Quote: “All a big tent strategy seems to be doing is attracting a bunch of clowns.” Tom McClusky, chief lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a Christianist group, in the L.A. Times.
Figure of Speech: literal cliché, a figure of thought that reduces an idiom to absurdity.
The Christian right is talking about a “pink purge” of gay Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House. (Pink purge, actually, is a synecdoche. Don’t we just love figurative politicians?)
An evangelical lobbyist justifies this not-really-Stalinist policy with one of Figaro’s favorite rhetorical devices. If you want to sound witty, do what Mr. McClusky does: take a cliché literally.
Opponent: Don’t pour the baby out with the bathwater.
You: No, let’s just pull the plug.
By responding literally to a cliche like that, you seem to agree with your opponent even while you contradict him. It’s a kind of argument ju-jitsu. In this case, the Christianists want to throw out grown Republicans, not babies. But they’re still draining the tub.
Snappy Answer: “Maybe the problem is the ringmaster.”