The president’s klutziness with language, which some have outrageously attempted to exploit for commercial gain, has overshadowed another linguistic trait of his. This tendency cuts in the opposite direction. It’s the use of words in a highly precise but intentionally propagandistic way. If a Bushism is a gaffe or a goof, often suggesting the absence of any formal education, Bushspeak is a calculated redefinition of terms, which has as its goal making the president’s policies more popular. By dint of repetition and with the help of the conintern, these catchphrases are supposed to exercise a subtle brainwashing effect on the public. Over time, positions that might have been seen as extreme or marginal take on the flavor of reasonable, mainstream views. Bushspeak is Orwell’s newspeak, only less extreme. Most of the time, it doesn’t invert the familiar meanings of words entirely. It merely manipulates and abuses them.
Herewith, a first lexicon:
Accountability:Federally mandated student testing.
“My education improvement package … will raise standards through local control and accountability.”–George W. Bush
Affirmative Access: Meaning unclear; either affirmative action or eliminating affirmative action; n. b. affirmative action is itself a euphemism for reverse discrimination.
“So, to answer your question, I support–I guess the way to put it is–affirmative access.”–George W. Bush
Capital Formation:Rich people having more money.
“To the degree that our tax plan creates economic recovery, it bolsters markets and bolsters capital formation,”–White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
Death Penalty:Inheritance tax. See also “death tax.”
“Those of us who spent time in the agricultural sector and in the heartland, we understand how unfair the death penalty is.”–George W. Bush
Death Tax:Inheritance tax.
“One reason family farmers are forced to sell early is because of the death tax. This is a bad tax.”–George W. Bush
“When we see social needs in America, my administration will look first at faith-based programs and community groups.”–George W. Bush
Opportunity Scholarships:Education vouchers.
“If the other side spends a lot of time trashing vouchers and you say they’re ‘scholarships,’ they’re stuck. Let some jerk try to run ads against scholarships for black children.”–Grover G. Norquist, conservative activist
Rebate:Tax cut. See also “tax refund” and “tax relief.”
“It is clear that America’s working families are overpaying their tax bills by an astonishing amount and deserve a rebate.”–Family Research Council President Ken Connor
“Among the other programs the president has advocated is reviewing exploration on federal land so we can have energy development on federal lands; to have increased refining capacity through regulatory relief.”–White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
Smart Sanctions:Fewer sanctions.
“Today, Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, sought reassurance about what Powell has dubbed ‘smart sanctions.’ “–National Public Radio
Tax Refund:Tax cut. See also “rebate” and “tax relief.”
“With the government burden on American families at an all-time high, working families need and deserve a tax ‘refund.’ “–Family Research Council President Ken Connor
Tax Relief:Tax cuts. See also “tax refund” and “rebate.”
“First of all, the president is always encouraged to hear support of tax relief by Democrats.”–White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
Trade Promotion Authority:Fast-track authority; n. b. “fast track” was an earlier, Clinton-era euphemism for more presidential authority.
“In considering the grant of trade promotion authority, I urge you to give the president more leverage by broadening our options.”–U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick