How many metaphors can The New York Times pack into one article about the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner? Enough metaphors to choke a . . . c’mon, help me here. To choke a something-or-other. Can you spare a metaphor?
Metaphors are a great way to frame a story; knowledgeable people will often supply one in a quote. Or maybe two. But it’s tough for readers to follow the story if the metaphors keep changing their perspective. That’s why I got vertigo as I read the 13-plus metaphors in the Sunday New York Times front-page article “The Post-Boehner Congress and Washington’s Sense of Dread.” Here are some excerpts from the 1600-word story with the metaphors highlighted.
Some in Congress and the White House hold out hope that Mr. Boehner’s departure and the election of a new speaker will break the fever among conservatives, who have been plotting his downfall for over a year, and grant his replacement a grace period.
“To get members to bust the budget caps, they have to threaten a Christmas-vacation shutdown for members of Congress,” said Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky and one of the rebels who pushed for Mr. Boehner’s overthrow. “Heaven help the speaker who replaces John Boehner and goes along with that charade.”
“Now you’ve really emboldened the right. They feel at least they have a head on the mantel.” [said Tom Davis, retired House member from Virginia.]
[Chris Krueger of Guggenheim Partners] dismissed hopes that Mr. Boehner was about to play a bipartisan Mr. Fix-It on his way out the door. . . . “Essentially, Boehner is the kindergarten teacher who is leaving his flock unsupervised and wants to get all the sharp objects out of the room before he goes off into the sunset,” Mr. Krueger wrote.
Before the news of Mr. Boehner’s decision had even sunk in, conservative knives were out for the heir apparent, Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader.
Mark Levin, the conservative talk show host, called Mr. McCarthy “Eric Cantor with 10 less I.Q. points.“
Mr. Massie, the Kentucky Republican, said simply moving the leadership below Mr. Boehner “up one notch” would show that the party remained “tone deaf” to the discontent that swept Mr. Boehner from the stage.
Mr. Schiliro compared conservatives in Washington to people sipping water from an “unquenchable cup.” He said they would not be satisfied by Mr. Boehner’s fall.
Matt Kibbe, the former head of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, . . . has been jousting with Republican leaders for years. “If McCarthy picks up the torch and runs the same direction, it’s going to get worse, not better.”
“It’s going to be a minefield to navigate,” [David Axlerod] said.
Boy, navigating that minefield while jousting and carrying that torch will certainly require much more than a bipartisan Mr. Fix-It kindergarten teacher, especially with all those conservative knives and other sharp objects preventing the charade required to get that head on the mantel.
There’s certainly a fever here, but it’s in the New York Times newsroom, not in Congress.
Just as with any other rhetorical device, don’t overdo it with metaphors. It frustrates your readers.
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”jbernoff”]Metaphors are like cinnamon; for flavorful writing, sprinkle, don’t slather.[/tweetthis]
Graphic: The Onion