The Corner

When Politicians State ‘I Am’ or ‘I Am Not’ Something . . .

It’s a handy rule-of-thumb that when a politician – usually in a press conference, where he’s annoyed repeatedly with the same question about his judgment – announces that he is or is not something, well, he is that thing. Richard Nixon set the gold standard in 1973 with his announcement “I’m not a crook,” which the Watergate affair showed he exactly was.

Recent examples of this phenomenon have come tumbling in hard and fast:

  • “I don’t think we’re stupid”: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, discussing the P5+1’s very stupid Joint Plan of Action with Iran in November 2013, and referring to the Obama administration as a whole.  
  • “I am not a bully”: New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, responding on January 9 to revelations that his staff had used arch-bullying tactics.
  • “Je suis social-démocrate” (“I am a social democrat”): President François Hollande on January 14, precisely as he announced a series of anti-socialist spending and tax cuts.