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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Amazing Story of a Triangulator

a Ukrainianian Cossack in the times of the Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth (excerpt from the Pocket Dictionary of the Kossacks, under development)

Kossacks have the habit to give new meanings to old words. Some time ago I found a Kossackian-like sentence in an editorial authored by Maureen Dowd, Hillary's a triangulator (or you might say she's inflating her tires to the right pressure).

Well, what did she mean by using this word, triangulator, when referring to the Senator from New York? My knowledge about the word was straightforward, for me a triangulator meant the three pieced tool you use to draw triangles in drafting and such, and I was using the word in sentences like, Hey man, you need to use my triangulator for that math stuff.

Now I was realizing that the word carried also some other meanings, and my impression was strengthened by another example I found pretty fast, President Bush is a triangulator.

Suddenly in my memories came an old TV hero, from The Love Boat Series, namely Captain Triangle - he had a dolphin companion which name was Triangulator - and I can remember Captain Triangle saying to his young fellow, Quickly, Triangulator, TRIANGULATE WITH ME, NOW!

Well, if this was the meaning used by Maureen Dowd, then a certain Captain Triangle was to be found behind the Senator from New York. I went on with this supposition till I found the third meaning of the word. Here it is, from an essay entitled The New Deal in One Lesson:

FDR was the first triangulator, the first significant politician to embrace the policies of the other party and to claim them as his own. Such strategies split the opposition and help the incumbent, and while the incumbent's rank-and-file don't like it, they usually go along. The only thing new about New Deal policies was their name and the people administering them.


To state the obvious, the essayist did not seem to care to much about FDR, and I could not agree with his opinion - but at least the meaning of the word was now very clear to me.

It was a bit like in the Love Boat - there too the dolphin liked to copy his master - only here it was about political players - one was embracing the policies of the other while claiming them as his own.

Now I realized that this was the meaning used by Kossacks (and Kossacks-like). And I found then some very interesting examples:

  1. We're not going to beat George Bush by being Bush Lite (Howard Dean in 2004). The way to beat George Bush is to give the 50% of Americans who quit voting because they can't tell the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party a reason to vote again. Take that, Triangulator in Chief (Andrew Coyne, Turks and Caicos now!)
  2. This putz has the gall to call Jefferson a "confused triangulator" right before advocating something like a non-secular secular state? Well, what's really happening is that Meacham is triangulating to Stewart's audience, since his Bill O'Reilly anti-ACLU "War on Christians" talking points wouldn't play very well there, and thus are conveniently missing in this clip. (Kali Yuga, One Good Move)
  3. In an interesting twist, it turns out that Bill Clinton had a behind-the-scenes role in the party’s decision to adopt a hands-off policy on the Schiavo debate. According to CBS News, the former triangulator-in-chief helped sway Schiavo bill backer Tom Harkin, “egging him on” to roll over and play dead — an odious echo of his efforts to get John Kerry to come out in favor of all 11 state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. This kind of strategic calculation may have been all right in the mid-’90s, but not today, when the party is in desperate need of bold, decisive leadership. (Arianna Huffington, Schiavo Case Proves Dems Are Starving For Leadership)
  4. About Bush, The next triangulator and Bush the triangulator, (The recent White House flip-flop signaling a willingness to embrace the Democratic reliance on traditional fee-for-service Medicare to provide prescription drug benefits to the elderly is a second master stroke in composing a domestic political strategy).
  5. The last and the finest example: The Era of Bill Clinton Is Over
    Howard Dean triangulates the triangulator.
    (While Bill Clinton said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic Party—not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families. … I call now for a new era, in which we rewrite our Social Contract. We need to provide certain basic guarantees to all those who are working hard to fulfill the promise of America), William Saletan quoting Howard Dean.

To conclude FDR seems to have been the first triangulator, Bill Clinton was the triangulator-in-chief, Howard Dean tried to triangulate the triangulator (the Era of Bill Clinton is Over, blah-blah-blah), and the next triangulator is W. And to triangulate means to flip-flop. That's it!


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