draining the swamp

Miller, Jerry jmiller at FRANKLINCOLLEGE.EDU
Thu Jan 3 22:41:33 UTC 2002

Brian: One context for the "draining the swamp" phrase that I've heard is in
a humorous sense (or semi-humorous?). I remember hearing the "joke" but most
clearly recall it from a sign an Indiana prison warden, who was under huge
political pressure at the time, had on his office wall (and a colleague of
mine used as the lead for his story on the warden): "When you're up to your
ass in alligators, it's hard to remember you are only there to drain the
swamp." (This was probably 30 years ago or so.)
Not totally irrelevant in the current context, perhaps?

Jerry Miller
Pulliam School of Journalism
jmiller at franklincollege.edu

> -----Original Message-----
> From: brian faler [SMTP:brianfaler13 at YAHOO.COM]
> Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2002 3:31 PM
> Subject:      draining the swamp
> I am a reporter for National Journal, a politics and government magazine
> based in Washington, and am working on an article on the language and
> rhetoric of the war on terrorism.  I was wondering if anyone knew where
> the phrase "draining the swamp" comes from.  The Bush administration has
> used the phrase repeatedly, over the last three or four months.  I've
> heard that its an adaptation of something Mao Tse-tung said during the
> Chinese Civil War - that he referred, at one point, to "draining the sea"
> in order to kill the fish more efficiently. But I would guess that it
> predates that - that the phrase somehow refers to the fight against
> malaria.  Or maybe it comes from American colonials moving west into
> forbidding lands. Anyway, if anyone has any ideas, I would certainly
> appreciate their opinions.
> Brian Faler
> ---------------------------------
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