Dear Aunt Sophie,
I am a physician. I also happen to be former governor of a New England state, and I’m having a credibility crisis, but it’s extremely unjust because I’m known for always telling it like it is. In other words, I am a physician with a politician’s resumé, but without the typical politician’s soul. So, I think I deserve the respect accorded members of my first chosen profession.
This credibility crisis arose recently when I said I thought the idear that we are going to win this war (referring to the Iraq quagmire, of course) was just plain wrong. That happens to be a fact, not just my opinion. In case you don’t know, it’s a fact also known to many people like Michael Moore, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Jeanne Garofolo. They all know a quagmire when they see one, and they know that one can never win while bogged down in a quagmire.
If she were honest, Hillary Clinton would agree with me, but she’s too busy trying to look moderate so she can get elected. By the way, I hope she won’t run, because I’m thinking of doing it myself. I think I’d be a great president. This country needs a president who speaks his mind and doesn’t feint Left and run Right (or is it feint Right and run Left – I’m never sure. It has something to do with sports terminology, I think.). Anyway, how can I be president if I have to run against people who will never just come out and say what they think? It’s a challenge to make yourself stand out in such company.
To return to my real question - after I made my statement, as usual, the right-wing press cherry-picked my comments and attacked me in their uniquely vicious way. They quoted me. So, I had to clarify what I’d said. I hate clarifications, but I made one anyway. I explained that my remark had been taken a little bit out of context. That is usually an adequate explanation, but I could see it wasn’t cutting it, so I clarified my clarification by saying we could win if we changed our strategy dramatically. They got two clarifications for the price of one, but of course they called it a flip-flop. That makes me out to be just like any other politician, and I resent it. And besides, I did add that I support the troops.
How can I make it perfectly clear that I deserve a physician’s respect even though I work in politics?
You’d think someone whose first chosen profession requires penmanship decipherable only by Univac would be accustomed to being misunderstood.
This may surprise you, but I think your statement was perfectly straightforward. It was misunderstood, not because it was taken out of context, but because so few Americans assign the same meanings to words that former physicians-turned-ex-governors do. (For example, when most Americans say “aaaargggghhhhh” it usually indicates that they’re ridding themselves of an indigestible or a tainted dinner.)
If you’ll allow me a little cherry-picking of my own, perhaps I can reveal the essence of your statement to those less accustomed to plain talk than I.
First, you referred to “we.” One might be forgiven for imagining this refers to all Americans, but in this case it could mean only those who are actively fighting, i.e., soldiers. Such a conspicuous reference to our fighting men so close to the beginning of your statement is a laudable expression of your high regard for the military.
Then you used the verb “win.” Because many people still can’t seem to get past thinking in terms of “winners” and “losers,” you clearly chose the more positive term so as not to suggest a lack of confidence in our troops.
“War” has a negative aura for denizens of the West Side and the West Coast, who constitute the bulk of your fan club, so you must have chosen this word to signal your love of the military to the folks in fly-over country. After all, you could have used a less charged term like “contest” or even “match,” which would have resonated better with the Bennington, Vermont, Board of Education, but then it could have made you appear not to grasp the gravity of the matter.
Thanks to a recent ex-president whose wife is hoping to thwart your political ambitions, everyone in the country knows the meaning of “is.” And because an understanding of that definition is possibly the only bit of knowledge presently common to all Americans, you wisely chose it for its power to unify the populace.
“Just plain wrong” is a surprisingly judgmental phrase in the mouth of a leftist until one realizes that you were actually saying it is just plain wrong not to support the troops.
So, it should be apparent to anyone with the IQ of a salad fork that when you said, “The idear that we're going to win this war is an idear that unfortunately is just plain wrong,” you knew everyone would understand that you were really saying, “This family doctor supports our troops even more than you do. Remember that on Election Day.”
Unfortunately, being misunderstood seems to be an occupational hazard for physicians-turned-politicians. In your next reincarnation, come back as a used car salesman. Everybody understands them.
Good luck and God bless.
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