A guide to campaign jargon

As a change of pace, today’s column will adopt a more even-handed approach to the coming presidential election.

Instead of criticizing just one camp, I will try to spread the love around concerning the trademark candidacies of Republicans John McCain ("Yesterday’s Man for Tomorrow’s Problems") and Sarah Palin ("A Moose in Every Pot").

I will bring the same impartial scrutiny to the Democratic rivals Barack Obama ("The Audacity of Change You Can Believe in While I Think About It a Bit More") and Joe Biden ("I Would Just Like to Observe That We Looked at This Issue in the Senate Judiciary Committee and So Forth and So On, Etc. and Etc.") Of course, there’s no fooling you about my self-interested preference in this election. Looking at it from the comedic point of view, I think those madcap mavericks McCain-Palin are the clear choice.

Why, there will be laughs aplenty when John McCain forgets where he put the keys to the nuclear weapons and Saint Sarah fills important government posts with her pals from Wasilla. The way I figure it, the American people will need my help to smile bravely through their tears after a Republican victory.

But rather than promote one ticket over the other, I believe the best thing I can do today is define the words, phrases and declarations that have melded into new meanings in the furnace of this political campaign.

For this up-to-the-moment task, I am inspired by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the English wit, author, Grub Street journalist, critic, lexicographer and general man of letters known to the world as Dr. Johnson.

Not to disappoint readers here in Pittsburgh, but this Dr. Johnson was not associated with Doc Johnson’s International House of Love Potions and Marital Aids, which was a Downtown landmark for many years.

I suspect Doc Johnson’s eventually closed as a result of the widespread belief that washers and dryers are the only marital aids needed in a town where sex is frowned upon because it tickles. As for love potions, who needs them when beer is readily available?

No, my Dr. Johnson famously wrote "A Dictionary of the English Language" (1755) in which his definitions were often frisky. For example, he defined "lexicographer" as "a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge."

Here is "Reg’s Dictionary of the Political Language" (2008). Some of the definitions may seem familiar to you. I have plagiarized himself because I could think of none better:

— Abstinence-only education: The theory that immature, hormone-exploding teens living in one of the most sexually active times in history will not benefit from any mention of contraception in schools. See also, "Triumph of hope over experience."

— Bridge to Nowhere: Bridge to Somewhere, i.e., the White House, once position is changed from support to opposition.

— Community organizer: Hateful type of person who pads his resume by helping poor people.

— Conservative: A person who has his underwear perpetually in a bunch but blames the laundry for the situation.

— Democrats: Members of a political party dedicated to pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.

— Executive experience: A newly important qualification for high office that only former mayors of small towns are said to possess.

— Fair and balanced: The motto of a TV network catering to viewers seeking news that is unfair and unbalanced covering those they hate.

— Foreign policy experience: A special knowledge shared only by war heroes or governors of states bordering foreign countries.

— Journalist: A writer who is accused of bias by people who are hopelessly biased.

— Liberal: A person who believes that consenting adults may have any sort of sex they like but shouldn’t be permitted to share a cigarette afterwards.

— Lipstick: A cosmetic applied thickly to all campaign issues as a weapon of mass distraction.

— Republicans: Members of a political party dedicated to important principles such as reducing government and taxes and vilifying all those who disagree with them.

— Socialized medicine: Any plan that removes million of Americans from the ranks of those without health insurance.

— "The fundamentals of our economy are strong": A political judgment best taken as a suggestion to stock your pantry with canned goods.

— Talk radio: A medium of propaganda beyond the wildest dreams of Dr. Goebbels and the Third Reich.

— Wind energy: Joe Biden.

Obviously, this is a work in progress, but I feel it is just what the doctor ordered. No, not that doctor.


(Reg Henry is a columnist with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His e-mail address is rhenry@post-gazette.com.)