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Make political hay? 抓住机会打击政敌

中国日报网 2024-01-16 11:12


Reader question:

Please explain “political hay”, as in this headline: Critics continue to make political hay over the president’s gaffes.

My comments:

The president, whoever that may be, made a series of gaffes, either saying something wrong or acting silly, and critics have since seized the opportunity to make political gains from those gaffes.

Such as?

Such as saying the president is incompetent. Such as saying let’s remove him. Such as saying let’s select someone from our own party to replace him.

Things like that.

That’s making political hay, hay being utilized in a political way.

Hay, originally, refers to stacks of grass harvested and laid out in the sun to dry. Farmers make hay in summer (when grass is high and aplenty) in order to help feed animals during wintertime (when grass ceases to grow).

From this practice comes the idiom, make hay while there is sunshine.

This idiom originates in Britain. It makes a lot of sense because Britain is known for its wet weather, with lots of rain throughout the year.

Lots of rain and scant little sunshine. So in this condition, farmers know to make hay while the sun is out.

Metaphorically, if you make hay while there’s sunshine, you’re making the most of your opportunities.

That is, while you can.

While it’s still possible.

Before those opportunities are gone entirely.


All right, here are media examples of people making hay in the figurative sense, i.e. taking advantage of a situation while they can:

1. SINCE the scandal over the American treatment of Iraqi prisoners erupted, the so-called Arab street has gone eerily silent. Certainly, commentators and café pundits have made plenty of hay over the superpower’s shame. Yet the volume of outrage is less than might have been expected.

The silence is not the sound of forgiveness but of ice-cold contempt. If Arabs seem surprisingly unshocked by the hideous imagery, it is because they see it not as an aberration but as viscerally satisfying proof of the underlying nature, as they see it, of America's brash intrusion on to Arab soil. The cheap supremacist posing of a few reservists is seen as the logical consequence of America’s higher-level posturing as what a prominent Saudi businessman calls “the region’s dominatrix”.

Serious as it is, the Abu Ghraib scandal is only one in a string of indignities that Arabs perceive to have been heaped on them over the years. Long before September 11th, they cringed at seeing themselves depicted as Hollywood’s seemingly favourite villains and bridled at what they see as America’s apparently reflexive backing for Israel, right or wrong. In Arab eyes, the war on terror all too often took on shades of a broader hostility to Arabs and Muslims. Hence the Arabs’ overwhelming opposition to America’s invasion of Iraq.

“They ask us not to judge America by the Abu Ghraib guards,” says the well-heeled Egyptian agent for several American defence firms. “So why did they judge all Arabs by the 9/11 hijackers?” Such is the pain of the dwindling number of friends America has in the Arab world; some of the sharpest criticism of America, notes a western diplomat, now comes from Arab liberals who had shared American hopes of a democratic domino effect.

Among the larger number of Arabs predisposed to dislike America, the language is harsher. For Islamists, the sexual assault on Muslim dignity doubly confirms America’s supposed secular depravity and a lingering Christian vindictiveness harking back to the crusades. One Islamist website gloated over this week’s videotaped beheading of an American captive in Iraq.
- Ice-cold contempt, Economist.com, May 13, 2004.

2. By now, late night has made plenty of hay out of the sexual-harassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly – so whatever John Oliver did on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight would have to be pretty original. Naturally, the creator of the Dog Supreme Court and founder of Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption did not disappoint. On Sunday night, Oliver produced another educational video made specifically for Donald Trump, who made waves last week for steadfastly defending one of his biggest TV supporters against harassment allegations.

“Yes,” Oliver confirmed for his audience, “Bill O’Reilly, who scientists hypothesize is kind of a dense nebula of boner and racism, has been paying out settlements for alleged harassment or years. And the details are pretty disturbing here, with the victims claiming things like verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances, and phone calls in which it sounded like Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating. And I hate to ask this – but what does that sound like?”

In the wake of the allegations, which O’Reilly has denied via a statement from 21st Century Fox, Oliver noted that advertisers for The O’Reilly Factor have been dropping like flies. “And I would say that he should call his advertisers to apologize,” Oliver quipped, “but the problem is he might just start jerking off while they’re on the phone.”

Aside from the Fox network itself, which has so far stood by one of its most recognizable pundits, Oliver observed that the only person who seems set on defending O’Reilly is Trump – who, of course, has had a few similar allegations leveled against him. According to Oliver, this should hardly surprise anyone; “It is entirely plausible that the hill our president is willing to die on is the one formed by Bill O’Reilly’s workplace erection poking up against his old-man slacks,” Oliver said. And so, Oliver decided to try and get through to Trump in the only way he knows how: an educational video, in which a catheter spokesperson veers into a lecture tailor-made for Trump himself. It’s a gambit Oliver started back in February, and if Oliver’s ad gets approved by Fox, it’ll air against The O’Reilly Factor. But just in case it doesn’t, Oliver aired a preview of the ad Sunday night.

“Howdy again,” Oliver’s trusty spokesman says in the P.S.A. “I’m a professional cowboy. I use catheters, and there’s two things I know: I don’t like pain when I cath, and repeated unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks in the workplace constitute sexual harassment. If there’s a power disparity between the two parties, well, that’s about as inappropriate as lubricating a catheter with hot sauce, partner... If you got a friend who is accused of doing something like that, over and over again, I might think twice about defending him. Because that just contributes to a culture where women don’t want to come forward. And I know you might not care about that. But on some level you gotta know you’re blowing this. You’re sacrificing the chance to make society a better place on the altar of your towering ignorance and fragile ego. You are blowing this.”

- John Oliver Made a Sexual-Harassment P.S.A. to Air During The O’Reilly Factor, VanityFair.com, April 10, 2017.

3. What if we were all judged for the bad decisions of our problematic relatives?

OK, so you’re not the leader of the free world and your shady cousin probably isn’t consorting with Ukrainian mining executives or Chinese energy tycoons.

But either way, you wouldn’t expect to be dragged through public hearings, probed by politicians and dogged reporters and tarred by some media outlets as a member of some familial crime syndicate merely because you share their last name, right?

Alas, in our current bonkers political climate, that’s pretty much all it takes to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unilaterally opened the inquiry last week – despite previously saying he wouldn't do so without a full House vote – where he alleged Biden abused his power, obstructed justice and personally benefited from business deals orchestrated by his son Hunter Biden. The inquiry, which begins Sept. 28 with a House Oversight Committee hearing, doesn’t guarantee that actual articles of impeachment will follow, nor that it will even garner enough support among McCarthy’s narrow Republican majority to make it to a Senate trial, nor that the Democrat-controlled Senate will convict the leader of their own party.

What it does guarantee is an unnecessary distraction from far more important congressional business, such as keeping the dang government open beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Instead, the perpetually embattled McCarthy gets to toss some fresh red meat to the extremist naysayers in his conference who are licking their chops at the first opportunity to depose him and install a speaker who will do their bidding – who would do more than what McCarthy does now.

The unseriousness of this inquiry is plain to see from anyone who’s been following the Hunter Biden legal saga, but apparently some politicians are open to the possibility there's something to the whole “Biden crime family” thing. We were disappointed, for instance, that John Cornyn, Texas’ senior Republican senator, threw his support behind the impeachment inquiry last week, claiming Biden has “committed the sorts of acts that warrant an impeachment inquiry” and there’s “more than enough smoke” for the House to investigate.

Really? The primary “evidence” uncovered by months of House investigations into Hunter is that his father was present on speakerphone during some calls Hunter had with foreign clients, even though Hunter’s own business partner already told House investigators the president never got involved with his son’s business deals nor accepted any bribes. Of course, the real hope of the impeachment inquiry is that it will allow House investigators to dig deeper than their subpoena power allows. U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) admitted as much during an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, saying, “That’s what the inquiry is for, to get more evidence.”

Indeed, this is a golden opportunity to make political hay out of Biden ahead of his 2024 re-election campaign, where he is likely to face off against Trump again in the general election. It’s a chance for Trump sycophants to reinforce the false equivalency that this “scandal” is somehow on the same level as the four separate criminal cases Trump himself is facing, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, related to his involvement in the Jan. 6 riots on the Capitol.

- Impeach Biden? What a waste of Republican power, HoustonChronicle.com, September 21, 2023.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


Word salad? 言语混乱


Binge watch? 刷剧


Running around in circles? 兜圈子


Knock-on effect? 连锁反应


Second fiddle? 副手


Killer instinct? 杀手本能

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