Speaking of Fresh Air…there was an interesting display of Pathetically Reduced Expectations on that show a few days ago. The political ‘commentator’ David Frum was on to talk about the year he spent as a speechwriter in the Bush White House. He has an unctuous, soft, childishly enthusiastic voice, and he kept getting in a flutter of excitment and admiration at things that were not worth getting in a flutter about. It was all too depressingly reminiscent of what we used to hear about the Reagan White House, when people would tell anecdotes that proved the President was actually conscious and awake as if they proved how brilliant and perspicacious he was. One example in particular struck me by its naive glee. Frum assured us that the President pays close attention to what his speechwriters actually write, and he has (oh boy!) a big marking pen with which he scribbles in the margins (gosh, really?). In one speech someone wrote ‘I saw it with my own eyes,’ and our dazzlingly clever Chief Executive wrote next to that: ‘duh’. Wow! Is that impressive or what?
Frum also confirmed something I’ve long suspected, which is that the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ have been outlawed in the American language. It is, as I thought, official. The boss of the speechwriters has a lot of rules for what can and cannot be said, and among those rules is one that outlaws the word ‘parents’. It has to be ‘moms’ and ‘dads’. Because…what? The word ‘parent’ is too long? Too high-falutin’? Too elitist? No, I know, don’t bother to explain. It’s not cozy enough, not cloying enough, not sentimental and intrusive and folksy enough. Duh.