A week ago, I posted here about a Sunlight Foundation study knocking members of Congress for the fact that their collective vocabulary had descended to a tenth-grade level. Many of you criticized the study's methodology and the fact that it didn't take into account the cardinal virtue of political communication: clarity. Apparently, the study didn't sit too well with some members of Congress either.
One in particular -- Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley -- decided to respond in the form of a floor speech, which I can't help but find delightful in its impishness. Here's the transcript, courtesy of Roll Call:
Mr. Speaker, I rise, as doth the golden orb pulled across the sky each day by the chariot of Apollo, to decry an ignominy perpetuated on this Body by the captious Sunlight Foundation.
Mr. Speaker, the Sunlight Foundation says we talk dumb.
How can the House of Lincoln, Jefferson and Wilbur Mills suffer such excoriation?
I deem the Sunlight Foundation’s findings fatuous. There has been no deliquescence of Congressional discourse.
Speak we not of life, liberty and hockey?
In the words of Francois de la Rochefoucauld, who I believe was a defenseman for the original Canucks, “True eloquence consists in saying all that should be said, and that only.”
So true. That is why as the elected arbiter of erudition from the 5th Congressional District, I decry the Foundation’s obvious schadenfreude in our dictional dystopia.
Let me repeat that word again: schadenfreude, which captures the zeitgeist of this badinage.
That is not to say there have not been errors in eloquence. But soft! What F-bombs from Rahm’s office breaks?
His monosyllabic vocabulary evoked images of the corporeal, the priapistic, and the unprintable.
Alas, our words may not always dance “trippingly on the tongue,” as Hamlet encourages of his players in Act III of that eponymous work.
But nor do they need to. As Bertrand Russell said, “To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.”
And so we do our best in pursuit of that august goal.
As to the Sunlight Foundation’s farcical fomentations, I leave you with the thoughts of one post-modern philosopher, known for his dialectical ruminations on the salubrious effects of fermented hops and barley.
“Facts are meaningless,” notes Homer Simpson. “You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true!”
So if the Sunlight Foundation must lampoon our verbal buffoonery, reducing us to linguistic lummoxes, remember Cecil Terwilliger’s immortal retort to his brother Sideshow Bob’s comment about spending four years in clown college: “I’ll thank you not to refer to Princeton that way.”
Point Quigley. My thought upon reading this is exactly the same as the one that occurred to me Thursday watching Mitt Romney give his (brilliantly conceived, I might add) speech in front of Solyndra's rotting Fremont headquarters: It's amazing how much more effective politicians are when they're actually having fun.