Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Obama, Romney: time to debate, and curse?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Thu June 14, 2012
Have we neutered our politicians' passion by limiting their choice of words?
Have we neutered our politicians' passion by limiting their choice of words?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Americans love to curse, we use profanity every day
  • Obeidallah: We're hypocritical in holding our politicians to a ridiculously prudish standard
  • He proposes a debate in which the presidential candidates can use profanity
  • Obeidallah: Debate will allow Obama and Romney to show their unfiltered, human side

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- Fact: Americans love to curse. We, the people, use profanity every day. Some will deny this reality, but those people are [expletive] kidding themselves.

Cursing is in our movies, TV shows, books and magazines. It's also a big part of our daily conversations -- especially when we get passionate about something.

However, for some bizarre reason, we demand that our elected officials not speak like the rest of us. We condemn them for even the slightest bit of swearing in public.

Opinion: Ban swearing? No way!

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

For example, about a week ago, House Speaker John Boehner was rebuked for using these words when speaking to Republican House members: "Let's call bulls--- bulls---"

President Obama raised more than a few eyebrows when he stated in a 2010 television interview that he wanted to know "whose ass to kick" to get the cleanup of the BP oil spill moving faster.

And Vice President Joe Biden came under fire for saying to President Obama during the signing ceremony of the health care law: "This is a big f---- deal!"

We need to stop being so hypocritical in holding our politicians to a ridiculously prudish standard of communication. If we get worked up about an issue, we wouldn't just use the King's English to explain how we really feel -- we'd be adding some French.

But we have neutered our politicians' intensity and passion by limiting their choice of words. And then we wonder why so many of our elected officials -- and especially our presidential candidates -- seem so bland and hard to relate to.

I'm not saying elected officials should be dropping the "f-bomb" when talking to schoolchildren, but why not allow them to show more emotions? Even CEO recruiters now recognize that the use of profanity by corporate executives is acceptable because it is a mark of "authenticity" and "commitment."

Hence, I offer a proposal that will hopefully provide us a glimpse of our presidential candidates at their most raw: A debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney on HBO so that they can use all the profanity they feel is necessary to convey their views.

This debate format benefits both voters and the candidates. For voters, it will enable us to truly assess a candidate's commitment to an issue. Let's be brutally honest, what showcases more sincerity? "Read my lips, no new taxes," or, "Read my lips, no [expletive] taxes. I'm not [expletive] kidding!"

Plus we can see how our presidential candidates would respond to a barrage of criticism, which is a test of character. How would Romney respond to President Obama calling him: "The biggest [expletive] flip-flopper in political history?" Would Romney just stand there, smiling sheepishly, or would he respond by channeling Samuel L. Jackson and calling Obama: "The worst [expletive] president in American [expletive] history!"

The two candidates should support this proposed debate since it will give them a much needed chance to show Americans their unfiltered, human side -- something both Obama and Romney clearly need to work on.

I understand that some people object vehemently to any kind of vulgarity. Indeed, just this Monday, residents in Middleborough, Massachusetts, voted to issue a $20 fine to anyone who curses in public. And earlier this year, the City Council in Washington voted to ban council members from using dirty words in public meetings.

To those who think profanity undermines the decorum of the presidency, you may have missed the details in your college history class. Numerous presidents on both sides of the political aisle have been famous for their use of foul language, including Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and the king of cursing: Richard Nixon. (At least on his private White House tapes.)

I'm not suggesting that using cuss words at a presidential debate will help end our nation's problems. But it might allow us to see our candidates at their most authentic self. And it will get us more interested and engaged in our democratic process.

Plus it will probably be the highest rated and the most quoted presidential debate in the history of our country.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT