Political Animal


IT’S A FEATURE, NOT A BUG….A friend of my mother’s decided to get a cat the other day, so she went down to our local shelter and picked one out. This was the first time she had owned a cat, and the next day she called my mother and told her worriedly that she thought maybe the cat was sick. “All he does is lie around and sleep all day,” she said.

My mother just laughed.

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.


MORE ON BUSH-ONOMICS….There’s a PR problem with the Bush plan too. A PR problem for the Democrats, that is. Here is RealClear Politics’ take on the issue:

“THEY’VE TAKEN STEROIDS”: That’s how one GOP aide described the White House’s $674 billion economic stimulus plan….

By contrast, the Dems $136 billion proposal looks positively paltry….If the Bush plan had been only twice the size of the Democrats’ plan, the relative distance between the two plans is small, and all of the sudden the Democrats gain the appearance that they are serious – almost as serious as Bush – about cutting taxes and stimulating the economy. But by proposing a plan that is almost five times greater than the Democrats’ plan, Bush creates the opposite impression. Look at the language used in the press: Bush’s plan is “bold” and “aggressive” and by comparison the Democrats’ plan is tagged as “modest” and “timid.”

Actually, the Democratic plan provides $136 billion this year, while Bush’s plan provides less than $100 billion. In terms of short-term stimulus, the Democratic plan is bigger.

But it won’t play that way in the press.