How to Stay Awake During Obama Speeches: Play Bullshit Bingo

Via e-mail:

1. Before Barrack Obama’s next televised speech, prepare your “Bullshit Bingo” card by drawing a square.  I find that 5″ x 5″ is a good size — and dividing it into columns –five across and five down. That will give you 25 1-inch blocks.  

2. Write one of the following words/phrases in each block: 

Restored our reputation 
Strategic fit
Let me be clear 
Make no mistake
Back from the brink
Signs of recovery 
Out of the loop
Job creation
Fiscal restraint
Affordable health care 
Previous Administration
At the end of the day
Empower (or empowerment) 
Touch base 
Inherited as in “I inherited this mess”
Relief for working families
Accountable (or held to account)
Free market

Players can make substitutions to this list, but only one phrase can be used in any one block. Alternatives include:

Change (as in “change you can believe in)
Universal health care
Brought the economy back from the brink

3. Check off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrases. 

 4. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout  “BULLSHIT!”  

Testimonials from past satisfied “Bullshit Bingo” players: 

 “I had been listening to the speech for only five minutes when I won.” – Jack W., Boston 

 “My attention span during speeches has improved dramatically.” – David D., Florida 

 “What a gas! Speeches will never be the same for me after my first win.” – Bill R., New York City  

“The atmosphere was tense in the last speech as 14 of us waited for the fifth box.” – Ben G., Denver  

“The speaker was stunned as eight of us screamed “BULLSHIT!” for the third time in two hours.” – Harry A. Chantilly

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve repeatedly posted on Obama’s and his team’s frequent use of Orwellian double-speak. The fact that this e-mail is circulating says the public is catching on.

      Opposition to Bush does not mean one has to support Obama. False dichotomy.

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          You are evidently not familiar with the game of Bingo. The point of the game is to catch uses of the phrases indicated in a SINGLE speech. You then need five not simply to occur, but to occur in a line as represented in the 5X5 grid, as in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.

          So your finding isolated uses of some of the phrases listed, in single posts, proves nothing, except maybe your eagerness to score points. And even then, you are off the mark. One phrase (job creation) came in a post by Frank Veneroso; another (back from the brink) is in a post by Ed Harrison. So of the seven you cited, only five were by me (and remember Bingo rules, it’s use by the same person in the same speech/article, so these do not count).

          Of the five by me, one (signs of recovery) was in a headline as a question, and if you read the post, it deliberately echoed the headline of a Bloomberg article it was analyzing. But even if you count that one in the posts I did write, you found no instances of the targeted expressions in 2010, and for more than half of the ones you found used by me, you had to go back to 2008 or 2007. Given the frequency of my posting (an average of over three a day), this actually proves the converse of what you seem to be trying to prove, that I use these expressions as frequently as Obama does.

          1. john bougearel

            Quite a bit of fun to come home to see this post. I don’t often get to smile when I visit your blog, so this is nice.


      1. darms

        At least Obama speaks in complete sentences using standard english language & grammer – didn’t GW put “food on the family” by this point in his presidency?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes, and one of my friends has a doll that will randomly recite a full menu of Bush verbal gaffes. They are legion! And the worst is that if you see videos from his gubernatorial campaign, he was once capable of using long words and constructing complex sentences. I am told his verbal decay is typical of people who have had serious alcohol problems.

          While it was rather astonishing that Bush got as far as he did (but that was in large measure due to 9/11, if you look at his press pre the attacks, it was pretty abysmal for a new president), Obama’s articulateness and intelligence means he should be held to a higher standard.

          1. attempter

            I read somewhere that almost all of Bush’s gaffes came when he was in bogus “compassionate conservative” mode, while when he’s talking about hurting people (like about war, crime, cutting social spending etc.), he’s generally articulate and gaffe-free.

            If so, that’s quite a window into his psychology.

      1. snarkman

        That was a pointless comment. Say something that is value added, positive or negative, I don’t really care, but that was just lame.

  1. mp

    Is this open source?

    I mean, can I print up some Obama Bullshit Bingo cards and distribute them to my friends and associates?

  2. retired and happy

    From 1980 to 2004, I was a journalist who covered national politics. To my ear, Obama’s Orwellian double speak, in your words Yves, has paled in comparison to that of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. I’m curious as to who among our political leaders you believe would be a more effective president of the United States in the year 2010.

    1. zanon

      I have a rock in my garden who would be as effective president of the united states as barack hussein jesus christ obama.

      to equal his effectiveness is trivial. to be more effective, impossible.

    2. Yves Smith Post author


      The difference is that one expects Madison Avenue slick packaging and easy phrasemaking from the right wing. If you’ve read any of the book by the disillusioned conservatives who despaired at the success of the far right of the Republican party (which is no longer far right, but was as of the early 1980s) by folks like David Brock and John Saloma, they stress how deliberate and self conscious the phrasemaking and packaging was.

      That hasn’t been the habit of liberals. Obama has presented himself as center left (his pre-election Change You Can Believe In) when he is center right in his reflexes.

      His liberal/intellectual packaging is a great Trojan horse for his phrasemaking. Dunno re you, but I expected it from Reagan and Bush and tuned it out. Even if Obama resorts to it less often, his packaging means some people will be less on guard than they should be.

      And the double-speak has been particularly heavy regarding the bank reform headfake, so it has been more in my face than it might have been otherwise. Paulson didn’t try half the rhetorical tricks we’ve seen out of Geithner.

      1. jake chase


        I sense that you are giving Clinton a pass. Don’t forget his sterling contributions to the bubble, his endless bullshit about the prosperity that trickled down to perhaps five percent of the population. Clinton tied the country to the Wall Street express and nobody seems to have noticed.

        Every one of these m… f…s brings the same things to the table: a demagogue’s gift for mobilizing nitwits united only by unfocused anger and futility, and a personal unscrupulousness and willingness to play ball with big money. Whether the successful candidate is a boob all of whose strings are pulled by unseen wizards (Bush) or a Rhodes Scholar or Affirmatively Created Harvard Law Review Professor, the bottom line remains the same. Those on the inside cash in and those on the outside sink or swim, largely on the basis of good or bad fortune in our rigged financial markets, the ultimate sucker game.
        Or you can get yourself a good lease and open a pizza joint.

        You can play bullshit bingo with anyone who has ever opened his mouth on television, and damn near every blogger too. But if you think tinkering with the Leviathan and jollying a few warts is going to help, you are playing right into the criminal designs of the Washington Consensus.

        Hayek got all this right in 1944. Skip the introduction by Milton Friedman, who was a clown of the first order.

        1. Marshall Auerback

          To criticise Obama is not to give Bush or Clinton a free pass. If you criticise fraud, it doesn’t mean that you support murder. Yves has had many posts which have documented the egregious mistakes of the Clinton era. In fact, today’s blog has an excellent post on one of the great architects of Clinton’s horrible neo-liberalism: Robert Rubin. What’s with all of the false dichotomies here? If you want to read stuff that makes you feel good about Obama, there’s always the Huffington Post.

          1. Evelyn Sinclair

            Well said!

            Your whole post – and I particularly enjoyed “If you criticise fraud, it doesn’t mean that you support murder.”

            I just wish Obama hadn’t expanded BOTH the fraud AND murder (“war”) aspects of the ongoing domination by the two major parties (Goldman Kleptocratic and Military Industry Complex).

          2. jake chase

            I wouldn’t wipe my ass with the Huffington Post, but your Modern Monetary Theory gives the predators all the leverage they need, courtesy of your favorite organ, Big Government. Go back and read Hayek and Mises while there is still time.

    3. michael

      Less bad does not necessarily equal good.
      And in my understanding few people allege Obama using doublespeak, it’s more use of nice words with little action, like an empty shell.
      But how about you tell us which president or politician was most effective during 1980 to 2004 in your opinion – and by that I anticipate not only with words.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I think you are letting him off too easy. Yes, people are increasingly realizing Obama is “all hat, no cattle”, but he DOES use Orwellian tricks, and recall Obama (unlike a lot of presidents) apparently does write his own speeches (he may not now, but given his history, I have to think he is more heavily involved in drafting them than most presidents).

        Just think of how he has debased the word “reform”. Recall the “stress tests” which were not deserving of the name, the “public private investment partnerships.” By contrast, you could tell he was never serious about the “public option” because his team never came up with a more appetizing name.

        1. michael

          Hmm, looks like I became deaf to such things 10 years ago following politics and living in Germany at the time…

          When a politician, having no history of tough serious reform, talks about reform I expect nothing to happen, except possibly the opposite.
          And if in dire times politicians come up with new names instead of explaining their approach in some detail, you know it’s most likely just smoke and mirrors.

  3. EmilianoZ

    Not so long ago (1 year and some months) Obama’s speeches were widely admired (by liberals).People were gushing about them. People wept at his rallies. The Atlantic’s James Fallows analyzed them at length. And he knows something about speeches. He was a speechwriter for Carter.

    And now, they’re just an object of derision. So sad.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I could not watch his entire inauguration speech. Given the grim mood of the country, I was astonished at how empty it was. Contrast it with FDR’s first inauguration speech.

      1. EmilianoZ

        I was mainly thinking about the speeches before he became president. I think his Philadelphia speech (after the reverend Wright revelations) was hailed as one of the greatest speeches about race.

          1. Dave Raithel

            And if not for that speech, I’d probably have done as my Green friends, who categorically “refuse to vote for those people – it just encourages their duplicity.”

            I guess we’re all political nihilists now.

        1. eric

          I agree, the inaugural wasn’t great, but the one in Chicago on election night was awesome, and for a second made me think he might be able to be a kind of FDR. I should have known better, but on the night of his victory he looked/sounded so grim–less like a crowing victor than like a veteran about to ship out to an even deadlier battle–that I did allow myself to hope. Oh well, we know how that turned out…

  4. Linda Jansen

    Mr. Obama picked his economic team deliberately, his White House staff, etc.

    So yes, it does seem he uses his word smithery to dazzle and misdirect while they are up to no good.

    He is, alas, a brand that has been sold to the American public. It’s a little late for caveat emptor, isn’t it?

  5. IF

    I think the bingo is cute, even though this form of ridicule is not new. I remember people doing shots during GWB state of the unions. But I don’t know why people fell early for Obama. I am just a foreigner, but his speeches sounded hollow and lacking substance. Instead they employed rhetorics and strange rhythm to emphasize multiple words per sentence. If I were evil I would have said a Goebbels for people with short attention span. (But I still think he has better motivation than that, just the methods are similar.) But many people wanted to believe in a savior, and seem to be getting disappointed now. He might still be the best of poor choices. Is the US political class really so splintered and void of talent? I don’t have much hope with the nonlinear election system and the need for gigantic financing. How to get that fixed in the short term?

  6. AP

    I’m impressed. Obama apologists are out in force! Must have struck a nerve.

    It’s been said time and time again, listen to not what he says, look at what he does.

    In light of all the social promises he’s broken (closing Guantanamo, turning on the gay community), squandering the goodwill of the people to change things like he swore up and down he embodied… he’s merely towing the line for big banks and expanding the military industrial complex. Lockstep with the last administration, and the one before that… and so on. Exactly why he was put into the role of (P)resident by TPTB.

    Brilliant post. I’ll take my laughs where I can get them. They are far and few between these days.

    1. Dave Raithel

      If only the promises he HAD failed to deliver were instead the ones he’s made good…

      Still: He’s had help in failing – from the Blue Dogs, backsliders like Lieberman.

      And still further: Had he acted like the political thug we apparently need to get anything done in DC, the faux revolutionaries to his right – Teabaggers and Republicans camouflaged as non-Republicans (Dick Armey and all those George Mason and Grove City College polemicists) would still circulate their gibberish.

      And so lastly: I like to repeat Ed Harrison’s observation that Obama needs to learn to act like an asshole.

      We have a peculiar complaint: Our President is not an Asshole.

    2. Robin

      Out in force indeed! My thoughts exactly. I know that this website got a big boost in a diary on the Rec List at DKos.

      Also, maybe being touted on the List of one of the Top 10 Econ Blogs has its drawbacks?

  7. dsawy

    Yves, we used to play a similar bingo with management buzzwords in Silicon Valley. This was during the 90’s, when “consultants” and “management visionaries” were running around the valley, peddling their “new economy” nonsense.

    We engineers would print up bingo sheets before some of these meetings and then in the middle of the meeting, you’d hear one engineer say (quietly) “Bingo!” and all the other engineers sigh and mutter “Damn.”

    The “consultants” and “visionaries” never caught on. They’d look puzzled, but never copped the clue we were fed up with all their stupid buzzwords.

  8. dwight baker

    I have begun to write a bit and put my stuff on the Internet when doing running spell check I found out quickly had a bad habit of fragmenting sentences.

    But the good thing about that was my sentence structure has improved but on another note Obama speeches have been found by me to be ramblings that suffer and beg to be understood for a consistence of one thought seems to never be tied to the rest of the dialog that might or might not occur 3 minutes later.

    1. Skippy

      D. Eisenhower, J. Carter and a plethora of others tried in vane to right the moral compass of this budding nation to no avail.

      The monetarists have taken helm of this ship and will sail it right off there’d flat world.

      Skippy…Obama is the pinnacle of suit-ism.

  9. Ina Pickle

    I love the bingo! Speaking as someone who has drunk her way through many a SOU, for presidents from Bush I through Bambi, I needed a game that was more family-friendly and left me with less of a hangover. Getting older, you know.

    Bush couldn’t put together a sentence at all: it was very difficult to take him seriously, and that was even with the MSM filtering everything he said to make him seem like less of a national joke. This person scares me, because he is good at oratory and very intelligent. I think it is valuable to be vigilant regarding the line we’re being fed. REGARDLESS of what you think of Obama, at what point to do you become very suspicious of the methods used to convey a message that does not match what you see going on in the world around you?

  10. retired and happy

    To Yves and everyone else I repeat my question from above: what political leader do you think would be a better president at this time in our history than the one we have? I don’t care if he/she couldn’t get elected by the American public, but who would be better among the current crop of political leaders? Who would be a better communicator and fearless leader yet also has demonstrated an ability to juggle multiple crises at the same time? As someone who covered the White House during the Clinton years, I do not believe that Hillary would fit the bill. Certainly, McCain would have been way over his head. I cannot think of any prominent members in the House or Senate but am open to suggestions. And, given the magnitude of current mess, I, for one, would not prefer to see someone take center stage who had no Washington experience whatsoever. So, who?

    1. michael

      I would still prefer McCain, as he has shown to act according to some sound principles. (Gramm would have been as disastrous as Summers, and Palin as irrelevant as Biden.)

      Otherwise I can only propose Ron Paul, or Colin Powell.

  11. jh

    I would be disqualified.My usual utterances when
    listening to Washingtonspeak are:
    Get to the point. Say something. Bullshit.
    Get to the point. Say something. Bullshit.
    Get to the point. Say something. Bullshit.


  12. TexEd

    Not really a fair game! Once the guys who own Obama and write his speeches for him realize that there is money involved (many of the American owners are Chicago thugs, don’t forget), they will have Obama say only the blather that is on their cards so that THEY can win.

  13. Johnny Dangereaux

    Hey retired and happy……
    The Answer to your friggin’ question is……
    He’s not owned by the Council on Foreign Relations….the group that has chosen your “president” for you for the last 90 years! I’m actually quite surprised they haven’t offed him yet.

    Political “leaders”—HA!

    Do your research, since you must have some extra time, being retired and all…..
    Start with Brzyzinsky and the Smith-Richardson Foundation……ever been to
    People are waking up to the real axis of evil….private foundations(RAND,AEI etc.), the CFR, The Fed and the executive branch…..and with the internet their days are approaching an end, faster than any one will/would have expected.
    check out

  14. retired and happy

    Ron Paul, no thank you for reasons too numerous to detail here. And Johnny Dangereaux, one great little factoid about being an elder is that I have earned the right not to believe in every conspiracy theory that comes down the pike

    1. Siggy

      Gee, for a moment there I thought you’d be a prime candidate for my enhanced roll of aluminium foil. I have a lot in stock.

      Bullshit Bingo is BullShit.

      President Obama comes to us from Hawaii by way of Chicago, the place of rotten onions and a river that has been induced to flow the wrong way. Now there is this political style, The Chicago Way. The Chicago Way is the creedo of clout raised to high art. Its most noted practitioners were possesed of unbounded skill in the art of say nice and do nothing. Or, say dumb and do dumber then followed by a selfserving mea cupla.

      Much as I want President Obama to be successful in his stewarship of the ship of state my schadenfreude will not be achieved until President Obama leaves office and a failed state behind.

      It’s not that I want the nation to fail, it’s that so much of what this administration is seeking to achieve is fundamentally wrong for the country. Sadly, the failure of this administration appears to be a necessary step for the initation of the corrective action that will set the ship of state right and on a proper course.

      1. emm

        “Sadly, the failure of this administration appears to be a necessary step for the initation of the corrective action that will set the ship of state right and on a proper course.”

        Dream on, Siggy. The model to be considered would be somewhere between the Titanic, and the USSR.

        Obama is a mix of Captain Smith & Gorby rolled into a neatly packaged, nifty straight black man.

        I guess the Obamas are marginally more photogenic than a captain Smith, or a John-McCane/Sarah Palin combo. Joe Biden would be the anti-Cheney: a useless panderer.

        So, Siggy, why take this tragedy so seriously; this is what America was about: a comedy of errors.

  15. Evelyn Sinclair

    Thanks so much for a little breath of giggly fresh air.

    I can’t play because I don’t listen to Obama’s speeches. When I did listen to his debate with McCain, I just liked him so much, and he sounded so reasonable, it took me days to get back to believing in my own knowledge, in context, of what he actually stands for.

    The man is so charismatic he’s dangerous.

    When he was elected people wept and danced in the streets. I got drunk and went to bed.

    I have regarded Obama’s presidency as kind of an IQ test for liberals.

    Many progressives still defend him, and think criticism of Obama means you’ve somehow gone all right-wing on them. Hello, this is War Prez II here. He’s expanded the war in the middle east (etc.). How can they not notice?

    He called what we’re doing in Afghanistan a “just war.” Mr. Peace Prize – It’s JUST WAR! He said with what I assume was with a sober, sincere demeaner that the reason we’re still carrying on in Afghanistan is because of the origination of the 9/11 attacks from there. Really he did! Where is the outrage from liberals who were out at protest marches when Cheney/Bush was leading the charge?

    He makes everything sound so reasonable. A very bright friend listened to a speech he gave on health care reform a couple of months ago, and ever since he has had the empression that Obama’s really a good guy and the only problem is spineless Democrats and evil Republicans in Congress. He gets annoyed that I continue to read Obama as part of the problem, as having sinister motives.

    This is scary!

    I figure I can safely read the speeches, but I don’t want to risk exposure to the Obama-Rays you get from his personality on radio or TV!

  16. Andrew

    I don’t understand people. If you criticize Obama then that means you were a supporter of Bush? Doesn’t make sense. Both are crooks and the American people have to wake up to the left-right paradigm.

    Obama, Bush, McCain, Clinton; pretty much all the same. No difference among any of them. Obama is an idiot. Bush was and is an idiot.

    One of many reasons both Bush and Obama are idiots is allowing non-sensical policies occur like this one

  17. Paul Tioxon

    I do not understand this juvenile need to amuse oneself during presidential speeches. All well regarded international standards, ASTM .. ISO 9001 etc ALL OF THEM use the supremely simple standard, well established and universally understood and accepted for bull shit: His lips are moving. Please don’t waste anymore of our precious time, we are serious people with important jobs, places to go, meetings to attend and so on, best regards, sincerely…

  18. Chris M.

    At least he’s coherent. Can you imagine W. trying to lead the health care summit? Most of his words weren’t even words. I wouldn’t mind hearing more from Obama – more prime time news conferences might help.

  19. jedwards

    One other phrase he used a lot was “uniquely qualified”, when selecting people for various posts.

  20. Sydney Whorton

    Nice one! If I could write like this I would be well chuffed. The more I read articles of such quality as this (which is rare), the more I think there could be a future for the Web. Keep it up, as it were.

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