sure to fill. Cadillac health care for free? That means massive shortages of supply and trained workers to provide the care…..people always overuse and abuse what they have no financial interest in. Make college affordable to all? Has to be paid for by increased taxes on the very graduates that those colleges produce….and taxing any activity always results in a corresponding reduction in that activity. Subsidize American jobs and tariff imports to keep our jobs here? Takes us out of the global economy resulting in a reduction of our exports and our wealth. A protectionist America is a poorer America.

    There is a dark lining to every silver cloud in the BO weather forecast……and once you institute massive policy changes (and the massive economic and social upheaval that is bound to follow) it won’t be easy to stuff that genie back into that bottle.

  4. I did go back to Obama’s web site and read his “Blue Print for American”. Yes, he does provide more detail (you were right) even though I disagree with a number of his positions. Some of those concerns are reflected in “The Family Guy” response above, but one glaring issue is his promise lower taxes, balance the budget and “cut the pork” but at the same time attempt to promote a number of major government funded social programs and build a strong military at the same time. The money being spent in Iraq (as he promises to be out in 16 months) will not cover all his programs. Where is it coming from? He does want to tax corporations if they do not provide health care to their employees. He may lower income taxes, but replace that money with a number of other taxes and fees as we’ve seen in Wisconsin under Gov. Doyle. His blueprint needs a financial plan to go with the proposals in order to make it more real.

  5. “What really frightens me about the prospects of an Obama presidency is the law of unintended consequences.” – The Family Guy

    “There is a dark lining to every silver cloud in the BO weather forecast……and once you institute massive policy changes (and the massive economic and social upheaval that is bound to follow) it won’t be easy to stuff that genie back into that bottle.” – The Family Guy

    So for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? Yes just follow the example of the Bush administration and set out to screw everything up right at the outset, you betcha. I’m sure there would have been a dark lining in the bush administrations clouds but they had the foresight to create the Clear Skies Act and everyone lived happily ever after unless you happened to be a dead or maimed soldier or Iraqi or you were depending on not having to move overseas to find where the hell they sent your job or you were one of the irrational people who actually cared where all their “unaccounted for” tax money went or the trillions of dollars we will be paying the interest on for generations to come to some bank unless of coarse another irredeemable and useless tax and spendOcrat comes along and most irresponsibly pays off the debt again.

    It seems to me that Senator Obama might just be the silver lining to W’s black cloud.

    …”one glaring issue is his promise lower taxes, balance the budget and “cut the pork” but at the same time attempt to promote a number of major government funded social programs and build a strong military at the same time. The money being spent in Iraq (as he promises to be out in 16 months) will not cover all his programs. Where is it coming from?” – Bill S

    Bill I doubt you were asking where the money for Bush’s tax cuts would come from or the money for our invasion of Iraq or Bush’s later tax cut while we were invading Iraq but now you have concerns, now you want answers. Senator Obama says he is going to “”cut the pork”” and you imply that that would somehow cost us money. How does stopping $250,000,000 bridge to nowhere projects cost taxpayers? Senator Obama says he will build a strong military and you are skeptical, when all he would have to do to build a stronger military at this point is pull out of Iraq, I have no doubt that an improved moral would strengthen our military and I don’t think our ships planes and tanks are all going to just dissolve on inauguration day 2009. Senator Obama says he is going to make things better in this country and the best you have is to scoff at the idea that anyone could clean up this Republican designed mess. No one can accuse you or The Family Guy of having voting for someone who failed on accident, very shrewd.

  6. One of the ironies of this campaign race is that when you criticize Obama’s policies ( really not policies…policies have details. More along the lines of dreams and hopes….but I digress), what you get in his defense is critique of the Bush administration ( I guess that’s what they call Bush Derangement Syndrome).

    Bush is not running. No candidate with any similar views to Bush is running. I understand that it is difficult to back up Obama with factual arguments, as those facts and details are hard to find, but always responding with “Bush is a bad man” does not really give me much confidence in your candidate. I certainly hope that there is more to the man than well practiced oratory and the the fact that he is not Bush.

  7. The reason I criticize Bush as a response is that I believe that Bills apparent blindness to the astounding shortcomings and perhaps outright criminality of the Bush administration brings up serious questions about his judgment and undercuts his credibility. I have not seen enough of your (The Family Guy) posts to feel confident in making that judgment against you but I would not be startled to find you a blind party line guy either. A spend-but-no-tax-ican

    Obama has said that he plans to make our government more transparent, a lot more open door proceedings that we the people can watch on television that alone impresses the hell out of me and is incredibly important. What did Cheney and those oil executives talk about behind closed doors? What’s with all the off the record testimony from the bush administration throughout the last seven years

    I know how hard you reepubs are trying to distance yourselves from Bush and how you want to blame it all on Bush but he could not have done it without the support of the greedy hyena pack that call themselves conservatives. I watched on television as that turd of a Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and the other members on the panel he led gave billions of tax dollars to themselves and their corporate masters. Give a 40 Billion dollar subsidy (or was it 70?) to the most fluid and cash heavy business on the planet, why not? Its not like we were going to actually spend it on armor for the soldiers or their transportation. It was a Republican field trip and the bush administration was just the bus driver.

  8. Sam:

    1- If I had the crystal ball to foresee all the spending by Republicans and Democrats alike, I might have voted a little differently in past elections. As you so clearly point out, hindsight is always 20/20 – so that’s why I ask, based on that past experience – how is Obama going to fund all his mandates and still lower the federal spending? It’s a fair question for any candidate who is promising all the programs he wants to implement.

    2-Whether Bush or any other past President or party went on spending spree is not relevant to the question posed above. The past is the past and no matter how much you bitch and complain, you’re not going to change it. You can learn from it, so I ask the question about Obama which is in the here and now and possible future. How is Obama going to fund his programs and still cut the deficit?

    3- As the Family Guy mentioned above, Bush is not running so bringing Bush into the campaign for comparison is very poor strategy. Likewise, many of us “reepubs” are not trying to distance ourselves from Bush who did a great job defending this country, supporting the military and taking the fight to the enemy, unlike certain past Presidents who were more occupied with finding creative uses for cigars and redefining “sexual relations”, rather than stopping terrorists before they struck.

    4-Since the Democrats won the house in last election, they have really done a “great job” in lowering spending – I’m sure you’re glad you voted for those candidates who promised to end the war and then go on to pass three spending measures to continue funding the war. Let’s see the score – Bush 4, Democratic Congress 0. Right now, the newly elected Democratic Congress has half the approval rating of Bush. The point is both parties have been on a spending spree like drunken sailors.

  9. For Republicans to insist that John McCain’s positions aren’t largely the same as George W. Bush’s is disingenuous at best. In fact, over the lat several years, John McCain has flip-flopped to become ever more like W.

    In 2000 he accused Bush of pandering to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, calling them “agents of intolerance.” Today, he’s the one that’s pandering, and he gave the commencement speech at Falwell’s Liberty University last year.

    He voted against the Bush tax cuts twice, on the grounds that too much of the benefit was going to the wealthiest percentage of earners. Now he’s decided that the Bush tax cuts ought to be made permanent.

    Of course there’s one issue on which he didn’t have to flip-flop. He said being in Iraq for 100 years would be “fine with me.”

    All this talk about how McCain would be different than is Bush is simply nonsense.

  10. I’m not sure where anyone said anything about McCain at all, other than Scott mentioning that he used the word “platitude”.

    McCain is far more liberal than Bush, who is very liberal in many of his stances as well. The left has just dedicated so much energy to promoting Bush hatred and spinning the facts, that few democrats have any idea where Bush really stands on anything. They just hate him. Period.

    I don’t like any of the choices at all. McCain is an Eco-Green-Ethanol Pumping, Tax Loving, Illegal Immigrant Cuddling, Abortion Tolerating, Same-Sex Marriage Promoting, Patriot Act Defeating, National Health Care Pushing, Liberal in Republican Clothing. Other than our Iraq situation, there is not alot of difference between BO, HRC and John. America is in for 4-8 years of big taxes, big spending, and big trouble. I have no horse in this race.

  11. Well McCain did vote against Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy–twice. But now he’s for making them permanent. So I guess he deserves ire from both sides: you hate him because you think he’s being disingenuous about it, I hate him because he’s caved in for political reasons.

    His views on abortion are pretty clear, though. He gets consistently rock-bottom ratings from pro-choice organizations. So I’m not really sure what standard you’re holding him to. His voting record is pretty spotless in your favor.

    Look, McCain is no more a Democrat than Russ Feingold is a Republican. Both lack a bit in the party loyalty department and both have independent streaks. Don’t confuse the unwillingness to march lockstep with your ideology with membership in the opposing camp. Two different things. You don’t want to vote for him, great news for me. No skin off my nose. But I think you’ve got him wrong in some respects.

  12. Stop chompin at the bit boys, you’re gonna have a woman as next leader of the free world. Oh horrors, scary, you say? Don’t worry, little men, mama won’t take your toys away but she might just make you play fairly. Try it, you might like the new world she’ll create.

  13. I doubt it, Barbara. But it’s possible.

    Me, I don’t have a problem with her. What worries me is that other people have problems with her. A lot of the hatred directed at her is due to sexism, I’ll be the first to admit. People just don’t like seeing a woman act like a leader. A lot of them aren’t aware of it, but when you ask them what she’s done to invoke their ire, they can’t really answer. One is left with the distinct feeling that it’s the sexism thing under the surface. But as I said, I’m fine with her other than the fact that she’s divisive–even if it is for prejudicial or irrational reasons. I’d rather have a candidate that unites people than one which divides them.

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