The Buzzwords of Carol Moseley Braun
How she spins the issues.
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 Carol Moseley Braun.
Example: "I want to be a voice of hope for people who believe that we are clever enough to defeat terror without sacrificing our liberty. … If the administration were to level with us and say, you know, this [Iraq war] really is about oil, then we could have a better sense of whether … there are smarter and more clever ways to do this" (PBS NewsHour, March 3, 2003).
What it means: There's a better way to achieve our goals.
What it hides: What is that way? I have no idea. But surely you can figure it out.
Subtext: Men use their muscles; women use their brains. Vote for a woman.
Examples: "We have gone into a war, an unelected president sending us into a war that the Congress frankly had no right, I believe, to authorize" (NPR Morning Edition, May 6, 2003). "This unelected President has no constitutional authority to send Americans into harm's way" (press conference, March 19, 2003).
What it means: Bush lost the popular vote, so he has no mandate.
What it hides: Because Bush violated a rule that isn't in the Constitution, I'm entitled to ignore all the rules that are.
Subtext: You right-wingers pretended Clinton wasn't a legitimate president. Now you're gonna get yours.
Example: "The people can and must demand an end to the saber rattling that has made us hostages to fear" (speech, Feb. 15, 2003).
What it means: Bush goes around threatening war and scaring people.
What it hides: Sometimes the alternative to scaring people is killing them or being killed.
Subtext: Men brandish weapons to show off, not to accomplish anything. Vote for a woman.
Wimpy tax policy
Examples: "Budget deficits matter, and we have no right to borrow from our children to pay for tax rebates today. Remember the comic strip character whose motto was, 'I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today'? Policy that sees no harm in tax cuts creating budget deficits is Wimpy tax policy. It failed before and it will fail again" (speech, Feb. 21, 2003).
What it means: Deficit-increasing tax cuts that will supposedly be paid for by economic
growth and increased federal revenue are irresponsible.
What it hides: Democrats believe in deficit-increasing spending that will supposedly be paid for by economic growth and increased federal revenue.
Next: Howard Dean.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Carol Moseley Braun courtesy of the Reuters Photo Archive.