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— It's shocking to find out: political discourse is often coarse. Consider, for example, the straitlaced, rigid James Baker. In 1981, David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's budget director, told a financial journalist that supply-side economics was just a Trojan horse so Reagan could cut his rich friends' taxes. The remark got into print. Growled Baker, Reagan's chief of staff, to Stockman, "Your a** is in a sling." Stockman should dine with the president. "The menu is humble pie. You're going to eat every last motherf***ing spoonful of it. You're going to be the most contrite sonofab**** this world has ever seen. I want to see that sorry a** of yours dragging on the carpet."

James Baker? That stiff, flinty, circumspect lawyer? Yes. How about the kindly, avuncular Dwight Eisenhower. "I have to sign so much g******ed paper," he complained. Lyndon Baines Johnson: "Let's be over there and smile and shake hands and thank everybody and then just cut their d**ks off." Mercy! The beloved John F. Kennedy could swear like a trooper and loved dirty stories, as did his queenly wife Jacqueline. In the 1960 debates, Richard Nixon upbraided Kennedy for not doing anything about Harry Truman's profanity. We have an obligation to the children, quoth Nixon. Then came the Watergate tapes, and "expletive deleted" became the best-known two words in the country. Truman? The national joke in the mid-20th Century was this exchange: Truman's daughter talking to her mother: "Daddy talks about 'manure' being spread on the White House lawn. Can't you get him to say 'fertilizer'?" Replies Bess Truman, "Do you realize how long it has taken me to get him to say 'manure'?"

But Bob Kittle, editorial-page editor for the Union-Tribune, has virgin ears. In a January 19 editorial, he whined that Don McGrath, city attorney Mike Aguirre's top aide, had told an assistant to inform opponents in a lawsuit to engage in self-fornication. The message was inadvertently sent to an opposition lawyer, who alerted Aguirre haters, including the U-T. McGrath's remark was "outrageously crude," wept Kittle, his hair standing on end, in the editorial. McGrath should not use "sophomoric four-letter words" to describe such an unnatural biological act. Never mind that Dick Cheney had expressed the same sentiment in the same words in mid-2004 on the floor of the U.S. Senate to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vermont. Even the elegant John Kerry used the F-word in 2004 in relation to the Iraq War. Colin Powell called the neocons "f***ing crazies."

The issue is not so much Kittle's virgin ears as what lies between them. He was playing right into Aguirre's hands and should have realized it. In early 2004, Kittle had sent an e-mail to Councilmember Scott Peters and used the words "f*** off." After Kittle's attack this year, Aguirre notified the public of the e-mail exchange in 2004 through a news release and on his website. Worse, Kittle's 2004 communications with Peters -- noted in a Reader column early last year -- were grossly unethical. Peters was coming to the U-T for a preelection interview. Beforehand, Kittle wanted Peters to do some favors: have the City remove telephone poles near the Kittle residence. Post signs to slow down traffic. Peters got the poles removed and got the City to assess the traffic situation. He got the U-T's backing. Such backscratching. Such a quid pro quo. So typical of the U-T and officeholders.

The next time Kittle wails and gnashes his teeth about naughty words, tell him to go...well, you know.

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