What Obama's 'Making Sure' of
One of President Obama's less-noticed verbal tics is his frequent use of the expression "make sure." He recently proclaimed: "Talk is cheap and we've gotta actually make sure we can do it."
The "it" in that opening statement of his "Promise Zones" speech was to "help more Americans get ahead" -- beginning with the extension of unemployment benefits.
Besides the fact that Obama's talk is actually anything but "cheap" -- the unemployment extension alone will cost billions -- have you noticed how frequently he and other politicians use the phrase, "make sure"? Last week, in his brief remarks on the unemployment issue, Obama said "make sure" five times; in the Promise Zones speech, seven.
This week, Obama reassured his cabinet with the phrase no less than five times in under two minutes. The primary goal of his "pen-and-phone strategy" that won't wait for legislation -- "to make sure that we are providing Americans the kind of help that they need." "Make sure" was also party of his "unifying theme:" "making sure that this is a country where if you work hard you can make it."
"Make sure" is certainly a common phrase, but listen closely when politicians use it -- because as Obama begins his "year of action" and the heat turns up under all the scandals, Obamacare issues, proposed immigration reform, and budget talks -- you'll hear the words even more often. And there's more to the "make sure" rhetoric than meets the ear.
Differences in pronunciation of some familiar terms, illustrated with color-coded US maps, was the subject of a fascinating recent study. If a similar map could be drawn for the phrase "make sure" based on frequency of usage, our nation's capital would be the glaring red spot. It also happens to be the home of the wealthiest individuals in the country, many who seem preoccupied with making sure the wealth of everyone else is spread around.
Fuzzy "we need to make sure that (fill-in-the-blank)" statements provide an authoritative cover for politicians who likely have no real concept of what they're talking about -- other than the surety that spending more money is the solution. And when the rest of us are talking about things those same politicians wish we weren't, the vague platitude serves as an affirming distraction.
Here's a quick rundown of some interesting "make sure" statements. In each, note that while one side of the speaker's mouth offers the inspirational solution, the other hints at something else.
- In last summer's speech on the economy, besides representing a vague "strategy" on economic issues, "making sure" became part of a dare to Obama's opponents in Congress who had been "distracted" with "phony scandals" and "stale debates." Obama taunted: "If you think you have a better plan for making sure that every American has the security of quality, affordable health care, then stop taking meaningless repeal votes[.]" In his follow-up interview, Obama recited the phrase fifteen times, including his upfront admission that "the entire intention of the speech is to make sure that we are focused on the right thing."
- When the news of the IRS scandals first became public, Obama, standing under that Marine-held umbrella, uttered "make sure" so many times in under four minutes that a condensed version might read: We need to make sure that we made sure to make sure that we made sure.
- Obama advisor David Plouffe, when questioned on the IRS scandal, stated that "what the American people want to know is, how do we make sure this ["dumb thing"] doesn't happen again?" We wonder if he was referring to the IRS targeting, or the uncovering of it. Either way, as long as Democrats are the "we" in control, the rest of us will probably never know for sure.
- Valerie Jarrett, commenting on all of the scandals, said: "We put in process procedures to make sure if there has been any wrongdoing, there will be appropriate consequences, and we will move on." The result: the Justice Department (along with the FBI) added "nothing to see here" to Jarrett's "move on."
- On Benghazi, Obama reminded listeners of his promises: "we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure we held accountable those who perpetrated this terrible crime." Then came a tirade in which he described lingering questions as a "sideshow" and "political circus" with "no there-there." We're still waiting for answers.
- Before the Obamacare rollout, David Axelrod assured us that opposition was simply a "communications challenge," since the program was "already giving greater security to the American people, and we're going to make sure that they understand that." As in: the beatings (more Pajama Boy ads, spin, waivers, and rule changes) will continue until morale improves -- or the next election is over.
- Regarding the NSA scandal, Obama scolded us that if people can't trust government to "make sure," then "we're going to have some problems here." (Ya think?)
- DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz more than frequently uses the phrase, once pushing the Jobs Bill by relaying the story of a mom late for football practice because of "clogged roads." She gave away her real agenda when she concluded, Obama-style: we must "make sure" that "everyone" is "paying their fair share."
When liberals say "make sure," it is usually preceded by "we need to," and of course "we" means the federal government. Since Obama has a frequent habit of using some form of the trio "me, myself, and I" in his remarks, when he says "we" it often comes off like the majestic plural. Rarely is "make sure" directed to the "we" of one of the fifty states or individually to you or me in the capacity of free, self-governing citizens (especially those who believe that they -- and not "we" -- built something.) Obama's "we" never seems to refer to himself and Congress -- his "we" team includes only the politicians who agree with him, or the folks he tries to organize against the members of Congress who don't.
In her brilliant book, Demonic, Ann Coulter wrote: "Liberals thrive on jargon as a substitute for thought." Indeed, "make sure" has become another mindless Big Government comfort-food phrase, like one spoken by a "monster" wearing a "forever mother" mask, as she makes sure the children are safely tucked in at night.
Liberals' "making sure" sentiments spawn "fairness" programs, in which individuals are assigned spots along the particular government-defined fairness spectrum -- such as the "certain point" where they've "made enough money." Or are a dollar shy of qualifying for the tax, subsidy or grant. The right ethnicity for the assistance. Qualified for the rule as the 50th employee, or disqualified for the benefit as a part-time, self-employed, private-sector, or non-union worker. And in every case, you can be sure that political strategists have analyzed the voting impact of the greenest side of the fairness fence.
The phrase "make sure" brings to mind Reagan's famous quip: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" Today that image of an agent knocking at the door is one bearing thousands of rolls of red tape or hundreds of pages of behavior-changing questionnaires, scooping up millions of bytes of personal data, or nosing in on doctor appointments.
Someday that agent might also install a "camera in your bathtub," since "making sure" in the realm of national security, taken to the extreme, leads to an Orwellian surveillance state. If "Big Brother is watching you" was the motto of Orwell's dystopia, today's Big Government operates under a twisted version of an old advertising slogan: We make sure, so you don't have to.
In economic terms, this translates into "government must accrue power and act to correct the errors of a market economy and the injustices spawned by too much individual freedom." That was Keith Koffler's perfect summation of Obama's thinking -- that every problem "requires a government solution masterminded by the altruism and genius of central planners such as he."
As in: "We gotta make sure."
Reagan once told donors at a fundraiser: "Now we are trying to get unemployment to go up, and I think we're going to succeed." Of course that's not what he meant to say, and Obama would never say such a thing either. But Obama's "we gotta make sure" policies seem to have done just that -- increased unemployment. They have also gridlocked the economy and wound our nation's debt clock past the 17 trillion dollar mark.
Conservatives have a different idea of who "we" is, and what we need to "make sure" of: that America is not transformed into a nation bankrupted -- both in spirit and financially -- by the liberal's notion of "making sure."