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Age of shoddy

During the Civil War, a problem with military material would frequently emerge, becoming so common that an observer pronounced it was indicative of the “age of shoddy.” Never has such a term become more applicable than in the current state of political thought in America. The intellectual standards are so minuscule that Texas Gov. Rick Perry wears heavy glasses in an attempt to appear “smart.”

But it is not limited to Republicans; for Democrats it is the use of the repetitive phrase or expression. Suddenly in foreign policy, everything is “unacceptable,” or domestically it is “sustainability.” As with Warren Harding’s coining of “founding fathers” and “normalcy,” they reflect what William McAdoo called words in a fruitless “search for an idea.”

Even President Barack Obama, a talented orator, cannot resist going into the haversack of cliches to make up for chronic unoriginality. In 2011, he “drew a line in the sand” and quickly forgot he had stated it during the Syria gambit. Say this for Obama, he would rather be embarrassed than commit a blunder. One hopes he can calm down his Secretary of State John Kerry or Mr. Overstatement, Vice President Joe Biden.

However, bad language often reflects the lack of an idea that is coherent enough not to require a bumper sticker slogan. Such words, so popular in the corporate world, really succeed during foreign and domestic political turmoil. Both liberals and conservatives have gotten so lost in the prison of absent thoughts that they cannot express a vision suitable enough to create popular support. Perhaps they can recycle the gibberish.

For George W. Bush, it was “compassionate Conservative,” now replaced by his aide Mark McKinnon with his catchy “no labels.” No doubt someone will bring back John Kennedy’s “a time for greatness,” or Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America,” and perhaps someone will find a use for the abandoned “hope.” No wonder turnout during the 2014 primaries was low.

The struggles between the two parties have amounted to a never-ending discussion without solution. It is like having the same debate on a street corner everyday for 40 years. The rich have gotten richer, the middle class has stagnated and the poor are poorer. In the absence of political ideas, the business elite have filled the void, offering stale remedies such as “lifelong learning” and pleas for people to “suck it up.” The deepened problems of the distribution, not so much of wealth but power, are not discussed. For Hillary Clinton, she was “broke” after 2001, no doubt breaking the hearts of millions. Husband Bill makes himself available for any super-millionaires club that will pay him. Now that really is “feeling” his “pain.”

For Republicans, they complain about Benghazi, but not the Libyan intervention that made the murder of four Americans possible. They rail on about “Obamacare” without explaining it was first their idea. Their constant prattling on about Obama’s failure came to be so dominant that it deflected attention from the president’s overuse of drones and steady abridgements of Constitutional protections.