Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Outrageous Use of "Courageous"

   Matt Lee, AP reporter and resident burr-under-the-saddle at State Department briefings, broke through the haze of Syria news with his blunt, even for him, question to State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, "Was there some kind of group spine removal procedure at the White House over the weekend?"  Lee was responding to Psaki calling the president's decision to go to Congress for authorization of military action against Syria "courageous."  The president's supporters have often been accused of using over-the-top rhetoric to describe him, and as it happens, Psaki is far from the first to use "courageous":

  • Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) - President Obama’s Support for Gay Marriage A Courageous Stand
  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) - "Thanks to President Obama’s courageous action" on the budget and immigration reform
  • James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence - On Pres. Obama's decision to order the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - "[T]hanks must go to the President, our Commander-in-Chief ... for making perhaps the most courageous decision I’ve witnessed in almost 48 years in intelligence. "
  • Martin O'Malley, Dem. Gov. of Maryland - "[W]e were able to keep making progress on health care because of a courageous president named Barack Obama who also stepped up, with your help, to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."
  • Joe Biden, Vice President - "This guy's got a backbone like a ramrod," Biden said, of Mr. Obama's decision, according to a White House pool report. "He said, 'Go,' knowing his presidency was on the line. Had he failed in that audacious mission, he would've been a one-term president." [OK, he didn't literally use the word "courageous," unless you apply Biden's own standard for "literally."]

    To his credit, President Obama's own use of the word "courageous" is often absolutely appropriate: a man who saved Jews from the Holocaust; those who mounted the Berlin Wall in the ultimately successful effort to bring it down; members of the military; and civil rights leaders in the 50s and 60s.  In this case, the president's supporters would do well to follow the example of the man on whom they too often bestow their hyperbolic adjectives.

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