The Final Political Cliche

Submitted by Ralph E. Shaffer
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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Sen. Joe Smith had served in congress longer than anyone in the nation's history - nearly 70 years. At his memorial service the eulogy was delivered by a long-time colleague who had retired from politics years ago. His eulogy was entitled "The road of life." Many of the elderly in attendance were reminded of a radio soap opera with that name from long ago, but they thought it an appropriate theme for a legislator who had traveled a sometimes bumpy road in his years in office.

The speaker could not help commenting on Smith's ability to coin phrases that became part of every politician's vocabulary. It was Smith who first coined the too-oft repeated "going over the fiscal cliff." He had originated that one decades before congressmen resurrected it during the Obama administration. When Smith first used another term no one else knew what he was talking about. To them, "sea questration" sounded like a reference to frustrated searchers for sunken treasure.

The speaker noted that as Smith went down that long road that he had traversed for so many years, he was often irritated by politicians who constantly used cliches, even the ones he had created, in their speeches. "Partisan politics," "strict construction," " fiscal cliff," "balancing the budget on the backs of our children" all became cliches that were the standard stock of the stump speech. Smith himself refused to use those phrases when they had become so common place that they rivaled "Motherhood" and "the Flag."

Yet, the eulogizer concluded, the end of Smith's journey down that long road was itself an affirmation of one of the earliest and most repeated of all the expressions that Smith had coined throughout his life. Trying hard to keep a straight face, and muffling a giggle, the old friend suggested that one of Smith's phrases, slightly tweaked, seemed in this instance to parallel Ben Franklin's statement about death and taxes."For Smith, and for the rest of us, we all at some time

down the road kick the can."


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