May 28, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 35 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook’s Headline of the Week has to be a subhed from the front page of last weekend’s USA Today. It’s a story—a very long story, by USA Today standards—to the effect that Hillary Rodham Clinton has been an especially wonderful secretary of state, dazzling prime ministers, thrilling ordinary citizens, piling up the frequent flyer miles. “Hillary’s horizon,” the story is titled, and here’s the subhed: “As her tenure at State winds down, . . . Clinton’s all-in approach to diplomacy is seen as innovative and indefatigable—but ultimately, some say, indentured.”
How’s that again?
Okay, The Scrapbook recognizes meaningless verbiage when we see it, and that series of clichés—“all-in approach . . . innovative . . . indefatigable”—could just as easily be applied to a puff piece about a football coach or hip-hop musician. But indentured?
We thought, at first, that we had misunderstood the meaning of the word in context. One of the secretary’s admirers, “Nabila Hossain, 25, a lecturer at American International University” in the capital city of Bangladesh, is quoted as she gushes to Clinton: “You have got a beautiful smile”! Surely, we thought, Miss Hossain is not suggesting that Secretary Clinton sports a nice set of false teeth—or that if she does, USA Today is not attaching particular significance to her dentures!
So we were obliged to keep plowing through the purple prose—“a natural-born politician in diplomat’s clothing . . . gender equality [is] one of the paramount causes of her career”—before the mystery was finally solved. Secretary Clinton, says USA Today, is “Indefatigable. Innovative. And indentured, some say, to a president who has made the major foreign policy decisions himself.”
Which, of course, is another way of saying that the story is ultimately meaningless, since The Scrapbook presumes that it’s impossible to be a great secretary of state if your president is his own chief diplomat.
But of greater concern (or amusement) to The Scrapbook is the choice of words in this instance. There is only one meaning of “indenture”—a contract by which a person is bound to serve somebody else—and while it is fair to say that Hillary Clinton’s reputation as secretary of state is dependent on Barack Obama’s performance as president, we can’t help but wonder if its use here is especially inept. Americans, after all, were sometimes indentured on plantations, and indentured servitude is really just a step or two away from slavery.
Or expressed another way: Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to USA Today, is the innovative, indefatigable, all-in diplomat who finds herself trapped on Barack Obama’s plantation.
Recycled Pow Wow Chow
The saga of Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, putative Cherokee and Democratic candidate to unseat Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, has spiraled to new heights of absurdity. The story is situated at the crossroads where liberal trendiness meets combative Boston journalism (think radio-talker Howie Carr and the feisty Boston Herald), a crossroads that turns out to be not so much bloody as bloody hilarious.
When we commented on the controversy in this space two weeks ago, the outstanding questions were whether Warren had been an affirmative action hire at Harvard (still unresolved) and whether she was indeed, as she claimed family lore held, 1/32 Cherokee (looks like not).
Since then, it has emerged that there really is no genealogical evidence for the claimed Indian ancestry. But Michael Patrick Leahy, writing at Breitbart.com, reports that investigations of Warren’s family tree were not fruitless. Au contraire!
The Scrapbook is reminded of the old joke about the professional genealogist’s bill for $1,000. “Why so much?” his client asks. “You only spent a few hours at the library.” The genealogist replies: “It’s $100 for my time. The rest is to shut up about what I discovered.”
Meanwhile, as proof of her heritage, the Warren campaign told the Boston Herald of a cousin, also supposedly Cherokee, whose credits turned out to include editing a 1984 cookbook called Pow Wow Chow.
Pointing to the cousin turns out to have been a heap big mistake by the Warren campaign. Five recipes in Pow Wow Chow were credited to “Elizabeth Warren—Cherokee.” Last Friday, Howie Carr reported that at least a couple of them appear to have been plagiarized, almost word for word, from a 1979 article by Pierre Franey, distributed by the New York Times News Service (“Cold Omelets with Crab Meat” and “Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing”).
Truly, you can’t make it up. The Scrapbook is indebted for many of these piquant details to the indispensable Legal Insurrection blog by William A. Jacobson, an associate clinical professor at Cornell Law School. We highly recommend his blog, which has been all over this story, to aficionados of the most self-destructive Senate campaign in living memory.
Bureaucratese in Our Time
As a taxpayer in Arlington, Va., a one-party liberal fiefdom, The Scrapbook can assure you that the era of austerity has yet to arrive in bedroom communities surrounding Washington, D.C.
To wit, we are in receipt of an email update from the Arlington County department of parks and recreation, alerting “stakeholders” (i.e., neighbors) of progress on a modest park that is about to be improved to the tune of $1.46 million—small beans by Arlington standards, believe it or not. The money is not the noteworthy part of this missive, though. What is really striking is, rather, the exuberant, even extravagant bureaucratese:
Multi-faceted? Wide array of functionality? “Canine,” instead of dog? The Scrapbook supposes that if you’re not pinching pennies, it shouldn’t be surprising that you’re not skimping on the syllables, either. Have a great weekend, you stakeholder, you!
Letters to the editor of the British tabloid the Morning Star (about the politics of which, all you need to know is that the paper was founded as the Daily Worker):
Emails We Didn’t Read
"Subject: Statement by the President on the Passing of Donna Summer.”