The Spectacle Blog

SOTU Full of Mixed Metaphors

By on 1.25.11 | 10:20PM

The State of the Union Address was unimpressive. President Obama's delivery was uninspired. And the speech as written wasn't anything special, either -- it didn't seem as though a lot of thought went into writing it.

For example, no mixed metaphors should have been left in the address after the first draft. Yet there were many, including:

  • "But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs." Not sure how you unleash a wave.
  • "It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age." Grid, network, or system would have made more sense than age.
  • "I recognize that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let's make sure that we're not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. And let's make sure what we're cutting is really excess weight." Balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens works, because you could balance something on a back. But eliminating spending on the backs of the vulnerable is nonsensical. And then in the next sentence, the meaning of the metaphor is reversed, so that Obama is saying that we shouldn't cut anything that's not excess weight -- but shouldn't we take as much weight, excess or not, off of the backs of the most vulnerable?

Mixed metaphors were not the only oversights in the speech. For instance, from the next line: "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact." Doesn't the simile involving the airplane make the point? It's a little lame to then spell out that the plane will fly at first before crashing.

Another one: "Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed." What does it mean for violence to "come down"? That clause would make sense if the subject were the level of violence.

Lastly, the address included some inadvertent rhetorical admissions. Obama was off message on this one: "We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology - an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people." So he's saying that the number of jobs created by a given "investment" cannot be counted? He just spent two years arguing that he could count the number of jobs "created or saved" by the stimulus.

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