No American presidency is complete without the emergence of one, or two, or more catchphrases as thoroughly associated with the incumbent as “Would you believe?” or “You really know how to hurt a guy” are with the late Don Adams. John F. Kennedy, in the early years of his presidency, was fond of saying “Let me say this about…” whatever topic was on his mind; after Vaughn Meader and a host of lesser impersonators milked it for endless laughs, he cut back on its use.
And, as Nixon impressionists from Dan Aykroyd to Alec Baldwin to David Frye (wherever he may be now) can tell you, no imitation of the thirty-seventh President would be complete without a full-throated rendition of “Let me make one thing perfectly clear” – a phrase so thoroughly associated with RN that its last two words appear as part of the title in perhaps a half-dozen of the many books written about him.
As 2009 has progressed, it’s become more and more evident that President Obama has used a variation of RN’s catchphrase far more often than RN did himself. As far back as August 1, Andie Collier at Politico pointed out that Obama had uttered “Let me be clear” countless times before intoning some statement of policy and opinion to which he wanted particular attention paid. But it has been in the last week, after Obama used the phrase in his remarks after learning he’d received the Nobel Peace Prize, that one major media website and newspaper after another has posted and published articles discussing the Presidential passion for clarity; here’s one of them, by Ben Feller of the Associated Press.