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    Washington Made Me Cuckold Myself!

    “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain, I am resigning rather than put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.”

    Indiana Rep. Mark Souder, in the Washington Post

    metastasis (meh-TAH-stah-sis), the issue shifter. From the Greek, meaning “changing stance.”

    Figarist Arie sent this quote into Ask Figaro, and fellow Figarist Al surmised that the congressman was employing a metastasis. Bing! 

    The question is what kind of rhetoric lies behind a member of Congress who cheats on his wife and then quits to save his family from…the shame? No, Washington! It is indeed a metastasis—a word that literally means “changing stance.”

    A particular form of metastasis is metastasizing in politics, where the speaker attacks on the basis of his own weakness. The Swift Boaters falsely slammed Kerry for being a Vietnam shirker, providing cover for George W. Bush’s, um, non-Vietnam service. The ploy seems awfully transparent, especially when delivered by a cheating husband—how dare you hurt my family, fellow politicians?—but it seems to work.

    Why? Because tactics like that appeal to our increasingly tribal culture. If you’re a member of the congressman’s party, you see the media as a common enemy. If you’re an opponent, you’re not going to listen to him anyway. And if you’re under him, you’re probably not his wife.

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    Reader Comments (21)

    So if it's a subspecies of metastasis, what do you call it? A megastasis?
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIgora
    Because the Republicans tend to use the tactic more than the Democrats do, I was thinking of naming it in honor of the GOP. How about "goppledanger"?
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Not sure you're being entirely fair about the Republicans. Seems to me that the Dems do the same thing, particularly our two-faced VP. So I was thinking more along the lines of a Bidenswitch.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRick Winston
    Since this example (and many others) use the family as an excuse, how about Famil-ease?
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoadie
    It's a kind of rhetorical shell game, isn't it? Given the latest offshore drilling disaster, though, it's more of a BP game.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristen Erickson
    How exactly does one cuckold himself? I'm almost afraid to ask!
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJane E.
    Self- cuckolding can be done in at least three ways: 1. A highly recursive form of rhetoric in which the evildoer magically transforms into the rapacious District of Columbia. 2. Pious schizophrenia, e.g., Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hidebound. 3. Hypocritical piety. We suppose it can also be done with certain tools, but we haven't been to those websites.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    We're definitely straying here, but where does "cuckold" come from? The avian monicker for "penis"? Inquiring dirty minds want to know!
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren D'Angelo
    While your cocky type might easily cuckold someone, the term is a close relative of cuckoo, a bird that lays its eggs in other birds' nests. In other words, both the cuckoo and the cuckolder are squatters. Note that the cuckold is the victim here, while the cuckoo is not. The Germans traditionally applied the term to both the adulterer and the adulterous wife's husband.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Republican metastasis: a red-state herring.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEtienne
    Democrat metastasis: left you-turn.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSecnmendment
    Have you seen the Wikipedia entry on "cuckold"? Fascinating. If true.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanet
    Self-righteous family-values metastasizer: cuckscold.
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Fahren
    Souder grapes?
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFen
    But doesn't he make a point? Do personal lives really determine how a politician will perform in office?
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Fenner
    Good point, Jerry. I guess it depends on how much you've campaigned on the basis of personal behavior. Mark Souder spoke out against contraception, all forms of abortion, and...sex. The guy even made an abstinence video for his website. The interviewer: his mistress. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSoFg_ShS0U
    May 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    This doesn't fall under Metastasis, I guess, but is there a name that distinguishes the apology after one is caught, from the apology that follows a genuine confession? Seems to me that there's a serious sincerity gap that rhetoric urgently needs to address, Fig!
    May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn
    While it's thrilling to think of rhetoric single-mouthedly closing the national Sincerity Gap, Figaro fears falling into a Reality Gap. Besides, sincerity isn't rhetoric's bag, baby. Spotting the tricks that mask insincerity, though: that IS rhetoric's bag. And, of course, rhetoric has a big jones for naming every device under the persuasive sun.

    So: what do we call the I've Been Caught and Now I'm Sorry speech (as opposed to the I Need to Get Something Off My Chest version)?

    The Red-Handed Apology.
    May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    There you go dissing the red states again, Fig!
    May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFriendly Fred
    The Red Handy Tool! Or does that sound obscene?
    May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKairotic

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