I used to love reading William Safire's NY Times magazine column On Language. Safire, was, among other things, a wordsmith. He loved to examine the hot phrases and words of the day, exploring their origins, usage and relevance.
If Safire was alive today he would probably be writing about the phrase "doubling down". It has been in the news quite a bit lately and seems to be one of those things that Safire would latch onto (I think most know that it is a phrase from the gambling, meaning to double your bet on a hand, for example when you are dealt a pair of Aces in Black Jack).
I am not even going to try a Safire-style piece, let's face it he was a genius. but let me at least make some observations.
The phrase started to get some play recently when Mitt Romney made some unfortunate comments following the attack on our embassy in Libya, and murdering of the ambassador and other U.S. personnel. He was challenged, did not back down and many in the media reported that he had "doubled down" on his position the next day.
Here's another example: This Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press show, David Gregory asked Representative Peter King:
DAVID GREGORY: Do you double down on a comment that this president has thrown Israel under the bus?
REP. PETER KING: He has not shown-- yes, I will. In the context of politics, yes, he has.
DAVID GREGORY: --the context of politics, it's either true or it's not.
REP. PETER KING: It is true.
And now apparently Romney is doubling down on his idiotic videotaped statement that dismissed most of the electorate as government-dependent. As the NY Times reported:
Mitt Romney on Tuesday fully embraced the substance of his secretly recorded comments that 47 percent of Americans are too dependent on government, saying that his views helped define the philosophical choice for voters in his campaign against President Obama.
(WSJ reported that the numbers have some validity; OK, but what about the part where Romney said that he didn't care about almost half the electorate?).
When politicians are asked if they are doubling down, you can interpret the interviewer's question as: "Did I really hear this correctly?" At this point the spokesperson has two choices: they can either back down or double down.
As you can see, the trend has been to do the latter, accompanied by some spinning and fancy footwork. I think the better strategy can be to man up, and admit that the statement was just plain dumb.
Romney and company are doubling down on sheer idiocy,