I'm joining the GOP

First Al Gore, buffeted Democratic champion ca. 2000, propagates boiled-frog ignorance in his (otherwise laudable) An Inconvenient Truth

Now Barack Obama, victorious Democratic champion ca. 2008, relies on bogus boiled-frog imagery in a Newsweek interview (as my comrade Jeffrey Goldberg has pointed out).

Did you consult any former presidents or celebrities about the fishbowl effect in raising the girls?
Well, you know, the truth of the matter is that the campaign was the equivalent of me being the frog in the saucepan of water and the temperature slowly being turned up. By the time the inauguration had taken place, we had pretty much gotten accustomed to it.

Say what you will about the linguistic habits of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin; but at this moment I don't remember any of them talking about boiled frogs. The image of young Dickie Cheney in 8th grade science lab with a frog, though, is one to force from the mind. And if these people did in fact talk about boiled frogs, I'll have to join the Greens.

What should they be talking about instead? The kitty-litter box analogy, as so brilliantly laid out by Don Rose in the Chicago Daily Observer a few months ago. You have cats in your house; you think everything is great; then visitors walk in through the door, reel back in horror, and say, "What is that godawful smell?"  And I say this as a lover of cats. Or as Rose put it, in a column about the colorful ex-governor Rod Blagojevich:

Out of towners often ask me how it is that folks in Chicago and Illinois put up with all the hanky and panky that goes on in our political snakepits.

I tell them about my cat litter box.

Currently I have two cats--once I had nine. In any case, I used to think I kept their potty clean and odor free. Then, every so often someone would come to the door, sniff the air and whisper in confidence, "I think your cat box needs changing."

They were right, of course. They came from cat-free environments and could sense a drop of urine at 30 paces, while I had grown so desensitized to the aroma that my schnozz would tell me I was romping through a fresh pine forest.

So it is with the denizens of our city and state.

And so it should be with us all. As recently as a few hours ago, I was impressed by Obama's use of language. And now....

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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