Dec. 11, 2008 -- The following is a commentary by ABC News' Sam Donaldson. Click here to view a video version of his latest essay.
Like most people, I was shocked as I listened to Patrick Fitzgerald outline his case against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- the allegations of sleazy graft and greedy corruption are truly breathtaking. But, to me it was also a bit shocking to hear how the good governor could not seem to complete a sentence without "bleeping" someone or something. Not only the governor, but his wife who in denouncing the sainted Chicago Cubs said, "Bleep the Cubs." And in case her listener didn't get it, "bleeped" them again for emphasis.
Now, I am not a goody-two-shoes when it comes to this. When I was sent to a military school at the age of 14, I soon learned to sprinkle my discourse with an occasional "bleep." But then, and ever since, not in mixed company … and only when, like the icing on the cake, not the main ingredient but the judicious enhancer of the flavor.
Today, it would seem that many people can't say anything about anything without using some variation of that word. It also seems that all modern movies and many television programs must "bleep" their way to Academy Award and Emmy contention.
It was not so in the old days. Shane could walk into the saloon and say to Ryker, "The trouble with you, Ryker, is, you've lived too long" without Ryker answering back, "Bleep you Shane." Why if he had, Shane would have shot him first before taking care of that "bleeping" hired-gun Wilson.
Today, for me to listen to that straight-arrow Irish lad Fitzgerald have to recite so many "bleeps" and then feel the need to explain each time that was not the exact word used -- oh thanks, Pat, who would have guessed -- why that was most uncomfortable.
To be sure, we in Washington have heard it before. For instance, on former President Nixon's famous Oval Office tapes. When we television reporters had to recite what Nixon had said we used the phrase "expletive deleted." We would say, "On today's tape President Nixon said 'expletive deleted the Jews, the Democrats and the press.'" The press?
And then a few years ago when the vice president of the United States admonished the senior senator from Vermont on the floor of the Senate to "bleep himself," we had to report that. Well, enough of this, I hope I haven't offended anyone. ... But if I have, well… go fish!
Sam Donaldson, a 41-year ABC News veteran, served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News, from 1977-1989 and from January 1998 to August 1999, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Donaldson also co-anchored, with Diane Sawyer, "PrimeTime Live," from August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. He co-anchored the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast, "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts," from December 1996 to September 2002. Currently, Donaldson appears on ABC News Now, the ABC News digital network, in a daily show called "Politics Live."