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THE MOST CONSPICIOUS VULGARIAN
October 16, 2010 - Ray Hall (Archive)
On the Sunday, July 11, 2004 edition of NBC’s MEET THE PRESS the late William Buckley reasserted his claim that President Harry S. Truman was the nation’s most “conspicuous vulgarian .”
I seldom agreed with Mr. Buckley but listening to his genteel but scalpel like use of the English language at once could be a joy to the ear and a stinging rebuke. Mr. Buckley considered Mr. Truman a disagreeable and unpleasant person for his frequent use of crude and offensive language. Truman was to Mr. Buckley conspicuously and tastelessly indecent.
If Mr. Buckley were alive today he might reconsider his assessment of President Truman. Carl Paladino is notorious for tossing the “f” bomb into a crowded room and his propensity to forward sexually explicit and derogatory e-mails was widely reported. However, crude language is not limited to New York’s gubernatorial contest.
During this off year election offensive and sexually referenced language abounds. What is different, aside from a scurrilous reference describing Meg Whitman by a Brown campaign worker, is that women are responsible for much of what amounts to tastelessly indecent campaign language.
Just last week Sarah Palin set the “twitter” world buzzing when she appeared to use sexual metaphors on Sean Hannity’s radio show to denounce the national press. In responding to a VANITY FAIR article that claimed that the former Alaska Governor had a “mean temper” she said:
"Those who are impotent and limp and gutless and they go on their anonymous - sources that are anonymous - and impotent, limp and gutless reporters take anonymous sources and cite them as being factual references."
Whether she started the trend or not Sarah Palin’s was already well known for her use of metaphors to spice up her speech—a trend that seems to have caught on. In Delaware Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell won the Republican Primary by repeatedly questioning her opponents manhood.
In response to a FEC complaint filed by the Delaware Republican Party which supported Mike Castle, her Republican opponent, Ms O’Donnell made a comment that only a female could make as was reported by CNN.
"You know, these are the kind of cheap, underhanded, un-manly tactics that we've come to expect from Obama's favorite Republican, Mike Castle," said O'Donnell. "You know, I released a statement today, saying Mike this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on. (Laughs) Ms O’Donnell used the same “man pants” reference in the televised debate with her Democratic opponent.
In Nevada’s Senate race Sharron Angle told incumbent Harry Reid to “man up” and has used without explanation “second amendment solutions” and to “take Harry Reid out.” Both Ms Angle and Sarah Palin scoff at the idea that cries of “RELOAD” and “targeting” those who voted in favor of health care reform are calls for violence.
Nevertheless, crude and vulgar references—sexual metaphors and words depicting violence—common in Sarah Palin’s vocabulary surely has removed President Truman from the top of William Buckley’s list as the nation’s most conspicuous vulgarian.
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WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY 1925-2008