We've Avoided the Nuclear Meltdown, But D.C. Still Loves a Good War Metaphor

To be sure, dear confused reader, there will be no explosion of any literal sort if Harry Reid decides to go "nuclear" today, tomorrow, or any other day. What is "going nuclear," in Senatespeak, you might ask? Reid and the Democrats (or whoever is leading the Senate) can circumvent the more typical two-thirds vote to change the Senate's rules. With a simple majority, Reid could make it so that a 51-vote majority can end or block a filibuster from the minority party when it comes to presidential appointees. It looks nothing like this:


(AP Photo)

The term is rife for puns and metaphors. Although I don't think the current fad is as bad as the "fiscal cliff" we were either going to run into, fall off of, or swan dive from (depending on the writer) at the end of last year. D.C. loves war metaphors. How often do politicians "set off firestorms," "mount attacks," or go "on the offensive" without actually doing any of those things? Politicians even run in "campaigns," which can be defined as "a series of military operations intended to achieve a particular objective."

Yes, this all might be a little superficial, but if we are to believe the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis that the vocabulary we use to describe a topic affects the way we think about that topic, maybe it isn't. It's clear from the headlines of the last few days, Congress = War.

Here are some of our favorite "nuclear option" puns and metaphors we've seen crop up. On behalf of "the media," I'd like to offer the physicists of the world an apology.

Prepare for an explosion:

CNN: A top Republican aide warns that important bills like the recently approved immigration measure would never pass in a post-nuclear Senate. "If they blow the place up, then anything requiring a big bipartisan push like immigration will be impossible," the GOP aide said.

Because destruction is guaranteed.

The Huffington Post: Republicans say such a move would be nuclear indeed, and they've warned it will destroy the world greatest deliberative body, making it more like the majority-ruled House of Representatives.

Let's not downplay the stakes.

ABC: With the Senate on the verge of detonation, the biggest threat is to the Senate as we know it. But – really?…

Nukes are clearly set off by big, red buttons:

Greg Sargent: With the Senate hurtling towards a nuclear showdown today, this morning brings fresh signs that Democrats still may win this standoff by getting what they want without having to hit the nuke button. 


The fact that Dems won't agree to remove the threat of nuclear action later will be widely denounced as proof they are refusing to make concessions to avoid Armageddon.

On disarming the bomb:

The Huffington Post: The "nuclear" option currently under discussion isn't really all that radioactive, in fact. And if Democrats and Republicans can't strike a deal tonight—if "nuclear disarmament" can't be reached, to extend the metaphor—then Harry Reid should be fully prepared to follow through and change the rules for the Senate using whatever tools are available to him.

A chain reaction, mayhaps?

CNBC: Senate's "Nuclear Option" Could Cause a Market Meltdown

A mixed metaphor from former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

"I look at it this way: Let the nuclear option rain. Let it rain."

We aren't immune to it either

National Journal: Harry Reid Thinks He Can Limit 'Nuclear Option' Fallout.