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3 AM in the morning

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 30, 2008

Back in the 1980s I lived through a campaign season during which candidates of both major parties questioned the seriousness of their opponents' proposals by asking: "Where's the beef?" The line drew chuckles the first few times it was used, since it echoed a popular television ad. That seemed appropriate to me, somehow. American political rhetoric had slipped down from the heights of the Lincoln-Douglas debates to the level of hamburger commercials.

Twenty years later, political rhetoric has reached a new low. I refer to the question that is being asked frequently-- again by politicians of both parties-- as to which candidate is better suited to answer that ominous phone call that comes "at 3 AM in the morning."

This is a non-partisan blog, so I don't propose to answer the question. Actually, I want everyone to stop asking it. 

Can we all agree that if a call comes at 3 AM, we can take the "in the morning" part for granted? And if it's "3 in the morning," that means 3 AM? 

If you get a frightening phone call at 3 in the morning, and you notice that your clock reads 3:00 PM, it's time to adjust your clock. If you find yourself talking about that call "at 3 AM in the morning"-- in a prepared speech, even!-- it's time to adjust your rhetoric.

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