Journalism 133: Prof. Craig: Readability: Opinion Column Example

Readability: Opinion Column Example

Read this edited excerpt from an opinion column published a few years ago, then discuss what could be done to make it more readable.

What a miserable, fumbling, timid aggregation of political trimmers and panhandlers our Congress is these days when it is openly said and never denied because it is wretchedly true, that the lawmaking body of a nation which purports to be the greatest republic on earth is afraid to pass any law that would place decent restraints on an organized mob of racketeers and dictators because the President won't give the high sign. 

The President of the United States is not the legislative body. He is the Executive, the general manager, the chairman of the board, and he has no right to give orders to Congress, but a duty to take orders and execute them. Congress has a duty to issue such orders, and the Members of both Houses are guilty of a crime against the people and the American form of government when they deliberately refuse to perform their job. The President's advice may be sought and respected, but there was no intention ever that he should tell Congress what laws it must pass and what laws it must refrain from passing. 

Nevertheless the National Legislature of the United States has abdicated its powers. Its duty and all but the petty rewards of office are now so far gone, in whining, yellow submission to the rule of the boss that the Members openly admit that all legislation must have approval of the White House... (This) pathetic crowd of flabby political slobs are selling out the American people today at the price of their contemptible patronage jobs and Treasury hand-outs with which to buy their own reelection. They talk of the robbery, extortion, physical brutality, and arrogant suppression of citizens' plain rights by groups of thugs, thieves, and anti-American conspirators, and they conduct investigations which prove their worst gossip and suspicions. But, in all these years not one law have they had the honor and manhood to enact which would trim the powers of these undisguised rascals. They drag witnesses to Washington to give irrefutable and undisputed evidence of the viciousness which is corrupting the whole Nation; they draft bills. They argue and then, having discovered the foul truth, they whimper like a kennel of foul curs because the President won't give them his gracious permission to do their obvious duty. There are said to be some men in both Houses in whim self-respect and honesty are not quite dead, but if so they are so inexcusably docile or dumb that all few of them together can't even raise a row. And all of those appalling frauds who clown it before the country as friends of labor are, on the contrary, traitors to the interests and rights of the very people whom they profess to serve best and have sold them down the river to a vile and greedy a lot of slave drivers.  They know and admit that millions of dollars have been wrung from the sweaty grasp of common breadwinners by the most rapacious gang of thieves that ever preyed on humankind. 

It isn't that the United States Congress lacks information or the authority to restore freedom to the people and destroy this monstrous outrage. These aren't the lack. What the United States Congress lacks is guts, and when the flag of the new order is unfurled it should contain a broad yellow streak in memory of the men who sold their country out for a few lousy jobs.

Westbrook Pegler, Washington Post, November 25, 1941

Back to JOUR133 home page
Back to Richard Craig's Home Page

Send comments and thoughts to