Talking Iraq: Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
By John F. Harris and Brian Faler
Sunday, June 20, 2004; Page A04
With voter anxieties about Iraq shadowing this year's campaign, pollster Frank Luntz has some advice for fellow Republicans: Mind your language.
Luntz, according to a strategy paper that fell into the hands of Democrats, says minor changes in language used by politicians can lead to major differences in voter perceptions -- turning a potential liability into an asset.
Among his suggested talking points, in the nine-page section on Iraq and terrorism:
• It's not the war in Iraq -- it's the war on terror. "You will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word 'preemption' or the phrase 'the War in Iraq' to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start," it said. "Your efforts are about 'the principles of prevention and protection' in the greater 'War on Terror.' "
• Remember: better there than here. " 'Prevention at home can require aggressive action abroad' is the best way to link a principle the public supports with the policies of the Administration," it said. " 'It is better to fight the War on Terror on the streets of Baghdad than on the streets of New York or Washington.' "
• Don't forget the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. " '9/11 changed everything' is the context by which everything follows. No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11."
• Don't forget Saddam Hussein. " 'The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.' Enough said."
• And don't forget the troops. "Nothing matters more than Americans in the line of fire," it said. "Never, ever, EVER give a speech or issue a press release that makes no mention of our troops."
In an e-mailed response, phrasemaker Luntz declined to comment on his paper.
Ballots and Beers: Something's Brewing
A group of Democrats hoping to register young people to vote -- a notoriously difficult task -- believes it has finally found the right incentive: Bring back the draft. Actually, make that the draught.
A couple frothy cold ones will be on the house for people who register to vote at a festival in Rochester, N.Y., reports the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper. The brews will be only two ounces each, and available only to people over the legal drinking age of 21.
Even so, local alcohol treatment counselors aren't thrilled, saying it is inappropriate to promote civic responsibility with a party-hearty campaign. But Molly Clifford, the head of the Monroe County Democrats, defended the idea to the paper: "It's just a fun way to get young people interested in voting."
Narrowing the Gender Gap
Partisanship may be a more powerful force than chauvinism.
A poll released last week suggested that, given the choice between voting for a woman for president and the other party's guy, most voters would support the woman.
The study, conducted by the National Annenberg Election Survey, found that if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) were running this year against President Bush, she would do about as well as Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). Meanwhile, if Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) -- who sought the presidency in the 2000 election cycle -- were now running for the Republicans, she would run almost as well against Kerry as Bush.
The numbers: 78 percent of Democrats and 8 percent of Republicans said they would back Kerry, and 78 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans said they would support Clinton. Pollsters say independents are about evenly divided between the two actual presidential candidates, and they would also split "about equally" between Bush and Clinton.
Meanwhile, 85 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats said they support Bush over Kerry, and 74 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats said they would take Dole over Kerry. She did less well than Bush among independents. But the overall totals were within the survey's margin of error.
Clinton's Back -- and So Are His Critics
Former president Bill Clinton will appear on "60 Minutes" tonight to tell the stories behind his new memoir "My Life." During the commercial breaks, a conservative interest group will offer its response.
Citizens United, a group headed by longtime Clinton critic David N. Bossie, plans to run an ad attacking Clinton's responses to terrorist attacks during his tenure in office.
The ad includes a photo of soldiers unloading a flag-draped casket -- the kind of image that the Bush administration has largely kept from the public -- and, at one point changes the title of the former president's memoir to read, in blood-red lettering, "My Fault."
Ickes's New ACT
Speaking of Clinton . . . Harold M. Ickes, one of the former president's senior advisers, has become chief of staff of the Democratic "527 group" America Coming Together. Ickes previously helped found the Media Fund, another 527 group that raises unregulated "soft" money and has run television ads critical of President Bush. ACT focuses on mobilizing voters for this year's election.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company