August 13, 2007
From the Poorly-Thought-Out Metaphors department: Rove’s resignation and its significance
I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the fact that the White House announced early this morning that Karl Rove will be resigning at the end of the month. I don’t have much to add to what’s already being said, but Mustang Bobby quoted this WSJ article, and the following metaphor caught my eye (emphasis added):
Mr. Rove doesn’t say, though others do, that this timing also allows him to leave on his own terms. He has survived a probe by a remorseless special counsel, and lately a subpoena barrage from Democrats for whom he is the great white whale. He shows notable forbearance in declining to comment on prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who dragged him through five grand jury appearances. He won’t even disclose his legal bills, except to quip that “every one has been paid” and that “it was worth every penny.”
I should note that this piece is labeled “commentary,” so I guess we’re not meant to expect objectivity from it. (And I imagine that a journalist that wasn’t at least moderately friendly toward the Bush administration wouldn’t have gotten the interview. So it goes.) But the Moby-Dick reference just about made me groan. So, if Rove is the white whale (which, in the first place, if one takes that metaphor at face value, it doesn’t seem like a nice thing to call a Caucasian politician of a certain age), then that would make the Democrats Ahab, right? Democrats are then a bunch of single-minded madmen, seeking “[v]engeance on a dumb brute. . . that simply smote thee from blindest instinct” (144)? Does the author of the piece, Paul A. Gigot, suppose that Democrats see in Rove “outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it” (144)? Does Rove represent the power and/or lack of sympathy of Nature? Does his whiteness “[call] up a peculiar apparition to the soul” (166)? Or is Rove a “murderous monster” (155)?
I’ll grant Gigot one thing: Rove represents different things to different political players, just as the whale represents different things to the various characters in Moby-Dick. Still, I hope he generally thinks out his metaphors/literary references better than he seems to have done this time around.
[Quotes are from the Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick, 1967.]