Libertarian journalist James Bovard — author of a dozen outstanding and eye-opening books including Lost Rights, The Bush Betrayal, and most recently Attention Deficit Democracy — has done Americans yet another service.
In an editorial for USA Today Bovard put together a short dictionary of “Washingtonese” — the slippery lingo that politicians, bureaucrats and other such nefarious critters use to hide what they really mean.
Or, as Bovard puts it, the government’s “nebulous nomenclature [that] deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.”
Here’s a sampling:
- Historic — different than last week
- Unprecedented — different than last month
- Emergency — the gift that keeps giving
- Truth — whatever people will swallow
- Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles
- Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party
- Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with
- Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted
- Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s
- Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers
- Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary
- Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying
- Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions
- Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited
- Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties
- Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years
- Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%
- Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs
For much more Bovardian wit and wisdom, see his USA Today article.