Biden’s Hyperbolic Fawning Earlier than the CIA

Because of greater than half a century of public talking and quite a few presidential campaigns, US President Joe Biden has had time to hone his expertise at important duties, equivalent to pushing important laws by means of Congress and turning goal actuality the other way up. As president, he could also be underperforming in his execution of the primary activity, however he nonetheless manages to show actuality on its head. In a speech celebrating the 75th anniversary of the CIA—that sterling establishment recognized for its means to current the unvarnished fact—Biden trotted out not simply as soon as, however 3 times one in every of his favourite tropes: denying that the hyperbole he has simply produced is what it clearly is – a hyperbole.

Not like President Harry Truman, who in December 1963 expressed his exasperation with the CIA’s acquired style for skulduggery, Biden sees all advantage and no vice within the historical past of an company created below Truman’s watch. Weeks after the assassination of President John F Kennedy, Truman had the temerity to pen an op-ed column for The Washington Publish decrying the CIA’s betrayal of the mission with which he had endowed it: to assemble details and inform the president as transparently as doable. That presumably additionally implied refraining from acts equivalent to fabricating details or assassinating a sitting president.

Biden needs at the moment’s CIA to grasp that he feels none of Truman’s exasperation. He asserted to the faces of a brand new era of operatives that for 3 quarters of a century “our nation’s intelligence professionals have labored unceasingly and sacrificed willingly to make our nation safer.  And that’s not hyperbole.  That’s a easy, easy reality.”

Right this moment’s Weekly Satan’s Dictionary definition:


A deliberate exaggeration of the reality, the popular determine of speech of politicians who rely on it to place to sleep the general public’s capability for vital pondering and cut back each challenge to a binary opposition.

Contextual notice

One factor it could be honest to say about Joe Biden is that he by no means provides up. His persistence in supporting the battle in Ukraine to the final Ukrainian is a testomony to his perseverance. As are the rhetorical units Biden makes use of and abuses, again and again. In final week’s speech to the CIA, the president insisted on three events that hyperbole just isn’t hyperbole. “And once more, not hyperbole, you’re clearly the most effective in the entire world,” he insisted. Later within the speech, he provided a second instance of non-hyperbole: “We’re essentially the most distinctive nation within the historical past of the world.  That’s not hyperbole.” Whether or not it’s or isn’t, some folks would complain that there isn’t a such factor as levels of uniqueness. One could be distinctive however not the “most unusual.” Which is one indication that what Biden claims is just hyperbole!

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At one other level within the speech, after praising “the quiet bravery of the men and women of this company” that has resulted “in lives saved, in crises averted, in truths revealed, in selections of the 75 years of American presidents made higher due to the insights you’ve supplied,” he asserts “that’s not exaggeration.” Truman may need responded: “In fact it isn’t exaggeration, it’s a downright lie.”

On his journey to Poland on the finish of March to bolster NATO and congratulate himself on his brave determination to impose US drastic sanctions on Russia, Biden did an equally convincing demonstration of his talent of utilizing the phrase hyperbole 3 times in the identical speech.

“The actual fact of the matter is that you’re the best — this isn’t hyperbole. You’re the best preventing drive within the historical past of the world.”

He later added:

“Thanks very, very a lot for all you do. And it’s not hyperbole to counsel you’re the best preventing drive, not on this planet — on this planet (sic). That’s not hyperbole.”

Any expression of worth, formulated in absolute phrases, equivalent to “the best preventing drive within the historical past of the world,” is prone to be hyperbole. Biden’s formulation could be nothing aside from a hyperbole, which suggests, it isn’t to be taken actually. So why take the difficulty to disclaim it, and a minimum of 3 times?

Biden’s trope belongs to a class of rhetorical figures known as apophasis. Like most tropes it may be used cleverly (comically) and produce a robust impact. When a politician asserts: “I refuse to debate the rumor that my opponent is a drunk” or when the candidate Donald Trump mentioned of his rival, Carly Fiorina, “I promised I’d not say that she ran Hewlett-Packard into the bottom, that she laid off tens of hundreds of individuals and she or he received viciously fired. I mentioned I can’t say it, so I can’t say it.” Trump knew his viewers would obtain that self-contradiction as excessive comedy and an efficient blow to his opponent.

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Most masters of rhetoric type will level out that hyperbole must be used sparingly. It carries a critical threat of sounding phony. In addition they presume {that a} good politician will attempt to keep away from sounding phony for concern of dropping credibility with voters. So why does Biden always return to phony-sounding discuss?

Biden’s dependancy to hyperbole that he denies is hyperbole highlights a characteristic of linguistic apply that lies on the core of US tradition. {Most professional} rhetoricians within the US perceive that individuals acknowledge hyperbole and don’t take it actually. It serves to make a robust level that may subsequently be nuanced.

Biden is completely different. In denying that his hyperboles are hyperboles, he’s denying nuance. Like several carnival barker or conman, his rhetoric displays a perception that Individuals crave flattery, even hyperbolic flattery. When folks really feel flattered they’re susceptible to some other insincere message you plan, particularly when convincing them to purchase one thing. Maybe he discovered this from his father, who was a profitable automotive salesman.

In US tradition, so closely influenced by the pragmatism of PT Barnum, it’s thought-about a type of primordial knowledge to “give folks what they need to hear.” It’s a lot simpler and much more practical than bothering about establishing the reality. US tradition uncritically celebrates success, hardly ever questioning the way it was achieved. The ethically suspect concept of “something that works” has achieved the standing of “widespread sense” in US tradition. It’s a softer model of “the ends justify the means.”

The issue for society and politics is that such a success-oriented and salesman-defined tradition upends the worth of sincerity in human relations. It encourages mendacity. This tradition is what guides most US media in crafting their reporting to the perceived wishes—somewhat than the wants—of their goal audiences. What “works” doesn’t should be true.

Historic notice

Biden is understood for tirelessly repeating the identical formulation on a number of events. If it really works as soon as, the logic is, it should work each time. He isn’t alone. It’s a trick skillful politicians have used all through historical past, from Cato’s Carthago delenda est (“Carthage should be destroyed”) to presidential candidate Kennedy’s normal phrase to introduce any dialogue of overseas coverage: “We stay in a world that’s half-slave and half-free.”

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It could hardly be hyperbole, nonetheless, to counsel that Biden could also be in a class of his personal, so frequent is his apply. What number of occasions have we heard Biden say, “we lead not by the instance of our energy, however by the ability of our instance” as if it was an authentic thought and a deeply ethical realization that had simply popped into his head? He pulls the rabbit out of his rhetorical hat as soon as once more in his speech to the CIA. Again in January 2021, we commented that when he included it in his inauguration speech with this pleasant recommendation: “a witty rhetorical determine loses its high quality of wit when parroted again and again.”

Biden has a litany of different examples, equivalent to when he insists that “we will outline America in a single phrase: Potentialities.” After which there’s his favourite, “there has by no means been something we haven’t been capable of do after we’ve completed it collectively,” which, now and again, he mangles to imply its reverse (“There’s by no means been something we’ve been capable of accomplish after we’ve completed it collectively,” spoken on the Democratic conference that nominated him in 2020).

Critics might conclude that senseless repetition happens when the rational content material of discourse vanishes. In Biden’s case one might marvel if it was ever there. At 79 happening 80, Biden, apparently in search of to run once more in 2024, is already the “most unusual” president, if age is the criterion. And that’s most definitely not hyperbole.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Read more of The Fair Observer Devil’s Dictionary.]

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.