The Administration's Epidemic Speech Tic

Except for Buenos Aires and the Upper East Side of New York, my corner of Washington, D.C. has the highest ratio of psychiatrists and psychologists per neurasthenic in the world. We also have the country’s most successful independent bookstore, where the shrinks, lawyers and political geniuses that populate our neighborhood hawk their books to each other.

And me. Well, I’m always on the lookout for new cookbooks to add to the collection, which is taking over all four floors of our house. Having been mesmerized by the Food Section review of Elizabeth Warren’s latest, Sioux Sous Vide in this week’s Washington Post, I decided to drive over to the bookstore after dinner and pick up a copy before it was sold out.

The cookbooks are at the far end of the main room. As I headed there I noticed a stack of books by the local doyen of the psychiatric community, Dr. Sprechenzee, titled The Obama Tic Epidemic. I just wanted to buy the cookbook and get out but the offerings were so tempting I lingered and before long chairs were pulled up and Dr. Sprechenzee’s audience hemmed me in. Obviously I had walked in just as his book spiel was about to take place. There was no easy way out without disrupting dozens of people and interfering with the seating arrangement so I took the chair closest to me and sat down.

“What, you might ask, is the ‘Obama Tic epidemic’?” the author began after wiping his bifocals with his soup-stained tie.

“It is the inability to say ‘Islamic Terrorism'. Putting those two words together seems impossible for the president and all his spokesmen and women. Their lips just can’t go there. This is, I maintain in my book, a dangerous and spreading phenomenon. If we can’t name the enemy we cannot begin to deal with it.

“Respecting the Paris attacks the president can only refer to the killing spree by Islamists as ‘violent extremism’. This week after three civilian contractors were killed at Kabul Airport and the Taliban took credit for it, Jan Psaki, the State Department spokesperson refused to characterize it as an act of ‘terrorism’.

“This follows a series of semantic exercises in which the shoe bomber is dismissed as ‘deranged’ and the Fort Hood shootings are described as a “workplace incident’. The great cartoonist Ramirez mocked this linguistic legerdemain this week, but it’s not really funny. I think it’s a serious speech tic and it seems to be catching.

“Why would the administration think calling these monsters ‘insurgents’ could disguise the terrorist nature of their acts? What distinguishes them from ‘terrorists’ attacking civilians, our troops, our contractors, our interests and allies in particularly brutal fashion?

“Not only is the nature of their murderous conduct cloaked in the administration’s weasel words but the purported reason for their acts is so disguised that the words 'Islamic' and 'Terrorism' can never be placed together by anyone in the administration as descriptive no matter how blatantly false this is. They start to mentally stutter when the combination of words is in order.

“Another State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, has come down with this affliction, and when pressed could only offer up to Martha MacCallum,’Islamic extremism is not the only kind of extremism we face.’”

“To Attorney General Holder the terrorists are ‘using a corrupted version of Islam to justify their actions’.

“Let me read to you this exchange with Mr. Earnest, the White House spokesman:    

Q: Josh, why wouldn’t you use the phrase right there, that we are going to take on Islamist extremism?  You said all forms of violent extremism. 

MR. EARNEST:  She asked me what the summit would discuss, and all forms of violent extremism would be discussed, and obviously the most potent and certainly the most graphic display that we’ve seen in recent days is, again, motivated by those individuals that seek to invoke the name of Islam to carry out these violent attacks.  And that’s certainly something that we want to work very hard to counter and mitigate, and we’ve got a strategy that we’ve been discussing for some time to exactly do that.

Q: So if it’s the most potent form, according to you, of extremism, why isn’t the summit on countering Islamic extremism?

MR. EARNEST:  Because violent extremism is something that we want to be focused on, and it’s not just Islamic violent extremism that we want to counter; there are other forms of…

Q: The recent cases in Paris, Australia, Canada -- isn’t the thread through them that it’s Islamic extremism?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, certainly the examples that you cite are examples of individuals who have cited Islam as they’ve carried out acts of violence.  There’s no arguing that.

“See, he cannot put the two words ‘Islamic extremism’ together without negating the notion that we are facing a worldwide war with Islamic extremists.

“And there’s no end to this denial. It sounds like the battered wives we listen to every week asserting that their husbands really, really love them and didn’t mean to beat them up. 

“Listen to how far this has gone:” 

An Obama White House spokesman said Wednesday that the United States may negotiate prisoner swaps with the Taliban because, unlike the Islamic State (ISIS), it is not considered a terrorist organization. 

ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl asked deputy press secretary Eric Schultz, a press briefing rookie, whether the Jordanian government's announcement that it would make a deal with ISIS to win freedom for a captured pilot was analogous to the United States trading five Taliban members for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Washington Free Beacon reported.  


Karl noted that like ISIS, the Taliban continue to carry out terrorist attacks, so "you can't really say the war has ended as far as they're concerned."

Schultz, however, suggested that Karl had overlooked an important distinction.

"I would also point out that the Taliban is an armed insurgency," he stated, the Free Beacon reports, while ISIS "is a terrorist group. So, we don't make concessions to terrorist groups."

"You don't think the Taliban's a terrorist group?" Karl persisted.

"I don't think that the Taliban -- the Taliban is an armed insurgency," Schultz replied, sounding somewhat flustered.

"This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, and that's why this arrangement was dealt," he added.

Sprechenzee took a breather and the audience started up.

“Doctor, do you think this is a nature or nurture issue? Is it biological -- a structural abnormality -- perhaps genetic vulnerability?”

“Or,” said the tweed jacketed guy sitting behind me, “Is it caused or worsened by recreational drugs or prescription medications? Or caused or triggered by something in the environment?”

Dr. Sprechenzee took a deep breath, looked over the heads of the audience as if in deep thought. “Do you think I’m nuts? It’s a malady brought on by fear of losing their jobs working for a narcissistic dumbbell who thought the war was over whenever he said it was and thinks if no one in the administration concedes this view was wrong, we’ll never notice. The only remedy I can see to reverse this habit is to make fun of them whenever they do it until they change their behavior because it is so embarrassing they run out of people further down the bureaucracy willing to make fools of themselves.”