Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Bush Changes His Language, Not His Stripes

Frank Luntz, the very clever Republican manipulator of campaign language, based on his extensive research with focus groups and polling, has been advising the Rovians that they'd better mind "the environment" as a potent issue in 2004 ... that people, even hard-core Republicans, don't necessarily want their air and water befouled, no matter how large their tax breaks.

"Luntzspeak" has become an elaborate strategy (detailed in a 222-page handbook Luntz wrote) which boils down to nothing more strenous than changing lingo. The Bushies should make use of some calm-inducing terms, like "balance," "safe and healthy," and "common sense," Luntz advises, while maintaining the Bush policy trajectories toward "lack of balance," "dangerous and toxic," and "INSANE." It was Luntz that convinced Bush never to refer to "global warming" but rather to "climate change," and to call "environmentalists" (as in "wacko environmentalists") by the more positive term "conservationists," even while opposing everything that conservationists stand for. (Here's a full, detailed article about Luntz's influence on the Bush vocabulary that appeared in the New York Times on March 2, 2003.)

Now a more recent Luntz warning to the Bush team has come to light, "that undermining clean water safeguards is politically dangerous, and goes against the overwhelming sentiment of the American public." "Young and old, Democrat AND Republican, the demand for clean water is universal," declares a February 2004 memorandum that Luntz wrote to the Bush re-elect team (and don't you just love the wide-eyed ALL-CAPS of that "AND" to include ACTUAL REPUBLICANS who don't want increased levels of lead or mercury or MTBs in their drinking water EITHER! Gosh! REPUBLICANS too? What's next? REPUBLICANS who think huge tax breaks for rich people might not be in the national interest?) (The newest Luntz memo is discussed here.)

"Based on its extensive polling about clean water issues, the Luntz organization found that the American people consider safeguarding clean water to be 'a national problem requiring a national solution' and 'the public is willing to pay for it.' Indeed, 83% of those polled supported the idea of a trust fund for clean water infrastructure."

So, if I were you, I'd look for an environmentally friendlier Bush administration in the next few months, at least in word if not necessarily in deed.

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