Slate is running several series of short features explaining who the 2004 presidential candidates are, what they’re saying, and where they propose to take the country. The first series summarized their personal and professional backgrounds. This series analyzes their pet phrases, candidate by candidate. Today’s subject is Dennis Kucinich.
Weapon of mass destruction
Example: “Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Lack of adequate education is a weapon of mass destruction. Our children not having good neighborhoods is a weapon of mass destruction” (Children’s Defense Fund forum, April 9, 2003).
What it means: Big problem.
What it hides: If you had to choose between getting nuked and getting a bad education, would it be a tough call?
Subtext: Please applaud while I change the subject.
Department of Peace
Example: “Come home, America … and make nonviolence an organizing principle within our society through the creation of a Department of Peace” (speech to the National Newspaper Association, March 20, 2003).
What it means: We can end violence by creating another bureaucracy.
What it hides: We have federal departments for education and housing. Yet, according to me, education and housing still suck.
Subtext: Nobody’s going to outbid me for the anti-war vote.
Example: “That’s what I believe an industrial policy which calls for us to rebuild steel, automotive, and aerospace industries will do” (Iowa Public Television interview, May 16, 2003).
What it means: We can prop up traditional Midwestern blue-collar industries with subsidies and tariffs.
What it hides: Traditional Midwestern blue-collar industries are obsolete.
Subtext: This isn’t counterproductive special-interest bribery and extortion. It’s a policy.
Examples: “Democrats can move this county forward … to making education our top funding priority and providing free college education for all” (speech to Democratic National Committee, Feb. 22, 2003). “We need to make it possible for fully paid college in this country, so everyone who wants to go to college, and that includes higher education, and law school, and medical school.” (Children’s Defense Fund forum, April 9, 2003).
What it means: You pay nothing …
What it hides: … until April 15.
Subtext: Nobody’s going to outbid me for the campus vote.