Fiscal ‘Cliff Notes’by Art Jacobson on Dec. 05, 2012, under Cleft Stick, Federal Budget, Fiscal Cliff, Politics, Tax Policy
In your “Introductory Exposition” examination you may be asked to use the expression “cleft stick” in a sentence. One might write, “In the current debate on avoiding the fiscal cliff the Speaker of the House, Mr Boehner, finds himself in a cleft stick.”
The expression “cleft stick” can be traced back to middle 17th Century English. Originally the cleft stick was attached to the tongue of a noisy or foul-mouthed woman to keep her quiet.Today, it means roughly what we mean by “between a rock and a hard place….a very uncomfortable place to be. Or “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.”
In Mr Boehner’s case, political necessity requires that he propose a fiscal strategy to avoid tumbling us all over the cliff. But what the centrists of his own party might live with is rejected by the Republican right wing and by the Obama ministration. He is left speechless, his tongue in a political cleft stick. His only recourse has been to cashier from their committee positions Republicans who disagree with him.