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Decoding Political Talk

Natalia J. Garland

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Politicians sometimes make statements which sound reasonable and sincere on the surface, but which contain a hidden falseness. The politician arouses certain feelings, values, or mental associations in order to bring about a desired outcome for himself. The affected individuals, however, are unaware of their own thinking and feeling processes because they are not savvy or sophisticated in assessing the politician's motives and character.

Below are some common examples of political code-talk. The politician's surface message appears in bold print. Some surface messages can be given both positive and negative interpretations or decodings. The 35 statements below are decoded for possible negative, underlying content. The surface message manipulates the public's lack of self-awareness, knowledge, and political skills. The manipulation of this lack enables the politician to tap into various emotional and mental states, and establish recyclable subterfuge maneuvers and/or produce a self-serving outcome.


(1) I don't remember __________.

(A) Taps into: Reasonable doubt.
(B) Hidden content: I cannot be guilty if I do not remember having committed the crime. If you accuse or convict me, you could ruin my reputation or send an innocent person to prison. Do you really want that on your conscience?
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No accountability.

(2) Nobody warned me that __________.

(A) Taps into: Justice, victimization.
(B) Hidden content: I did it, but it's not my fault. I'm the victim of an unfair system and unscrupulous people.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No accountability.

(3) It's in the best interests of the country to __________.

(A) Taps into: Self-preservation, collective survival.
(B) Hidden content: I know what's best for you. What's best for me and my cronies is what's best for the country.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No other options, fraud.

(4) That was yesterday. This is today.

(A) Taps into: Forgiveness, tolerance, co-dependency.
(B) Hidden content: My harmful words and actions of the past no longer matter. I used to be greedy and a cheater but, now that I have been caught, I won't do it again--because I say I won't. You should not judge me by my record of misconduct, but by my current political vision.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No accountability.

(5) I made a mistake. I'm sorry.

(A) Taps into: Sympathy, understanding, co-dependency.
(B) Hidden content: We're all human and we make mistakes--although my mistake was a crime which harmed others. It is not my responsibility to make amends. It is your responsibility to pardon me.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No accountability.

(6) Only a cynic would say __________.

(A) Taps into: Shame.
(B) Hidden content: Anyone who disagrees with me, has different ideas, or points out problems is an obstructionist. You are not profitable to me when you express your own thoughts. I'm disappointed in you.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Censorship.

(7) We must __________ for our children's future.

(A) Taps into: Responsibility, love, sacrifice, guilt.
(B) Hidden content: Anything is justifiable if it's for the kids. You are selfish if you do not support my policy. You don't want to be a bad parent, do you?
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No other options, fraud, emotionalism.

(8) Stop listening to partisan rantings.

(A) Taps into: Shame.
(B) Hidden content: Any disagreement or differences of opinion are divisive. You are irrational for considering other viewpoints to be better than mine. You have betrayed me.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Censorship, no other options.

(9) This is a time of unity.

(A) Taps into: Individual worth, security.
(B) Hidden content: You are to unite around my policies. Other policies are divisive (racist, anti-immigrant, etc.). Only mine are inclusive. You will gain my personal approval if I get what I want. Since you need to feel good about yourself, I know that my approval is more important to you than truth.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No other options, infantalization (of the individual).

(10) We must __________ immediately.

(A) Taps into: Anxiety, crisis mode, panic.
(B) Hidden content: I cannot give Congress the time to study my proposed legislation because they would notice the corruption and reject it. Nobody should think, evaluate, or question.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Politics of fear.

(11) I disagree, but I admire your courage to express your viewpoint.

(A) Taps into: Self-esteem.
(B) Hidden content: I will flatter you by calling you courageous, but I will not give your viewpoint real validation or serious consideration. My mind was made up from the beginning, anyway. Since you do not want to be labeled as a bipartisan obstructionist, I know you will discard your viewpoints and settle for flattery. It makes both of us look good.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Infantalization (of the opposition).

(12) Nobody is ever going to agree 100% of the time.

(A) Taps into: Fairness, realism.
(B) Hidden content: You are unrealistic to expect more agreement or consensus on this issue. Grow up. The majority rules: even if they're really a conspiratorial and outspoken minority.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Identity politics, domination of special interest groups.

(13) Experts are in agreement that __________.

(A) Taps into: Lack of knowledge and information, inferiority complex.
(B) Hidden content: Trust me. I'm right and you don't know anything. You don't have to know anything, because I already checked everything out for you. I found experts who agree with me (and I'm not counting those who don't agree). [Notice how differently agreement is used in #12 and #13.]
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Authoritarianism, no other options, deception.

(14) It's your patriotic duty to __________.

(A) Taps into: Masochism.
(B) Hidden content: You are not a real American if you don't do what I say is right, even if it hurts you.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Emotionalism.

(15) Those attack ads were run by outside groups.

(A) Taps into: Ethics.
(B) Hidden content: Those attack ads really helped me and I did nothing to stop them, but I did not produce the ads. I was helpless over the situation. I am innocent. I am separate from those people, even though they support my candidacy.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Compartmentalization.

(16) There are big challenges ahead.

(A) Taps into: Adequacy, inadequacy.
(B) Hidden content: I am not going to honor the promises I made. Your hopes will not be fulfilled. But, because you need cognitive congruence for having elected me, and because you lack self-reliance, I know you will continue to believe in me.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Decreased expectations.

(17) We must bridge our differences.

(A) Taps into: Peace.
(B) Hidden content: Americans who disagree with me must cross over the bridge to my side. Otherwise, they are obstructionists. Meanwhile, I will cross over the bridge to the side of the leaders of Europe, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, etc., because my rhetoric is superior to American capitalism and military might.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Authoritarianism.

(18) Let's look at the bigger issue.

(A) Taps into: Fairness, realism, shame.
(B) Hidden content: Do not examine the details of my policy. You are petty for wanting facts and details. Stop your whining and quibbling! There are bigger issues at stake.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No accountability, no other options, infantalization (of the questioner).

(19) There is no law against __________.

(A) Taps into: Freedom, self-determination.
(B) Hidden content: I may have acted in a self-serving manner or taken risks with others' resources, but I did not break the law. I cannot be prosecuted. And, if you think I behaved unethically, ethics cases are difficult to prove. Do you really want to invest futile effort into getting rid of me?
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No accountability.

(20) I never had any intention of breaking the law.

(A) Taps into: Benefit of the doubt, co-dependency.
(B) Hidden content: Even though I broke the law, I did not mean to. I was ignorant of the complications and did not bother to double-check anything. Trust me. I'm one of the good guys.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: No accountability.

(21) I'm not going to discuss hypothetical situations.

(A) Taps into: Focus, attention, shame.
(B) Hidden content: You are distracting everyone by asking for examples and possible scenarios. Your questions are unworthy of my precious time. I'm going to stick to my pre-written notes. You pest!
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Censorship, oppression, infantalization (of the questioner).

(22) My sense is that __________.

(A) Taps into: Honest discussion.
(B) Hidden content: I really do not know the answer to your question, but I will go on a tangent about my sense of things in order to distract you. [Notice the different uses of hypothetical and sense in #21 and #22.]
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Censorship, oppression.

(23) You can focus on a very narrow definition of what __________ is, or we can look at the overall benefits.

(A) Taps into: The greater good, shame.
(B) Hidden content: I want to avoid the controversial details, so I will belittle you as narrow-minded by suggesting we talk about the possible although unlikely advantages of my policy. You are petty, while I am watching out others.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Censorship, no other options, infantalization (of the questioner).

(24) What we need is the right combination of __________.

(A) Taps into: Working together, inclusion.
(B) Hidden content: Since you insist on details, I will pacify you by leading you to believe that I'm going to include your concerns somewhere in my legislation. In the end, however, I will still get what I want. You will get nothing or just a token.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Oppression, deception.

(25) He made a mistake, but he's still the best person for the job.

(A) Taps into: The greater good, practicality.
(B) Hidden content: He fits in with my private political group. Besides, I owe him, even if he made inexcusable mistakes and many people doubt his qualifications.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Cronyism, no other options.

(26) That was his decision to drop out. You'll have to ask him about his reasons.

(A) Taps into: Freedom, self-determination.
(B) Hidden content: I just realized that his past mistakes were too severe for the public to tolerate. He is an embarrassment. He no longer fits in with my private political group. He is expendable. I am separate from him now, as though we were never cronies. I am separate from my own past.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Compartmentalization.

(27) The ongoing effort is more important than any individual.

(A) Taps into: The greater good, co-dependency.
(B) Hidden content: My brand of government and my personal power are more important than the individuals who are dedicated to public service. Everyone is expendable, except me.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Authoritarianism.

(28) I am not losing sight of the issues. I am moving forward. My work continues. You voted for a new era, and I'm going to deliver it.

(A) Taps into: Salvation.
(B) Hidden content: I failed to anticipate obstacles, and I have made promises which I cannot honor. I am losing some of my popularity. But do not believe the reality around you. Trust in me.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Authoritarianism.

(29) I do not keep a list of everything I have ever said.

(A) Taps into: Honest discussion.
(B) Hidden content: I've made so many conflicting statements to so many different people that I cannot be expected to remember everything. I probably said what you say I said, but I am not going to take responsibility for it. Let's stick to my pre-written notes and not quibble over the details.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Censorship, no accountability.

(30) I appreciate the opportunity to answer questions, but I am not going spend the day talking about __________.

(A) Taps into: Priorities, shame.
(B) Hidden content: I don't want to discuss details. You are wasting my valuable time. I have important things to do. Stop pestering me!
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Infantalization (of the questioner).

(31) The conclusion is unmistakable.

(A) Taps into: Logic.
(B) Hidden content: Any intelligent person will see the rightness of my policy. You are intelligent, aren't you?
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Fraud.

(32) Our country will enter an era of disastrous conditions if my proposed legislation is not passed.

(A) Taps into: Salvation.
(B) Hidden content: I'm getting really frustrated because people are not doing what I want. I owe my constituency, and it will be disastrous for my political future if I do not pay them back through this legislation.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Politics of fear, fraud.

(33) Compared to what?

(A) Taps into: Honest discussion.
(B) Hidden content: Instead of addressing your concerns directly, I will weigh my policy against others which are worse (and I will ignore those which are better).
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Censorship, deception.

(34) Hardworking Americans are counting on government to __________.

(A) Taps into: Self-preservation, collective survival.
(B) Hidden content: People need a governmental leader to take care of them. Americans must be lured away from traditional self-reliance and capitalism.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Dependency (on government programs).

(35) The problems of __________ require historic responses.

(A) Taps into: Facing the unknown.
(B) Hidden content: We can no longer learn from the past. We are the special ones. The old assumptions about democracy, family, and education must be discarded. We are entitled.
(C) Political maneuver/outcome: Increased government regulations and control.

As mentioned earlier, some of the surface messages above can be given a positive interpretation. There are times when people need to fulfill their patriotic duty, or do what is in the best interests of their children, or give others the benefit of the doubt. However, it wise to exercise self-awareness and caution when listening to professional politicians. The public must discern between those who want to serve and those who seek self-importance.

[NOTE: The surface statements used in this essay were taken or adapted from speeches and interviews as heard on T.V. news programs, as well as White House news briefings. These statements are used as examples and without reference to or accusation of any particular politician or leader. The decoded content represents the author's perception and is subject to error.

A small portion of the (A) and (B) sections were inspired by commentary heard on Special Report w/ Bret Baier, FOX News Channel. Specifically, sections 25-B and 32-B were adapted from others' commentary. The term salvation was inspired by another's use of the term political salvation. The term honest discussion was taken from another's commentary--I originally had used the term intelligent discussion, and then heard a commentator use the former and I felt it was more descriptive. The term fraud used in (C) sections was inspired by another's use of that term to describe the current stimulus bill.] (Written 02/09/09)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2009 Natalia J. Garland