Political Hyperbole!
By Tibor Machan - August 22, 2011

I am baffled by how critics of some Tea Party stars engage in rank hypocrisy. For example, they – such as many commentators on CNN-TV – have been claiming to be utterly shocked with former Texas Governor Perry's polemical answers to interviewers. He said, at one point, that it would be "'almost treacherous or treasonous,' if the Fed under Bernanke increased the money supply before next year's election." He added something about how such untoward policies might be dealt with in Texas, namely, harshly!

This is supposed to be some kind of intolerable, uncivilized outburst, not to be expected from any serious political candidate in the heat of election campaigning. Never mind that the Vice President of the United States just a week prior to Perry's hyperbole said something more indiscreet about the Tea Party. Joe Biden was reported to have agreed with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) who said about some hard line Tea Party Republicans at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting: "'We have negotiated with terrorists,' an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. 'This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.' Biden, driven by his Democratic allies' misgivings about the debt-limit deal, backed Doyle's comment" with his own ultra-hyperbolic statement: "They have acted like terrorists." (Click here to read Biden's statements.)

Notice that unlike in Perry's remark, there was no qualification in what Doyle and Biden said, nothing about "almost treacherous or treasonous." Instead the words were, "They have acted like terrorists." Both of these are, of course, polemical remarks but the former is more cautious and thus more civilized than the latter. And the analogy with terrorism is more accurate regarding Perry's remark, since what he was talking about is Bernanke's plan to increase the money supply to such an enormous extent that it will most probably severely lower the value of millions of people's income, retirement, savings, etc., and breed inflation to boot. That kind of destructiveness is indeed reminiscent of what terrorists do, namely wreak havoc with whatever their targets value, including their lives, all in the name of some supposedly higher goal.

All of this needs to be appreciated in the light of numerous complaints offered over the last few years about how Republicans and Tea Party folks especially are engaging in irresponsible rhetoric, how they have been uncivilized as they have engaged in their political exclamations, outbursts, etc. President Obama himself chimed in about this, I recall, and so has, of course, his buddy Professor and pundit Paul Krugman. Yet if one considered the two different hyperbolic statements, those made by Perry and those by Doyle and Biden, it is crystal clear that the latter have been far more indiscreet in how they have characterized – let's call it what it is, besmirched – their adversaries.

Maybe one could say that all this is simply par for the course when it comes to campaign rhetoric. As many have noted, the same has been going on for a couple of centuries. Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams, Alexander Hamilton, et al. have done nothing less when they sparred verbally in their political encounters. (As someone who writes columns and receives letters about them galore, I can testify that exaggerated charges having little to do with substance and a whole lot to with character assassination are routine.)

So yes, there is nothing peculiar with all the heat (and little light) in what the different parties to the various current political exchanges say. What is remarkable, however, is that news anchors and reporters at places like CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox join in. That is a blatant lack of professionalism. And if one is permitted to point this out in how Wall Street traders, politicians, physicians, educators, and other professionals conduct themselves, it is certainly appropriate to point it out in the case of journalists — especially when these folks intone with such righteous indignation about the missteps others take as they express themselves as they chime in on various topics. After all, journalists are supposed to be professionals at expressing themselves and when they do this badly, that should be pointed out by those who watch them since it amounts to out and out malpractice.

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