Editorial: Elections (and words) have consequences

I don’t know which is more lamentable: (1) The closing of the Shenandoah National Park or (2) Rep. Robert Hurt’s Orwellian misuse of the English language in justifying the U.S. House of Representatives votes leading to a government shutdown. “Newspeak” or “doublethink” is what author and essayist George Orwell called the ideological corruption of words so they no longer have any reality-based meaning.

The park closure means Rappahannock County residents and businesses will be all the poorer, regardless of what they may think or not think about Obamacare. For tourism is the second biggest driver of the local economy, and this is leaf-peeping time, the biggest tourist season. From Sept. 15 through Dec. 15, receipts for the county’s meals and lodging tax are traditionally the most of any 90-day period.

Shenandoah National Park is, in the poetic words of one county official, “definitely a magnet whose loss of polarity will draw fewer visitors to Rappahannock.”

More prosaic, but equally imaginative, was Rep. Hurt’s public statement explaining his weekend vote to hold the federal government hostage to his ideological dislike of the Affordable Care Act. What he did, according to this press release, was “reasonable and responsible.” Not once, not twice, but three times, he said it — even though the whole statement totaled only three short paragraphs. “Reasonable and responsible.” If you say something enough times, it must be true — and no longer “radical and irresponsible.”

“Spending reform” was another no doubt poll-tested phrase thrown into Rep. Hurt’s statement, though what he voted for would simply continue government spending at current levels. Defunding or delaying the health care reform law is the “reform” apparently. A reform of a reform sounds good, I guess, especially if it’s “reasonable and responsible.”

Now if Mitt Romney, who campaigned on the pledge “to repeal Obamacare on day one,” had not lost the Presidential election by 5 million votes, would the Democrat-controlled Senate be “reasonable and responsible” to shut the government unless gun control “reform” was enacted?

But the truly Orwellian “newspeak” came in Rep. Hurt’s assertion that the 231-to-192 vote was “bipartisan.” Really? I asked Rep. Hurt’s press secretary. Two Democrats voted with the Republicans, she replied. But what of the two Republicans who voted with the Democrats? So the opposition was “bipartisan,” too?

Including National Park Service employees, almost 2 million federal workers are now furloughed or working without pay. But Rep. Hurt and his congressional colleagues will still get their regular paychecks, for they’re considered “essential.”

Walter Nicklin


  1. Yes, Walter, you are spot-on. A mess, a debacle, and an embarrassment. These are just a few words that define the excuses used to underscore the serious and sad state of affairs.

  2. Publisher Nicklin and Commentator Schwartz offer much to consider carefully. A sad fact is that most if not all Americans want much the same thing: a decent life for their families and a fair shake. We should all be fighting for that fair shake for everyone.

  3. The people pulling the strings behind the extremist House Republicans are folks like the Koch brothers. Their stated objective is to reverse Obamacare, Social Security, Medicaid, WIC, and every strand of the safety net – not because they don’t believe in Big Government – it’s so they can be privatized. Let me repeat – convert all government services to for-profit enterprises. No other reason. They don’t have ideological beliefs about “self reliance,” or “personal responsibility.” Those are just canards for public consumption that suck in the weak-willed Tea Party locksteppers who parrot the words but aren’t smart enough to get on the money train.

  4. What the Republican radicals forget is that Obamacare is already law. The repercussions of their infantile actions are being felt from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the National
    Gallery of Art to programs all around the country that benefit children and older people. I agree that Hurt and his colleagues are hiding behind a lot of rhetoric. They seem to enjoy the spotlight, which is shining so brightly they cannot see the insanity of their position.

  5. The practice of closing the tourist attractions is called the “Washington Monument Strategy”. It’s one of the ways defenders of big government try to protect the mountains of waste by first cutting national parks, attractions, air traffic controllers, etc.

    Reversing Obamacare is the single most important thing that can be done for the future of the country. If a few fewer people stop for a bite in Sperryville, so be it.

  6. No — the Blue Ridge Parkway, farther south and on into North Carolina, is open (though many services are closed). If you try to get on Skyline Drive, the main drag through Shenandoah National Park, you will be turned away at the gates. Just to clarify that this part of the editorial was not opinion.

  7. I understand the Skyline Drive is open! Some of the services are closed… My one regret is I can’t cancel my free subscription as a way to register my displeasure with your misleading opinion piece.

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