In this week’s study of swamplarkers—those political critters who wallow in the muck to tell the world you suck and pile drive the country through rock bottom—we prick up our ears to understand their lexicon. Each instance of how they conduct their social intercourse with their fellow predators, their prey, and the public (the latter two usually being mutually inclusive) can be exemplified by a sampling of their pet phrases, translating them from the political class vocabulary into that group most akin to them—the criminal class. Think of it as “Mr. Soprano Goes to Washington.”
For there is no honor among thieves or swamplarkers—and each knows it. And while the public often lumps the two kinds of opportunists together (not unreasonably following so many instances of cross-pollination between the criminal and political classes), this is patently unfair to thieves.
For their part, the criminal class tends to be more straightforward in settling scores and scampering to the top of their lawless dunghill. If one criminal crosses and/or stands in another’s way, the aggrieved criminal bluntly expresses and swiftly exacts retribution so everyone, excluding law enforcement, knows the price of disobedience and, thus, is deterred for emulating the offending behavior.
Not so Swamplarkers, who are far more civil, if not more civilized, in settling scores and scampering to the top of Capitol Hill. Obsessed as they are with burnishing their beaming public visages, Swamplarkers have adopted in practice what was, in fact, an admonition in verse by John Lennon:
“There’s room at the top,” they are telling you still,
But first you must learn to smile as you kill,
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
To wit, with the kind assistance in translating from “somewhere in the swamps of Jersey” by Mr. Anthony “Tony” Soprano, Sr., here’s how the folks on the Hill smile as they kill:
Swamplarker: “I hear your concerns and share them.”
Soprano: “I wipe my ass with your feelings.”
Swamplarker: “I’m inclined to be helpful and supportive.”
Soprano: “Get outta here.”
Swamplarker: “I love you man, but…”
Soprano: “You’re dead to me.”
Swamplarker: “I support congressional transparency and these necessary reforms.”
Soprano: “The things I take pleasure in, I can’t do.”
Swamplarker: “We have established a blue ribbon commission to examine this urgent crisis afflicting millions of Americans and report its recommendations for solutions for our legislative consideration and action.”
Soprano: [Shrug] “What can you do?”
Swamplarker: “The government can’t afford tax cuts.”
Soprano: “Who knows more about extortion, me or you?”
Swamplarker: “I’m appalled this classified information was leaked.”
Soprano: “[I’m] the rat.”
Swamplarker: “As a son, husband, and father, I believe Congress must immediately implement mandatory sexual harassment training.”
Soprano: “Is this a woman thing? You ask me how I’m feeling. I tell you how I’m feeling, and now you’re going to torture me with it.”
Swamplarker: “I’m confident the Ethics Committee will fully and fairly investigate these allegations against me.”
Swamplarker: “With all due respect to my esteemed colleague…”
Soprano: “F— you.”
The gist of this lesson in Swamplarkers’ lingo? Simple: judge your public servants by their deeds for you not their words to you. And, when voting, always recall the exceedingly pragmatic Mr. Soprano’s advice: “Those who want respect, give respect”—not lip service.
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