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President Barack Obama called rap star Kanye West “a jackass.” Vice President Joe Biden told a senator to “Gimme a fucking break!” Economic adviser Christina Romer declared that Americans had yet to have their “holy shit” moment over the economy.
Those who pay attention to political rhetoric say an unusual amount of profanity has emanated from this White House – even without counting famously colorful White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel. But before this statement becomes fodder for yet another partisan debate (with conservatives saying Obama is disgracing the presidency, and liberals that the media are once again being unfair), they quickly add that Team Obama is no crasser than administrations past. It’s just that they are being quoted more accurately.
What’s different, according to linguists, media analysts and reporters who’ve covered past administrations is the media: Networks and newspapers have become far more willing to run with quotes, video and audio of political figures and their aides saying things that never used to be repeated. They attribute the growth of the political potty mouth alternately to the proliferation of recording technologies; intense interest in all things Obama; the explosion of new media platforms that both circumvent and push traditional media while sharpening competition; a general coarsening of the public dialogue; or some combination of all of those factors.