President Obama told Democrats yesterday that they were on a precipice: “We are on the precipice of an achievement that has eluded Congresses and presidents for generations.” Since this president is widely felt to be a fine wordsmith, I am going to assume that he knows what a precipice is. But Mary Katharine Ham got out the dictionary. Here are definitions:

1. a cliff with a vertical, nearly vertical, or overhanging face.

2. a situation of great peril:

If Bush had done it, the clip would have been on loop as Freudian proof of Bush’s dislike of Americans and his intention to get rid of them via risky health-care overhaul, but when the greatest orator of our time stumbles over his words, nary a newscaster will mention it.

But maybe I’m underestimating Obama. Perhaps his intent was to delve into our collective cultural memory to evoke famous, inspiring cliff imagery from American cinema as a metaphor for his great generational health-care triumph.

 Ham has some great precipice pictures, including a car going over a cliff.