“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.