The Art of Political Speak

If GOP strategist Frank Luntz is correct—The Republicans’ dilemma is all about language—then Republican candidates need a fast tutorial in word use.

Capitalism, for instance: a no-no word is number 1 on Luntz’s list of ‘Shall Nots.’

And so, The Eye of Newt’s attacks on Mitt Romney, specifically citing the immoral form of capitalism practiced by Bain Capital, how it destroys jobs, often leaving community wreckage in its wake, takes a “F” in the Frank Luntz speed course–Poisoned Words for Politicians, 101.

Free Enterprise is an acceptable phrase.  Better yet is Economic Freedom.

In an almost comical exchange between Luntz and Sean Hannity, the word-meister explained that:

The word capitalism was created by Karl Marx to demonize those people who make a profit. We’ve always talked about the free enterprise system or economic freedom.

Suddenly, they’re trying to defend something that has only 18 percent support.

OMG!  Not only are Republican candidates eating their own, but they’re using a word created by Karl Marx!  Call in the Commie Cops.  Call Phyllis Schlafly to resurrect Joe McCarthy and his goon squad.  If you want a true chuckle watch the following:

Need we mention that President Obama [of whom I’m no fan] is repeatedly referred to as a ‘socialist?’  Yet now we have Republican candidates using Marxist terms and doing what they insist Barack Obama has done: wage war against capitalism.

This is what happens when your political philosophy is sloppy and baseless, when the only attack you can muster is one both supporting and attacking your centerpiece idea: unfettered capitalism, free market fundamentalism, which leads to vulture, crony capitalism.

The kind we have right now.

Rick Perry jumped on the Gingrich bandwagon and defended his own Romney attacks as doing the frontrunner a favor by distinguishing venture capitalism from vulture capitalism.  Better to defend it now than later, the Texas word wrangler said.

Did you think Rick Perry read Greg Palast’s book Vultures’ Picnic?   I think not.

Not to be outdone by Rick Perry’s explanation, Uncle Newt offered a more startling explanation.

It’s an impossible theme [Mitt Romney’s business practices] to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect.

Got that?  The Devil made Newtie backtrack, rethink his strategy.  Regrettably, it’s impossible to slam Mitt Romney with a clean conscience while Barack Obama is in the White House.

Oh, the unfairness of it all!

Just as a reminder: Uncle Newt is considered an intellectual in Republican circles!

Despite what the Newster says, his sudden reevaluation of Romney attacks could—just possibly—have something to do with the massive flack he’s received from conservative quarters.  Rush Limbaugh suggested Romney aim this barb at Gingrich over Mitt’s unfortunate ‘I like to fire people’ comment:

“Yeah, I like firing people, but I never fired a wife on her deathbed.”

Ooooo.  That hurts!

Even though I have no horse in this race, this is just too, too delicious.

If I were Frank Luntz, who made a specific point of listing the Ten Commandments of Political Speech in late November, I’d seriously consider demanding my wayward pupils stay after school to write 1000 times:

I will never use the word capitalism.  I will never say the word bonus.  And on my mother’s grave, I will never-ever utter the words: Wall Street.

The election of 2012 is stacking up to be a thing of true wonder.

Btw, did you know that Hillary Clinton received 10% of the New Hampshire vote, a write-in effort.  And yet, not a peep from the MSM.

I’m shocked, I tell you.  Positively shocked.

Thursday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

Today I’m going to start out with some stupid politician stories. And I’ve got some about politicians from both legacy parties.

First up, Rick Perry. At this point, I’m convinced this Texas good ol’ boy is dumb as a post. After the debate last night Perry spoke to Beta Theta Pi Fraternity at Dartmouth College. Check this out:

“Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C. to be the fount of all wisdom,” the candidate explained. “As a matter of fact they were very much afraid if that because they’d just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought process and planning and what have you, and then it was actually the reason that we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown if you will.”

The Houston Press published a few of the Twitter responses to Perry’s moronic gaffe. Here are a few examples:

@drgrist Why else did Daniel Boone fight alongside George Patton if not free America from health insurance mandates? #perryhistory

@ ObsoleteDogma Ronald Reagan told Peter the Great to “tear down this wall”… and put it up on the Mexican border #perryhistory

@ FenrisDesigns In 1576, Teddy Roosevelt signed the Magna Carta, effectively inventing bald eagles. #PerryHistory

@ cheetapizza #NathanHale had but one life to give against General #CarlosSantana at #TheAlamo.” #PerryHistory

Dakinikat has been highlighting the nutty Republican candidates over the past few day. She mentioned this recently, but I just have to do it again. Texas is moving toward offering a license plate with the Confederate flag on it. What will Perry do? Probably something stupid.

Texas’ Department of Motor Vehicles will soon vote — or perhaps table — a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate that features the Confederate flag. Proceeds will go to that group to help maintain grave stones and monuments. But the group also has a dark side: though they claim to be dedicated solely to history, a faction have recently become more aligned with extremist celebration of the Confederate States, crossing well over in secessionist and racist territory.

Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called on Perry to repudiate the license plate in last night’s debate. So far Perry hasn’t done so.

Salon’s Justin Elliott reported earlier this year that Perry has “warm relations” with confederate groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that once described him as a member, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. And in 2000, Perry went against the NAACP by defending two Confederate flag plaques on the state’s Supreme Court building.

“I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques, and memorials from public property. I also believe that communities should decide whether statues or other memorials are appropriate for their community,” he wrote at the time. The plaques, however, were ultimately removed.

The license plates differ slightly in that they explicitly benefit a specific organization, just like the Confederate plates they’ve championed in Mississippi and other states. The Mississippi plate, you’ll remember, honored late KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Herman Cain called Perry “insensitive.” I’d use a stronger word.

Yesterday Michele Bachmann displayed her ignorance of what really happens to poor people in America when she responded to a question from a toothless man in New Hampshire.

At a campaign event in New Hampshire yesterday, Bachmann fielded a thoughtful question from a man who asked about the future of Social Security and Medicare….”We have uncertainty right now,” Bachmann told him, launching into a wide-ranging answer that mostly focused on how Barack Obama will personally walk into hospitals and old folks’ homes and throw people out windows.

Turns out, this guy’s got enough uncertainty already: He’s losing his teeth. Bachmann’s policy answer: Maybe he should go to… a church? Or, oh! Better idea: Sit on the street corner and beg for change.

“We have charitable organizations and there’s universities who are willing to take care of people who are indigent,” she told him, lovingly. “If you’re indigent, there are programs set up for the indigent. But don’t destroy the finest health care system in the world to have socialized medicine.”

Now let’s look at some stupid Democrats. A Democratic Assemblywoman in California became concerned about young people attending raves after a young girl died of an overdose of Ecstasy.

A California assemblywoman on a quest to end raves was surprised to find that electronic dance music could not be outlawed. Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma tried to ban the music after a 15-year-old girl died at The Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles, apparently from an ecstasy overdose.

“We found out later on that, constitutionally, you can not ban a type of music,” she told Reason.TV.

Where do they find these people? The last one is sad as well as stupid. Dakinikat sent me this article from the Daily Mail about Anthony Wiener.

Anthony Weiner accused his Muslim parents-in-law of being ‘backwards thinking’ and never accepting him because of his Jewish background, it was revealed today.

Newly released messages from the disgraced former congressman’s text conversations, obtained exclusively by MailOnline, show how Weiner had explicit exchanges with women comparing them to his wife.

OMG, what an a$$hole! I’m not going to quote anymore from that story, so as not to make anyone sick.

In other news, Anita Hill has written a book, so she’s making the media rounds. She gave an extended interview to NPR

On Oct. 11, 1991, Anita Hill told the Senate Judiciary Committee that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her.

Hill’s testimony was part of a second round of confirmation hearings to appoint Thomas to the court. He was ultimately confirmed by both the committee and the Senate, and has held the post for the past 20 years.

As for Hill, she has spent the past 20 years mostly out of the limelight, focusing on her academic work as a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University. She says the tens of thousands of letters she has received since the hearings inspired her to write her new book, Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.

“They’ve inspired me at times when I really did not feel very good about the subject of equality,” she tells NPR’s Neal Conan. “They’ve inspired me to keep pushing and to keep working and to keep really being myself.”

Listen to the whole interview at the link. There’s good article about Hill at the San Francisco Chronicle–first published by Bloomberg. And here is an NPR story by Nina Totenberg about Clarence Thomas’s 20 years on the Supreme Court. We can thank Joe Biden for that.

Eric Cantor has called for a floor vote on the “Let Women Die” Act of 2011, AKA HR 358. According to Care 2,

The deceptively-titled “Protect Life Act” will allow hospitals that receive federal funds to turn away a woman seeking an abortion in all circumstances, even if the procedure is necessary to save her life.

Under current law, any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If that hospital can’t provide that service, including a life-saving abortion, it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.

But under the bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa), hospitals that don’t want to provide abortions could refuse to do so, even for a pregnant woman with a life-threatening complication that would require termination.

Because women’s lives aren’t human lives, you see.

Jonathan Schell has an article in The Nation that I highly recommend: Cruel America. Schell considers some of the horrifying things we’ve seen in the Republican Debates so far–cheers for the notion of letting a man die if he doesn’t have health insurance, a governor of Texas who sleeps just fine after learning that he executed an innocent man, the lack of concern over the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia–and argues that America is devolving into cruel society.

There have been many signs recently that the United States has been traveling down a steepening path of cruelty. It’s hard to say why such a thing is occurring, but it seems to have to do with a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad. Enthusiasm for killing is an unmistakable symptom of cruelty. It also appeared after the killing of Osama bin Laden, which touched off raucous celebrations around the country. It is one thing to believe in the unfortunate necessity of killing someone, another to revel in it. This is especially disturbing when it is not only government officials but ordinary people who engage in the effusions.

In any descent into barbarism, one can make out two stages. First, the evils are inaugurated—tested, as it were. Second, the reaction comes—either indignation and rejection or else acceptance, even delight. The choice can indicate the difference between a country that is restoring decency and one that is sinking into a nightmare. It was a dark day for the United States when the Bush administration secretly ordered the torture of terrorism suspects. On that day, the civilization of the United States dropped down a notch. But it sank a notch lower when, the facts of the crimes having become known, former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney publicly embraced their wrongdoing, as they have done most recently on their respective book tours. To the impunity they already enjoyed, they added brazenness, as if challenging society to respond or else enter into tacit complicity with the abuses.

And still there was little reaction. For in a further downward drop, President Obama, even as he ordered an end to torture, decided against imposing any legal accountability on the miscreants, and in fact shunned any accountability whatsoever. He did not even seek, say, some equivalent of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa after the end of apartheid.

There’s more, please read it all if you can. In most of the stories in today’s reads, there is a thread of cruelty. The cruelty of ignoring racism, poverty, the inability of people to care for their health. The cruelty of men to women–the hatred that must be in the hearts of these Congressmen who vote to kill women rather than allow them to have an abortion; the repressed anger that leads a man to hurt his wife and future child by throwing away his career for a few fleeting moments of sexual arousal.

Schell is right. We are becoming a cruel and degraded culture. How can we rescue our country from the haters? I wish I knew.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?

Exactly How Stupid is Michelle Bachmann?

Michelle Bachmann

Have you heard the latest imbecilic quote from Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann? During a speech in New Hampshire this morning she said the following:

“What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty,” Bachmann told the audience. “You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord.

“And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history.”

Um…no. Lexington and Concord are in Massachusetts. Do you suppose she knows that the Boston Tea Party took place in Massachusetts too? I’m guessing no. The Boston Globe has more:

The remark demonstrated a surprising lack of basic facts about the historic events from which Tea Party derives its name. It is likely to go down as one of the bigger missteps of the early primary season.

Bachmann is touring the country and testing the idea of running for president. With her strong conservative views and sharp one-liners, she has gained a big following around the country. A number of people from Massachsuetts drove up to Nashua for the later fundraising event.

“We see you on Fox all the time! Keep up the good work!’’ called out Valerie Lallas, a retrired [sic] teacher from Lynnfield, as Bachmann signed autographs after her speech.

“I’m on CNN, too,’’ Bachman replied.

“But we don’t watch CNN,’’ Lallas said.

Her fans aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed either.

What are your favorite stupid politician quotes? Dig them up and post them in the comments. Or treat this as an open thread.

Live Blog: SOTU 2011

Just how bad will it be? Document the atrocities as you watch and/or listen to the State of the Union Address tonight. I don’t know how much of it I can stand to watch–I may check in and out.

The one thing that has me slightly interested is watching Boehner’s reactions. Will he burst into tears? That would be fun. You can watch the live stream of C-span’s coverage of the SOTU here, beginning at 8PM.

At least someone talked some sense into our Reagan-adoring President. He’s decided not to call for cuts in Social Security and Medicare–not that that will stop him from approving them. But it must have dawned on him that he might need at least a few middle class and elderly votes to get reelection next year.

But there is plenty of stupid in the speech according to multiple advance reports. Remember the dopey “nonsecurity” spending freeze Obama proposed awhile back? Well he still wants a freeze, only now he’s going to make it for five years instead of just three. {sigh….}

At Open Left, Paul Rosenberg reacts:

He may not be ready to gut Social Security just yet, but he has definitively jettisoned 70 years of economic history. Government no longer steps in to spend money when consumer demand fails. Instead, government works hard to make matters even worse. With state and local budgets once again being cut across the country, there will clearly be net decreases in government spending as far as the eye can see. Herbert Hoover would be so proud!


Why has 70 years of macro-economic history and understanding been tossed out the window, in favor of returning to the darkness of pre-macro ignorance? This is a variant of the question that Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman have been asking in anguish for many moons now. Why has a rage to punish the poor, and even the middle class completely taken over and displaced the commonsense interest in preserving the basic stability of the economy through as quick a recovery as possible?

I don’t know….because he’s stupid? Or maybe just evil? Whatever the reason, we’re headed for more hard times.

At FDL, David Dayen writes about The Triumph of Austerity and the Abandoning of the Unemployed

An economy with 9.4% topline unemployment is sick. This is not a time to deal with a sick patient by planning a regimen for diet and exercise five years from now. The patient needs immediate help, and he’s not even going to hear soothing words to that effect from anyone in the political class, let alone get the medicine needed.

In the process, this pre-emptive bow to the austerity hysterics, at least in the short term, may be good for poll numbers but terrible for the long-term economy.

Let’s face it. This man couldn’t care less about Americans being out of work, losing their homes, and falling into poverty.

What can we do to make this bearable? Let’s look for little bits of humor and/or surreality. If you have ideas for drinking games, feel free to propose them (I don’t drink, but don’t mind a contact high).

Once the speech is over, there could be some laughs in the Republican responses. Crazy-ass Ayn Rand fan Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is giving the official response. MSNBC has a preview. Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, one of the people to blame for the horrendous Obama presidency, has a few things to say about Ryan.

Ryan is an Ayn Rand-quoting zealot, one of the Republican Party’s self-styled “Young Guns.” He’s spent his adult life inside the Beltway, on the political right, with no experience in the world of business, labor, the executive branch or the private sector. Incubated in a right-wing think tank, writing speeches for Jack Kemp and William Bennett, he was elected to Congress at age 28. Ryan became the most loyal of loyal foot soldiers in the Congress presided over by Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, a fact Ryan now glosses over as he describes those Congresses as “corrupt.”

Ryan has been dubbed a Republican “thinker” by national reporters desperate to find someone they can praise in a party that was extreme before the Tea Partyers came to town. But, in fact, his rhetoric is a barely varnished echo of the ravings of Glenn Beck. He accuses Obama of a “treacherous plan,” saying that Democrats have a “hardcore-left agenda,” and claims that Democrats are steering the country “very far left, very fast” – a direction he describes as “completely antithetical to what this country is about.”

This sort of rhetoric, once scorned as sophomoric at best, is now common currency on the Republican right. While Ryan will be careful to avoid such language in the GOP response to the State of the Union, he’ll reveal his ideological zealotry in the policies he will propose.

Most of those policies will come from Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a budget manifesto published last year that The Post’s Ezra Klein aptly described as “nothing short of violent.”

Yep, the guy’s a complete wingnut, but van den Heuval is also permanently discredited as a representative of liberal thought.

And that’s not all, CNN will broadcast an alternative Tea Party response to the SOTU by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota).

{hysterical laughter}

Paul Ryan may be a wingnut, but Bachmann is truly insane. Surely her speech will be good for a few laughs even in these dark times. According to CNN’s Political Ticker,

Her themes tonight will be “making sure Congress is not spending more than its taking in,” “no tax increases” and the importance of “acting within the bounds of the Constitution.”

Hmmm…I never knew that Congress actually handled money.

Greg Sargent provides CNN’s rationalizations for airing Bachmann’s speech.

CNN, which is taking some criticism from both sides for agreeing to air Michele Bachmann’s response to Obama’s speech tonight, sends over a statement justifying the move:

“The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party’s perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN’s viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight’s coverage.”

Hmmm…I was going to suggest that maybe CNN’s decision to air her speech just might be driven by a desire to curry favor with the Tea Party. This statement doesn’t do much to suggest otherwise.

The Tea Party is now one of two major opposition parties in our three-party system. Who knew?

If only we had smarter politicians and a less embarrassing media! Oh well…let’s make the most of it. I look forward to reading your reactions.