WORDS MATTER….The LA Times ran

WORDS MATTER….The LA Times ran a story today about David Frum’s new book. Here’s an excerpt about Bush advisor Karen Hughes:

It was Hughes who laid down various rules for speech writers, Frum says: Parents would be referred to as “moms and dads”; “tax cuts” would be called “tax relief,” to come across as “a healing balm.”

In Slate today, here is William Saletan:

Three years ago, when George W. Bush ran for president, he popularized a new name for the estate tax….The calculation was simple….The estate tax sounded good. The death tax sounded bad. Bad enough, it turned out, to get Congress to phase out the tax as part of Bush’s 2001 tax-cut package.

Now Republicans are taking the technique one step further. You don’t have to die to shed the stigma of wealth. You just have to age. Rich people have become “senior citizens.”….Monday, a reporter asked White House spokesman Ari Fleischer whether most beneficiaries of a dividend tax repeal would be “well above the average” financially. Fleischer replied, “More than half the money from dividend taxation [relief] goes to seniors.”

And here is a third excerpt, this time from Al Franken’s Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, possibly the funniest book ever written about politics. The subject is a memo from Newt Gingrich explaining the kinds of words Republican politicians should use:

There are two lists, actually. One contains “Optimistic, Positive Governing Words,” which the candidate is told to use to “describe your vision for the future of your community (your message).” The other, a list of “Contrasting Words,” which the candidate could use to defame, slander, and otherwise impugn his/her opponent.

Republican Words

Democratic Words

  • courage

  • reform

  • candid

  • hard work

  • common sense

  • empower

  • etc.

  • pathetic

  • decay

  • traitors

  • taxes

  • bizarre

  • liberal

  • etc.

This may all sound horribly Orwellian, but it’s a fact of life that words matter, and the right word at the right time can leave an indelible impression. Millions of Americans now think that Bush’s tax cut is aimed at coupon-clipping senior citizens trying to make ends meet on a fixed income. They simply don’t realize that Jack Welch and Warren Buffett are also “seniors.”

In contrast, the best the Democrats could come up with was “We stimulate the job market; the president stimulates the stock market.” The DNC needs to come up with better talking points and a list of “governing words” of their own. I wonder if anyone is working on this?

UPDATE: Steve Messina of No More Mister Nice Blog points me to the full memo written by Newt. If you want to learn how to “speak like Newt,” the answer is right here.

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