Thursday, July 27, 2006

Peggy Noonan's lead today:

Why does President Bush refer in public to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as "Condi"? Did Dwight Eisenhower call his Secretary of State "Johnny"? Did Jimmy Carter call his "Eddie," or Bill Clinton call his "Maddy," or Richard Nixon call his "Willie" or "Hank"?

Er, no, but I vaguely recall that Jimmy Carter used to refer to himself as "Jimmy." (Correct me if I'm wrong here.)

What are the implications of such informality?

I know it is small, but in a way such things are never small. To me it seems a part of the rhetorical childishness of the age, the faux egalitarianism of the era.

Childishness and faux egalitarianism at the highest levels -- when did those become such a problem? Hmmm, let me think...

It reminds me of how people in the administration and Congress--every politician, in fact--always refer to mothers as moms: We must help working moms." You're not allowed to say "mother" or "father" in politics anymore, it's all mom and dad and the kids. This is the buzzy soft-speak of a peaceless era; it is an attempt to try to establish in sound what you can't establish in fact.

My Merriam-Webster Collegiate says "soccer mom" was coined in 1987. Therefore, it's all al-Qaeda's fault!

And while we're discussing the retreat from formality and dignity, can we talk about presidential speechwriter-slash-memoirists? Did Robert Sherwood, for instance, begin Roosevelt and Hopkins by talking about how much he'd always wanted to caress the president's feet?

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