Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Against -gate?

Over at Rule22, Joshua Huder is fed up with the reporters and correspondents:
On a side note, when is the media going to get more creative with scandal titles? Why must everything end in –gate? From my understanding, a lot of this behavior was on Capitol Hill. I think Weiner-Hill is much more fitting (and possibly appropriate given members’ behavior).
I suppose. On the one hand, I'm all for more fun in reporting, and it's been a long time since attaching "-gate" to anything has been fun. On the other hand, I'm very much in favor of the idea that Watergate was a monstrously big deal, and so I sort of like the idea that in at least some cases the language of Watergate has survived.

I wonder whether younger political types and reporters are aware of some of the great phrases from back then. "Twist slowly, slowly in the wind." "Cancer on the presidency" (actually: cancer -- within -- close to the presidency"). "Deep throat." "Get her tit caught in a big fat wringer." "Expletive deleted." "Modified limited hang out."

OK, so, two questions. First: anyone have a post-gate suggestion for scandal names?

And, second...hmmm, a two-parter, as we get set for the beginning of the 40th anniversary cycle, beginning next week by marking 40 years since the publication of the Pentagon Papers. For the young'ns, do you feel that you know the story of Watergate? Recognize those phrases? (For that matter, I have no idea whether the Watergate Deep Throat is currently more well-known than the original Deep Throat.) For those who remember it (and, by the way, I'm just on the fringe of that; I have clear memories of Watergate going on, but almost all the details I know about it is from subsequent reading): what do you remember from living through it that you wish people knew about?

For my money, the best single narrative of the whole story is still Fred Emery's Watergate. I do recommend "All the President's Men" as a movie, but it's sketchy as anything more than an introduction to the topic (you want the movie, not the book, version)...I get the sense that most political junkies still watch it, and that's OK, but it's a highly skewed version of the story. Also, "Dick" is quite good.


  1. How about use the prefix Water- instead?

  2. Why don't we reserve the -gate suffix for the serious, actual crimes were committed, constitutional crisis sort of stuff (e.g. Watergate, Iran-Contra-gate), and the suffix -water for the ginned-up controversy, distraction from the business of governing sort of stuff (e.g. Whitewater, or in this case, Weinerwater.)?

  3. I'm with the camp of keeping -gate for serious things. Others we can just call scandals or affairs.

  4. Change the suffix to "-weiner."

  5. I have to be honest, every time I hear Weinergate I smirk. I DO think it's funny in this case.

  6. "Modified limited hangout" is one of my all-time favorite phrases to occur in English. It's just so beautiful and weird.

  7. The whole conversation is a dada masterpiece:

    PRESIDENT: You think, you think we want to, want to go this route now? And the--let it hang out, so to speak?
    DEAN: Well, it's, it isn't really that--
    HALDEMAN: It's a limited hang out.
    DEAN: It's a limited hang out.
    EHRLICHMAN: It's a modified limited hang out.
    PRESIDENT: Well, it's only the questions of the thing hanging out publicly or privately.

    For those craving context: the question, as it had been from the start, was how to confess to enough to satisfy critics without confessing to things that would send them all to jail. Thus "let it all hang out" means confessing to everything...but every time they consider doing that, they immediately realize that it isn't actually a viable strategy. So a limited, or modified limited, hang out.

    BTW, this is why the cliche that it was the cover-up, and not the crime, that was the real problem with Watergate; had there been no cover-up, they would have all been confessing to multiple felonies. Including the president.

  8. For the internet age, how about ending scandals with a "dot X" appendix that, like URL appendages, vary by type (and seriousness)? For example:

    -- .ugh for sleazy but legal (like Weiner's);
    -- .con for run-of-the-mill criminality (like Vitter or Blago);
    -- .nut for general wingnuttery (Palin, Beck);
    -- .Ayn for the real scandals -- attempts to turn the government into a giant machine for transferring wealth upward (Ryan budget).

    .xxx seemed too obvious.

  9. Setiously, try a few and you'll like it.





  10. I remember, and wish people knew about, the decency and thoroughness of Sam Ervin and Howard Baker, the intelligence and tenacity of Sam Dash, even the (late-blooming) moral conscience of Jeb Magruder.

    And I wish we had a lot more judges like John Siricca.

    In retrospect, it's almost as if our political apparatus noted the moral actors who came to the fore during Watergate and decided to purge their like from its midst forever.

  11. what would the appendage be for "pork", or rather controversies related to local development? .por? .hor (house of representatives)? Personally I'd honor either Congressman Murtha, .mur, or Senator Stevens, .ste


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