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February 26th, 2017

Insight

When nobody dares indulge straight talk

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published Sept. 29, 2014

 When nobody dares indulge straight talk
American ingenuity can accomplish almost anything, and intolerance has become a growth industry. The politically correct has become the politically required, and nobody can any longer indulge straight talk, careless or otherwise.

Eric Holder, who resigned Thursday as the U.S. attorney general, once derided Americans as "cowards" for not talking about race relations, sounded like the tough guy eager to stand up to flying chips, falling where they may, but what he really meant was that he was unhappy that Americans are constitutionally reluctant to sit still to be lectured to by government hacks.

Joe Biden, the designated blunderbuss in the Democratic arsenal, is at it again, saying all the wrong things and collecting scorn and corrections, this time from friends as well as foes.

Good old Joe's verbal slip-ups make him almost lovable, even to some of those foes. He's one of the few sources of authentic humor in Washington, though one young woman, writing in The Washington Post, says primly that "he inspires the sort of discomfort one feels upon introducing one's fiancé to Grandpa after he has had one Scotch too many." One takes one's point, doesn't one?

The other day Joe was trying to make a point about unscrupulous money lenders taking advantage of veterans trying to buy a house on their return from combat in the Middle East. "I mean," he said, "these Shylocks took advantage of these women and men while overseas." Joe no doubt figured he had politically correctly dotted the 'i' and crossed the 't' by listing "women" before "men" in his rebuke of the money lenders, but then he came a cropper by invoking Shylock, the Jewish villain demanding his pound of flesh in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice." He got the ritual rebuke from offended Jews and returned the ritual apology. Who knew Joe was a failed Shakespeare scholar?

Then it was on to Iowa, where he tried to pay a compliment to Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of the Republic of Singapore, as "the man who most foreign-policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient." How could that be offensive? But taking offense is what some people are paid to do, and Joe — and the rest of us — were told that "Orient" and "Oriental" are no longer allowed in correct print or in polite parlors. Since "Orient" originally connoted "outer," and Occidental connotes 'inner,' the word in all its forms has to go away. But how is a good man/woman to keep up with all this linguistic lollygagging?

Some outbursts do require correction, and Joe properly abased himself in apologizing to Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League. "He's correct, it was a poor choice of words," Joe said, "particularly as he said it was, coming from 'someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden'." Clever, turning the rebuke into a compliment.

Finding an offended Asian to apologize to for the use of the word "Orient" was more difficult, so the veep, taking no chances, apologized to everyone in Asia, which is a lot of people, many of whom were surprised to learn they had been offended. "Orient" is widely used by the Asians themselves, as a look at the shop names in the Hong Kong telephone book would demonstrate. Joe then joined a tour for "social justice" called Nuns on a Bus. He got through that, pregnant with possibility though it was, without further trouble. (However, all returns are not yet in.)

An apology, sincere or not, usually suffices for a gaffe. The media is always in a hurry to move on to the next news cycle. Some politicians merely insult, often inadvertently, but others mean it, with promises of death and physical mayhem for the offenders.

The great global warming scam seems about to disintegrate before our very eyes, and this has put some of the plunderers of the public purse in a panic. Some of them obviously envy ISIS their beheading knives. James Hansen of NASA, one of the leading global warmists, has advocated trials for skeptics of global warming, suggesting they be charged with "high crimes against humanity." Others have likened skepticism to "climate blasphemy."

One "special climate envoy" to the United Nations says "it's completely immoral to question scientific consensus." But nobody is as determined to stamp out blasphemy and skepticism as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "environmental activist" and genuine chip off the block.

He lamented this week at the "climate march" in New York City that there's no law with which to punish skeptics. "I wish there was a law to punish them with," he told an interviewer. He once called and their skepticism "treason." And everybody knows what we do to traitors.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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