Jacob Heilbrunn

Neoconservatism and the English Language: the Case of Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is in many ways the most interesting of the neoconservative columnists. He combines hardnosed realism with a dose of idealism. But today's column by Krauthammer illustrates another aspect of neoconservatism, namely, its use of hypertrophied language.

I'm just going to list some of the phrases that Krauthammer uses today to describe the Obama administration's policy toward Syria. The administration's approach toward Syria is indeed in trouble. But I think Krauthammer undermines his case by the, to use a beloved Krauthammer term, virulence of the language he himself employs. He can't rest with disputing the arguments or policies of the administration. He has to cast his opponents as nefarious, immoral, reprobate.

Note the heavy reliance on adverbs and adjectives, used for disdain or praise, to substitute for arguments. Lenin had nothing on Krauthammer in the objurgation department. My guess is that if you employed the kind of computer programs that Shakespeare scholars use to study the Bard's use of language, you would end up with Krauthammer repeating ad nauseam many of the words used in this column.

Here are the some of the terms he uses:

1) "moral bankruptcy and strategic imcomprehensibility"

2) "morally obtuse"

3) "insanely courageous people"

4) "strategically incomprehensible"

5) "monstrous police state"

6) "dripping with Lebanese blood"

7) "Rubbish."

8) "dismayingly reminiscent"

9) "scandalously reluctant"

10) "Another abject failure."

11) " If Kerry wants to make a fool of himself"