The Presidential Curse

To swear, or not to swear. That is the question.

To swear, or not to swear. That is the question.

No.. this isn’t a post about some supernatural voodoo spell or an occult trip.  This is all about.. cursing; the use of swear words by elected officials, especially our president.  This is not to say that our elected officials are openly using curse words in public but a few sometimes leak out publicly.  I have an idea that perhaps some of these words could be used more in public settings.  Now, in order to discuss this subject we need to identify the words considered cursory.

(I’m going to mention a few so if swear words offend you then close your eyes… or skip this post altogether.)

For those of you baby boomers out there you will no doubt recall famous comedian, George Carlin.  One of his great bits was part of his first album back in 1972 (yes, stand-up comedians actually made record albums back in the day) called Class Clown (I still have this thing buried in some box somewhere).  The bit was titled, “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television”.   <— Funny bit.

1972 album cover.

1972 album cover.

Now, these seven words as George suggested, were  shitpissfuckcuntcocksuckermotherfucker, and titsI think we can agree that even with the advancement of anything-goes cable programming in the last 45 years these words are still on the edge of broadcast decency on your nightly news.. and political speeches.  Even though these words are common in R rated movies and in casual conversation in all economic strata and occupations, public usage on network TV is fairly restricted.  Yet these words George describes are used in public now more than ever before.  But let’s acknowledge that these words are still a bit “iffy” for network news and put these words aside and go for the next level of what is considered not for family hour.

My seven words in that lesser category are ass(hole), piss, hell, damn (and even goddamn), bastard, bitch, and of course, son-of-a-bitch.  These are the most oft used cursory slang words on an everyday basis.  Even TV commercials, who don’t want irate parents stifling product sales,  refrain from using these words.  But.. given the outspokenness of Mr. Trump during the campaign there might be something to using the occasional “hell”, “damn” or “ass” (although adding “hole” might be too aggressive).

I personally think the big hook that bought the show for Trump was that one speech he made about Muslims.  His key line…

  • Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims to the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the HELL is going on.”

"What the hell is going on!"

“What the hell is going on!”

Admittedly, it was equally the way he said it as much as what he said.  Whether you agreed with him or not you have to admit, that this question is at the center of every American’s fear of Islam.. “…what the hell is going on?”  When was the last time you heard any president ever utter that word in a public speech?  It hit home BECAUSE he used “hell” as an emphasis… and delivering it in a frustrated way, which is how most of us feel about Islam.  Now I am not saying one way or the other about his proposal to ban Muslims until he can sort out the issues.  But the word he used and the way he said it I think helped galvanize that “isolated” middle class.  In other circles, the F-word would have been another alternative but.. it would have gotten bleeped out on the news… and it tends to be too controversial a word in public.

Another thing to consider about politicians using the lesser curse words is that you stand to attract the working class.. and you are viewed as a call-it-like-it-is candidate (even if you aren’t).

Hill in 1991 hearings.

Thomas in 1991 hearings.

Way back in 1991, during the Clarence Thomas Senate Judiciary Committee hearings following his nomination by President George W. Bush for Supreme Court Justice, Senator Joe Biden was committee chairman.  These hearings were televised to some degree so the players became familiar over time.  The testimony took on an x-rated sexual tone with Anita Hill accusing Thomas of some impropriety, talking about a porn movie, Long Dong Silver and pubic hairs on Coke cans.  Anyway, I recall committee chairman Biden speaking from time to time, with the occasional “hell” and maybe a “damn” worked in there somewhere.  Frankly, I was taken by his straight-forward, shoot-from-the-hip, call-it-like-it-is demeanor.  To this day that’s what people admire about him.

The "Big F*** deal." moment.

The “Big F*** deal.” moment.

I was apprehensive a bit when Obama made him V.P. because I thought he might be a bit of a verbal loose cannon.  Then again, sometimes a V.P.’s role is to spout off when the President can’t.  But I still liked the guy. Below is when he dropped the F-word not thinking the microphones were hot.

 Then Trump came into the picture and made Biden look like a Cub Scout.  Quite honestly… now I think Biden is the only person right now to defeat Trump in four years.  What a battle that would be.

As a comparison, we all know Obama was raised in a not-so-typical African-American environment BUT he did live in Chicago and was part of the college scene and lived in racially mixed areas… and most assuredly was around people who used all the slang words available.  He came across as president in the proper and fitting way.. and watched his language.  But honestly, there were times when he would speak about the latest killing or mass murder.. and there were many in his terms… and you just felt the vibe within him to want to lash out with something more “verbal” to set the tone and frustration of the moment.  I see nothing wrong with that coming from a president.  A good “hell”, “damn” or “goddamn” is a good thing in spite of raising eyebrows from religious folks.

Anyway… I think candidates should get more assertive in their use of borderline cursory words.  It helps to add emphasis, at the same time grabbing that “average American” who might talk the same way around the water cooler or with buddies at the bar.  If you talk like average Americans then you can identify with them.




3 thoughts on “The Presidential Curse

  1. I always admired Gen. George Patton because he not only knew his mission and his enemy and their tactics but he also knew how to express himself in terms that any plow pusher could understand and he was rarely if ever a conscientious language cleanser because I don’t think he ever gave a damned whether he offended the purists and the moralists because he was fighting for the very existence of democracy and that kind of fight is never pretty.

    I use swear words because it expresses the intensity of the persona I wish to project as a blogger. It also tends to offend those whose pretense outweighs their reality and that is a positive thing when you are searching for a like-minded audience.

  2. Swearing has become so commonplace over here, that much of its impact has been lost. Even on TV programmes (especially comedy shows) swearing has crossed over into ‘acceptable’ language. However, cursing is still an absolute no-no for elected officials, TV presenters and pundits, or anytime on TV before 9 pm.
    As for making politicians seem more like ‘one of us’, you have a point.
    On my own blog, swearing is reserved for some characters in fiction stories, always with a suitable warning.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Very true about Patton being a total war commander. Although he had no appetite for politics he was at the right time we needed him, just as Eisenhower was in being the political general. The only Patton-esque contemporary I am aware of was Schwartzkopf.. and I thought it very sad that given his popular contribution in Desert Storm his death was hardly an afterthought. But generally speaking (pun intended) generals nowadays have to cater to politics just to be a general. But then again, wars these days are more localized and not matters of democratic survival. That kind of war will be with nukes and not foot soldiers.

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