Marta Mossburg: On lawyer fish and political speak

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Marta Mossburg

On Washington Island in northern Wisconsin, locals like their lawyers lightly battered, deep fried, and served on a grilled bun.

The freshwater cod is allegedly so-named because of its thick slime and tendency to tightly encircle fishermen's arms when pulled from the water. My family's waitress last week at K.K. Fiske on the island said she thought the otherwise-named burbot was called a lawyer because its heart is located next to where it evacuates itself. Regardless, it is delicious. Some describe it as the "poor man's lobster."

Islanders' trenchant and funny description of a predator fish speaks volumes about the difference between Americans and those who represent them in Congress, with the latter chiefly concerned with misleading, obfuscating, and boring Americans to death in pursuit of their agenda. Their chief tactic is using vague descriptions of policy.

Take the health care debate.

Some of the key phrases favored by those supporting the Democratic bill include "public option," "healthy competition," "affordable coverage" and "revenue neutral." Using them makes it seem as if the trillion dollar bill floating through Congress is indeed "health insurance reform" - the newly favored descriptor by Democrats for H.R. 3200, and not "health care reform" - which more accurately describes the massive overhaul to the American health system outlined by the 1000-page bill.

Besides, what red-blooded American could oppose competition, affordability and health? It would be like protesting clean air and water or free beer.

In doing so, Obama and his allies are following Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" to a T. One of the key points in Alinksy's book, a community organizer's Bible, is that "Goals must be phrased in general terms like 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,' 'Of the Common Welfare,' 'Pursuit of Happiness,' or 'Bread and Peace.'"

As Alinsky points out, the truth can be inconvenient to a cause.

But the Democratic leadership did not just attempt to monopolize the terms of debate. They even went so far as to accuse Americans who argue with the official line as being un-American.

In a recent opinion piece in USA Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) said, "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades."

In a recent opinion piece in USA Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) said, "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades."

For two people who attempted to drown out any debate by defining the terms of it in the first place, that argument is disingenuous at best.

Protesters at town hall meetings organized to explain the health care bill are simply returning fire with fire. Maybe Democrats did not expect Americans to catch on to their ruse. But they can not then argue that they are un-American without also accusing themselves of the same crime.

If Pelosi and Hoyer want a healthy debate with facts, they must first offer some for debate instead of repeating their story line - which created the culture where opponents could falsely accuse Democrats of encouraging euthanasia through "death panels."

By revealing their anger and frustration, Pelosi and Hoyer's op-ed speaks to the fact that Democrats have already failed. And it shows that Democrats must start speaking clearly and honestly amongst themselves if they are to win over the American public.

As another master strategist, Sun Tzu, said: "So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."

Americans rally around causes they can believe in and stories they are moved by, not government speak. That is why Obama won the election. Americans wanted to believe in the America where a black man, on his merits, could become president. And in Obama they found a man whose story matched his rhetoric. But the tactics of his generals in Congress on health care have never rung true. And they were never even remotely engaging.

Democrats must remember they live in a land with lawyer fish.

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