This is the season of the double-down, and I suspect you are as sick of it as I am. The double-down, I mean, if not the season.
It is the political catch phrase of the 2012 election cycle, double-down, and as such it wore thin months ago. Now, as the arch cliché of the presidential campaign, it threatens democracy. Okay, okay — but it threatens the sanity of the governed.
The rhetorical rut, to include reportorial laziness, jams double-down into nearly every discussion of every race at every level, but it is particularly toxic in the presidential competition, and the fever is bi-partisan. I tried to establish when the term left the casino table and entered the political lexicon and discovered it had snuck into the public discourse as early as spring 2011.
That March, the Christian Science Monitor reported that President Obama’s plan for Medicare “would be to double down on one of the most controversial aspects of his health-care reform law.” The following month in the Washington Post, blogger Jennifer Rubin opined that in his speech to a Jewish-American organization, Mr. Obama “doubled-down, making this upcoming presidential election a time for choosing for friends of Israel.”
That very April, a hard-left website reported that supporters of conservative filmmaker-firebrand Andrew Breitbart, he of the infamous ACORN expose, “Double-Down On Claims He Was Murdered By Obama.” Within days a hard-right website, The American Thinker, thought Mr. Obama would be better advised to talk about border security than “to double-down on politics.”
Then in July it was back to entitlement programs, the Weekly Standard wondering why the administration would “double-down on an increasingly expensive program” such as Medicaid.
There was a Christmas cease-fire. But shortly after the year began the Republican National Senatorial Committee issued a press release involving an endangered Democrat in Montana, charging that the President and Jon Tester “are doubling-down on their call for higher taxes, more Washington spending and an even bigger federal debt.” Tired of the hand he was being dealt, Mr. Obama told a February audience that, by golly, he indeed did intend to “double-down” on green energy spending. A bit slow on the uptake, Fox News concurred the following month that, yes, Mr. Obama would in fact “double-down” on solar energy research.
Mr. Obama was not through. “Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable,” he said, poking his finger in Big Oil’s eye, “we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies.” At about that moment Glenn Beck, from somewhere in outer space, took note of the State Department’s suspicions that the Vatican Bank might inadvertently be laundering ill-gotten gains. “It appears that the Obama Administration has decided to double-down in their (sic) attack on the Catholic Church,” Beck bellowed.
Come June it was Mr. Obama doubling-down again, urging American students to not double college loan interest rates — to instead “double-down on America’s future.” Back came The Weekly Standard, suggesting that “Obama decided to double-down” on his comment that the private sector was performing well. Still in June, the economy still in stasis, we saw historian Doris Goodwin urge Mr. Obama to tell the nation that he had not sought a big enough stimulus, that “‘I am doubling-down on what I did.”
A couple weeks later, as the GOP candidate was preparing to meet the British prime minister, an Obama advisor wondered “whether Romney will double-down on his opposition to the plan to end the (Afghan) war.” We had not yet begun to double-down.
True, Mr. Obama did not “double-down” in his speech to the Democratic convention, but former President Clinton, the night before, warned that Romney would “double-down on trickle-down.” Speaking the same evening was Elizabeth Warren, a Senate candidate in Massachusetts who, assessed the Constitutional Free America website, “wants to double-down on … social engineering.” And all this as the left-leaning political website Talking Points Memo was noting that Mr. Obama was vigorously defending his welfare reform stewardship against attacks … even as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are doubling-down on it.”
Then came the tragedy and fresh turmoil in the Middle East. CBS News reported that Romney, in addressing the recent violence in Egypt and Libya, “doubled-down on his criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the attacks.” The next day, “Romney gives a press conference doubling-down on his criticism,” agreed the Atlantic blog. A day later but resolved not to be outdone, ABC News reported that Romney was “doubling-, even tripling-, down” on his original comments. Bi-partisan? No, the doubling-down is tri-partisan.
After Kansas Republican officials cut their losses and agreed to include Mr. Obama on the November ballot, a Tea Party candidate allowed that the GOP “essentially doubled-down on the fact that this issue must be decided by a Federal Court.”
Facts are a good thing to double-down on.
Are we down and out? Should we double or nothing?
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Steve Barnes is host of Arkansas Week on ATN.