Throw him under the bus

I’ve been seeing the phrase throw him under the bus quite a bit lately, especially in the blogosphere. This Newsweek article tries to explain the increasing use of that phrase and where it originated.

‘Under the Bus’

Add to Rev. Wright’s legacy this suddenly inescapable phrase

By Tony Dokoupil
Newsweek Web Exclusive

From the tar pits of the blogosphere to the peaks of the mainstream media, one strange phrase has bubbled up in the wake of Sen. Barack Obama’s sweeping speech on race in America: “He didn’t throw him under the bus.” The “him” is, of course, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., Obama’s former pastor, whose angry and racially charged sermons have sparked controversy that could undercut Obama’s presidential candidacy. But the metaphor—”throw him under the bus”—is tougher to explain. Where did it come from? Why is it suddenly ubiquitous? And at the risk of sounding overly sensitive, is it even advisable, given its ugly echo with the “back of the bus” legacy of African-Americans?

In the last few years, “thrown under the bus” has become the leading cliché of the political blame game. Former Arkansas attorney general Bud Cummins used it to assess the fate of nine colleagues who were mysteriously dismissed in 2006; rocker Melissa Etheridge used it last year to characterize the lives of gays and lesbians after the 1992 presidential election, and earlier this year MSNBC political reporter David Schuster claimed he was “thrown under the bus” for an uncouth on-air remark he made about Chelsea Clinton.

In general, “thrown under the bus” is a metaphor for what happens when someone takes a hit for someone else’s actions. But unlike its etymological cousins, “scapegoat” and “fall guy,” the phrase suggests a degree of intimacy between the blamer and the blamed. That’s why it might have been on the tip of everyone’s tongue this week. Jeremiah Wright was Obama’s religious mentor, after all, the person who officiated at his marriage and baptized his kids. And while Obama distanced himself from Wright’s sermons, he also humanized the fiery preacher by attributing his remarks to the lingering injuries of racism. In other words, according CNN’s senior political analyst David Gergen: “He didn’t throw him under the bus.”

You can read the entire article here.

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