Where did the dithering start?

I did some searchers on “dithering” in the New York Times and Washington Post archives. In the Times, there were eleven uses of the word post-Cheney out of a total of 47 in the past year. In the Post, there were 36 post-Cheney out of a total of 46 in the past 12 months.

Michael Gerson, Jackson Diehl, and David Broder have all accused the president of “dithereing” post-Cheney. Gerson also used the phrase about a week before Cheney’s speech. Ronald Krebs and Dana Milbank also wrote pieces accusing Obama of dithering before Cheney’s speech (Jim Hoagland also wrote a piece, praising the dithering). The phrase seems to have originated with Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” on October 4.

It’s interesting how these words take off and I think it’s likely that neocons settled on it and that Krebs, Gerson, and Cheney all using it within a week of each other was no accident (Diehl and Broder fall more in the category of useful idiots).

The word “dithering” appeared only once on the NYT’s editorial page, in a Maureen Dowd piece satirizing Cheney.

Update. This is apropos of John’s last post, for those to whom that isn’t obvious.

Update. Halperin fronts Broder channeling Cheney. The circle is complete. Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

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35 replies
  1. 1
    Walker says:

    Read your own blog.

  2. 2

    What I like about the “dithering” meme is that these morons got their talking points and have been throwing them around and then Obama, after receiving four options re Afghanistan, rejects them all, i.e., doesn’t cave to the mouth-breather brigade for even a second.

    I’m so glad we have a president who actually takes time to think, weigh evidence, hear opinions, as opposed to some Texan Village Idiot who operates “from the gut”.

  3. 3
    donnah says:

    Look back and see “foment”, which was a word seldom used in any conversation, ever. Bush, Cheney, Rice and crew used it constantly about Afghanistan and terrorists. Same with the phrase, “Move heaven and earth”, which was how hard they would have tried to prevent 9/11 if only they had some sort of clue that it was going to happen, and also used after Katrina.

    It’s playbook time. Once a key word gets used, they pass it around, (psst, here! Use THIS word!) and they all sound the same. It happened with Obama’s bow just the other day. O-bow-ma, whatever. They are like little children, only dumber.

  4. 4
    calipygian says:

    Who was the guest when Bob Schieffer used the word “dither”?

  5. 5
    DougJ says:

    Read your own blog.

    Uh, what do you think I was referring to here, if not John’s last post.

    I guess I have to make things explicit with a link.

  6. 6
    calipygian says:

    From the transcript, it appears that Schieffer may have introduced the phrase, but he probably got it from somewhere else.

    He used the tired “some say he is dithering” formulation, which means him and Dick were down at the Athletic Club, sipping old fashioneds, bitching about the state of the nation.

    Or something like that.

    Nonetheless, it appears that “dithering” was a meme circulating around the Village before Cheney used it.

  7. 7
    calipygian says:

    @DougJ: Don’t bother Doug. It appears that some people’s attention spans are so short that they assume that YOUR attention span is short too.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:

    Don’t bother Doug.

    To be honest, I would have linked back to begin with except I thought it was poor form to link to your own blog all the time.

  9. 9
    Loneoak says:

    I will say ‘dither’ has a nice feel to it. Left to my own devices, I would probably go with something phallic or scatological, like ‘dicking around’ or ‘isn’t doing shit.’

  10. 10
    John Cole says:

    In fairness, there really is no fundamental difference between the WaPo op-ed page and a wingnut blog. Except a lot of wingnut blogs get more traffic.

  11. 11
    BB says:

    Back in the 1980 campaign, the Reagan shop kept accusing Carter of having a “vacillating” foreign policy. Suddenly, everyone was throwing that word around, even those who didn’t know what it meant the year before.

    Conservatism is not about thinking. It’s about single, catchy words and easy-to-digest phrases which appeal to voter’s lizard brains. There’s a reason why there’s only one guy who people point to as a thinking conservative (Buckley).

    2,000 pages!
    BOWING!!!
    Wise Latina!
    Dither! Marsh Mouse! Don’t Tread On Me!

    It’s all so elevating. Unless every voter gets their Erick Erickson viking-style decoder ring before the 2012 election, this crowd is going to be shouting at the wind for a while.

  12. 12
    eemom says:

    “Post-Cheney.” I like that. Would that we WERE post-Cheney.

    As for the dithermongers, this humble cartoon says it all:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/news.....re_to.html

    ok, they can shove their heads back up their asses now.

  13. 13
    CalD says:

    Dithering: It’s the new “waffling!”

  14. 14
    bayville says:

    Actually, I think the smartly GOP co-opted the term from a March 2009 column written by Krugman on the economy.

    The headline of the March 5 column was “The Big Dither” in Krugman criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the stimulus package.
    (Ironically- and unfortunately -he has been proven correct).

    Many analysts agree. But among people I talk to there’s a growing sense of frustration, even panic, over Mr. Obama’s failure to match his words with deeds. The reality is that when it comes to dealing with the banks, the Obama administration is dithering. Policy is stuck in a holding pattern.

  15. 15
    mk3872 says:

    Thank you, Doug, for the help in translating the right-wing war mongering terminology …

    Do I have this straight? It is preferrable to jump head-first without proper deliberation, into a costly & deadly war scenario that was devised by career military men, then to force your staff into making the best possible plan, complete with milestones and an exit strategy???

    If I am correct in that assessment, then we have one of the most obvious manifestations of the military industrial complex theory, being assisted Broder, Millbank and the rest of the DC Villagers …

  16. 16
    CalD says:

    Anyway, right-wingers are always accusing everyone else of indecisiveness. It’s the nature of the authoritarian mind set to equate bold decisiveness with strong leadership — even if the decider is making mostly bad decisions, mostly as a consequence of rushing, poorly informed, to judgment.

    After all, when you see the world in black and white terms and everything you need to know to make important decisions in life you learned in Sunday school, then what’s to inform yourself about or deliberate? Deliberation is for doubters and wimps.

  17. 17
    bago says:

    I was in Georgetown last night. Apparently someone was hosting a black tie dinner party. Doing some “ameteur sociology”, It struck me that the cloistered nature of the area (not car friendly) might induce a touch of sanity to these people, seeing that they are actually forced to walk amongst other people on their way to dinner. This is opposed to Bellevue where you don’t have to acknowledge anyone you don’t wish to.

  18. 18
    Little Dreamer says:

    @DougJ:

    I thought the purpose of having additional writers here was to find DIFFERENT things to talk about, not the same thing twice.

  19. 19
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    Don’t bother Doug. It appears that some people’s attention spans are so short that they assume that YOUR attention span is short too.

    Squirrel!

  20. 20
    mistersnrub says:

    For all their talk of “freedom” and “liberty” the GOP sure does resemble a Borg-like hivemind.

  21. 21
    Little Dreamer says:

    @CalD:

    Anyway, right-wingers are always accusing everyone else of indecisiveness. It’s the nature of the authoritarian mind set to equate bold decisiveness with strong leadership—even if the decider is making mostly bad decisions, mostly as a consequence of rushing, poorly informed, to judgment.

    IIRC, Hitler was bold and decisive too!

    Just saying…

  22. 22
    Jason says:

    Tinkers to Evers to Chance shit.

    Haha fixed it. No, wait…

    Tinkers to Evers shit to Chance shit.

    That’s bett…no wait

    Tinkers Shit to Evers shit to Chance shit.

    oh I give up

  23. 23
    ppcli says:

    One thing the history of warfare teaches us is that you mustn’t dither if you want to be immortalized in the same pantheon as General Custer, Lords Raglan and Cardigan at Sebastopol, Ney at Waterloo, and even going back to Varus at Teutoburg Forest and Crassus at Parthia,

  24. 24
    Conrads Ghost says:

    Tinkers to Evers to Chance – lovely reference. Mr. Cole, you ever read the Fireside baseball books?

  25. 25
    maya says:

    So then, the opposite of dithering would be Cheneyesque ?

  26. 26
    BillCinSD says:

    I think The Tick covered this with

    “Leap before you look”

    and

    “when evil is afoot and you don’t have any arms, you gotta use your head. When evil is ahead and you’re behind, you’ve gotta do the legwork. But, when you can’t get a leg up, you gotta be hip! You gotta keep your chin up, and kick some –”

    you get the idea

  27. 27
    licensed to kill time says:

    The dither – A musical instrument consisting of a flat sounding box with numerous strings of Cheney, Gerson and Broder, placed on a horizontal surface, and played with a plectrum and fingertips. Five fingertips and a rosy plectrum, if I recall correctly.

  28. 28
    chrome agnomen says:

    tinkers to evers to chance hell!

    more like dick to mouth to anus

  29. 29
    jean says:

    Are Grover Norquist and Frank Luntz still hosting their weekly lockstep meetings? They used to send out wingnut talking points. Before they were wingnuts, even.

  30. 30
    Enceladus says:

    And let’s not forget that, before January 2007, you would seldom hear media personalities use the word “surge.”

    But now you can’t get away from that word, even when all people are talking about is the common idea of an “increase.”

  31. 31
    fraught says:

    Hey, get off of my word! Dithering is a word patented for use only for those of us over 65. It’s a word we’re used to because our Gramma’s used it all the time. “What are you standing there dithering for? Get off to school” “Oh, mercy! I’m all in a dither about which hat to wear.” It was a slip by Cheney. He knows that dithering and war can’t go in a sentence together. He’s a little senile you know.

  32. 32

    How about embolden and emboldening… always appearing in close proximity to our enemies and the terrorists.

    I always twitch slightly now whenever I hear “embolden.” Fortunately, since Bush has left the building, the frequency of its use has plummeted.

  33. 33
    RandyH says:

    It would be interesting to see some statistics on the use of the word “Dither/dithering” from someone with access to Lexis/Nexis, where they could include all TV transcripts in their search.

    For example, I just heard Crazy Peggy Noonan this morning on the Chris Mathews Show using the word as she so graciously offered her advice to Obama. Everyone in the circle agreed with her of course.

  34. 34

    […] at Balloon Juice: I did some searchers on “dithering” in the New York Times and Washington Post archives. In the […]

  35. 35
    BURT werbel says:

    It’s Tinker, not Tinkers.

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