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With All Due Respect

“With all due respect” is often employed as a rhetorical device to preface a statement of disagreement or critique, ostensibly cushioning the blow while drawing attention to the forthcoming dissent.

The term serves to signal an adherence to the norms of civility and decorum — much like referring to someone as my good friend.

However, its usage can also carry a sense of irony or passive-aggression, and it’s sometimes interpreted as a telltale sign that the speaker is about to deliver a particularly sharp or pointed criticism.

More on “With All Due Respect”

An age-old preface to leveling criticism, with the perfunctory pretense of appearing fair-minded. As humorist Dave Barry once wrote in his mock language column: “It is correctly used to ‘soften the blow’ when you wish to criticize someone in a diplomatic and nonjudgmental manner, as in: ‘With all due respect, you are much worse than Hitler,’ or ‘No disrespect intended, but you have the intelligence of a macaroon.’ ”

Here’s Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) on the House floor in September 2013: “With all due respect to my friends on the other side of the aisle, this shutdown talk has evolved to ridiculousness.”

And her colleague Mike Quigley of Illinois a few months earlier addressing House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint: “With all due respect, Mr. Ryan’s plan is the wrong way.”

And another Illinois congressman, Republican Aaron Schock, on Fox News: “The Senate Republicans, with all due respect, are only relevant, I would argue, because we have a House majority.”

Journalists often use it in the context of challenging an opponent. When the Chicago Tribune’s David Kidwell sat down with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012, the former White House chief of staff began talking about his goals for the city. Kidwell tried to steer the conversation toward his administration’s actual performance, particularly on its controversial withholding of public records: “With all due respect, I’m far more interested . . .” The famously combative Emanuel interrupted: “I don’t think you have any respect for me, so don’t worry about it.”

The phrase can sometimes appear as an afterthought to those who don’t want to appear too brusque. “Some of the president’s advisers were on the morning talk shows saying voters don’t care about job creation,” far-right Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann said in 2011. “I thought, ‘What planet are you living on?’ With all due respect.”

From Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes © 2014 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “With All Due Respect” in a sentence

  • “With all due respect, Senator, your proposal seems more like a political maneuver than a genuine solution to the problem at hand.”
  • “With all due respect to my colleagues on the committee, I believe this legislation fails to address the root causes of the issue.”
  • “With all due respect, the administration’s handling of the crisis leaves much to be desired, and it’s time for a different approach.”