Tuesday, March 25, 2008

James Carville's metaphors

I've been collecting and commenting on inept and absurd political metaphors over the past few weeks, but I thought of letting James Carville's recent comparison of Bill Richardson to Judas go by. I still don't understand its supposedly transparent logic. Judas : Jesus :: Bill Richardson : Bill Clinton? Hillary Clinton? Both?

I'm interested though in Carville's defense of his statement as metaphor. He defended it in these terms four times in his conversation yesterday with CNN: "It's a seasonal metaphor I was using"; "I was using a biblical metaphor"; "I wanted to use a very strong metaphor"; "It was a metaphor I was using." Carville never says that it was just a metaphor he was using, but his comments carry that suggestion, as if metaphor were simply a way to underscore one's meaning, and not a statement whose implications are its maker's responsibility. Just words after all, right? Just politics.

Another metaphor in Carville's remarks yesterday had me puzzled:

I mean, you do these things, and people come up and say, you’re comparing and everything else. I wanted — I got one in the wheelhouse and I tagged it.
As I just learned, wheelhouse is (among other things) a metaphor for "a hitter's power zone," and, it seems, one of Carville's pet words. No home run for James Carville this time — just a foul.

Related posts
CNN and mixed metaphors
Dying metaphors of the day
Everything but the kitchen sink
Inept political metaphor of the day
Of prongs and pillars
Political tropes of the day
Puzzling political metaphor of the day
Strained political metaphors of the day
Times reporter on metaphorical spree

comments: 2

Eustace Bright said...

That analogy bothered me, too. It is absurd to call "betrayal" someone's choice to endorse for political office someone other than a friend -- or a previous boss's wife. Gov. Richardson refusing nepotism. This is not a betrayal.

Besides, even if it were a betrayal, the analogy fails:

Judas betrayed someone great for comparatively little;
Richardson chose someone great over someone comparatively little.

Michael Leddy said...

Nice analysis, Joe. I'm grateful every day to have such thoughtful readers.