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 6:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT