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BOLD AND BOLDER! The president said his plan was “bold.” Sean and Bill ran to agree:


JOHN BREAUX STILL DOESN’T GET IT: John Breaux still just doesn’t get it! In this morning’s Post, Jonathan Weisman quotes Breaux saying, “Tax cuts are not free.” Incredibly, Breaux seems to think that lower tax rates will somehow produce lower revenue! And Weisman doesn’t get it, either. His page-one article carries this headline: “Deficit Predictions Soar With Bush Stimulus Plan.”

Meanwhile, someone else still doesn’t get it—Trent Duffy of the White House Office of Management of the Budget. “There’s no question that the growth plan will have an impact on the deficit,” Duffy told Weisman. Poor fool! If only he’d watch Fox News Channel’s Hannity & Colmes, where crackpot Sean Hannity keeps telling his viewers that lower tax rates produce higher revenue. “When you cut taxes, you double revenues,” Hannity told Gene Sperling on Tuesday night (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/9/03). Wednesday night, he was at it again, lecturing former Commerce Sec Mickey Kantor (Kantor doesn’t get it yet either):

HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us. JFK knew it, Reagan knew it: Cut taxes, increase revenues. It works. We’ve got to leave it right there though.
What a shame that he couldn’t go on. We could drink in Sean’s wisdom all night.

The Big Picture? Millions of Americans hear this crap every day, peddled by Sean and Rush and their legion of clones. They truly don’t know that they’re being deceived. By contrast, Sean and Rush know their role quite well; they’re paid—well paid—to deceive the public. Your nation has a crackpot discourse because this nonsense is allowed to go on. When will mainstream pundits show some spine and fight for a rational discourse?

BOLD AND BOLDER: It was time to discuss the president’s plan on Tuesday night’s Hannity & Colmes. That afternoon, Bush had unveiled his budget proposals during a speech in Chicago. Bill Bennett came on H&C to discuss the plan. In a word, Bennett found the plan “bold:”

BENNETT: I think what everyone has to agree to, Alan, is that this is a very bold move. It’s a big-time move. I was on a phone call last night with a number of people who know economics a whole lot better than I do. You know some had some quibbles, some not, but everybody said this is a big and bold step. What the president has done here, I think, essentially, on economic policy is essentially the same thing he did in the war on terrorism. To say that he is a major figure, he is a leader, he’s going to use his—he’s not going to run out the clock. He’s going to use his position to advance ideas in a very bold and aggressive way.
Huh! Bill couldn’t stop saying “bold!” And when Bennett eventually chatted with Sean, Sean seemed to like the word too:
HANNITY: Look, we have to lay this on the line and we have to put to rest this class warfare that the left is playing here. Let me give you the facts. And it is bold. I mean, this is as bold a plan that we have seen since Reagan had his tax cuts back in, what, ’81 when he became president….

BENNETT: Well, and one other point. At the very bottom, where you’re talking about people who do not pay taxes at all, 22 million people will now be receiving checks because of the tax credit. So it’s an extraordinary thing; it’s an across-the-board bold stroke, and now we will have debate on it.

The boys couldn’t stop saying “bold!” Later, Bennett summed up his thoughts. He found himself saying it again:
BENNETT: It’s in the Reagan tradition. Again, it’s in the John F. Kennedy tradition…But I think the boldness is what makes it interesting. A few weeks ago, you heard the Democrats say, well, the president’s not doing anything about the economy. The economy’s dead in the water. I don’t think they can make that claim today. This is a big and bold stroke.
Alan Colmes never called the plan “bold.” But Bennett used the word six times, and Sean said “bold” twice too.

What were the boys saying “bold” so much? Because “bold” was the official Bush spin-point. In his speech, Bush described his own plan as “bold,” as Campbell Brown reported at the top of Tuesday’s NBC Nightly News:

BROWN: Tom, the president today called this a, quote, “bold plan,” $674 billion, mostly tax cuts. He says it’s just what the economy needs.
Real journalists reported what Bush had said. At H&C, they had a better idea. They just hammered the key spin-word at you.

For the record, there’s nothing wrong with the Bush and his camp trying to spin his plan as “bold” (although the word is all heat and no light). As we’ll see, “bold leadership” has been a key Bush spin-point all the way back to May 2000. But it’s kind of silly when spinners like Bennett run on TV and keep saying the word. Is Bush’s plan “bold?” That’s a matter of judgment. But there’s a word for Bill Bennett. It’s “toady.”

Of course, Bennett was hardly the only guy who ran to call the plan “bold.” On Wednesday night, Sean had a good long chat with Dan Quayle. They also played “Bold and bolder:”

HANNITY: Let me throw one question at you about the president’s economic proposal, stimulus package. You know I’m watching this president and I see he’s standing on principle. He knows what the rhetoric of the left is going to be but a bold tax cut, a bold position on defense and intelligence and terrorism issues. He’s shown a lot of courage in my view. What do you think of him and especially the economic plan?

QUAYLE: You know, I think this president is very clear in his policies. He’s very clear in his articulation of the issues. He goes a lot of times with his heart and his gut, which I think is correct. I’ve always said that he’s got very good judgment, and this is a very bold package. Enjoy yourselves as you watch the spinners rush to say bold-bold-bold-bold.

In closing, one other guy deserves to be mentioned. At his dotcom, Andrew Sullivan said he didn’t know much about economics. But he did know one thing. Bush was bold:

SULLIVAN: I’m not really qualified to judge economically. But politically, it seems to me that Bush has again completely outwitted his opponents. What matters is the size and boldness of his plan, its appeal to his political base, and the insipid nature of the alternative. In all three respects, Bush wins. His boldness signals to then public that he’s not his dad. And it also signals that he's taken control.
Sully’s right. He doesn’t know if the plan’s any good. But he does know one thing: Bush is bold.

CNN SAID THAT BUSH WAS BOLD TOO: Bush wasn’t just “bold” on H&C. He was “bold” all over CNN, too. How did CNN report the Bush speech? When the president finished, Kyra Phillips threw to Suzanne Malveaux. She limned the president’s plan:

MALVEAUX: Hi, Kyra. Here in windy Chicago, President Bush just unveiled his economic stimulus package—really a very bold plan. This is really a top priority for the Bush administration.
Land o’ goshen! There was Malveaux, describing the plan with the very same word Bush had chosen! And a few hours later, on Inside Politics, John King also said the Bush plan was “bold:”
KING: Reaction has been coming fast and furious from all quarters. Conservatives love the plan, Democrats are panning it. One word you’re not hearing from either side is “timid.” The president today offering what all parties say is quite an ambitious, bold plan.
This is so unlike John King that one hardly knows how to react. Were “all parties” calling the plan “ambitious and bold?” We sure can’t find any Dems who were saying it. (Within the next day, Paul Sarbanes would say the plan was “nuts.” Tom Daschle would call it “obscene.”) But there was King, assuring the world that everyone found the plan “bold.” Moments later, Judy Woodruff had the same line. At CNN, they couldn’t stop saying “bold:”
WOODRUFF: Ron [Brownstein], you’ve been doing some heavy thinking about the president’s plan. And one thing it seems like you and others agree on, the president was bold. Whether you agree or disagree with what he did, this is not a timid proposal.
In fact, Brownstein—a very professional journalist—didn’t call the plan “bold.” Was everyone saying “ambitious” and “bold?” No—but all good Republicans were. A few minutes later, for example, Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth appeared on Inside Politics. He knew the words to say:
MOORE: I applaud what President Bush did today. He came out with a very bold and big and ambitious plan.
Kids, two groups were calling the Bush plan “bold”—Republican spinners and CNN. Ideally, reporters learn to use value-neutral words to describe proposals like President Bush’s. On Tuesday, CNN—breaking down once again—was up to more of its clowning.

CLUBBY: As noted, Stephen Moore heads the Club for Growth. Please don’t get him confused with Sy Sperling, who heads up the Hair Club for Men.

HOWLER HISTORY/BUSH’S BOLD LEADERSHIP: The Bush camp has long loved the word “bold.” On May 15, 2000, Candidate Bush gave a major speech in which he discussed his ideas for Social Security. Bush never laid out a specific plan, but a number of journalists reported the way Bush aides were framing his proposal. “Bush sees Social Security as an issue on which to present himself as a bold leader,” Dan Balz wrote in the May 15 Washington Post. The next day, Judy Keen described the same dynamic in USA Today. According to Keen, Bush was “using the subject to claim the label of bold leader while dismissing Gore as timid.” On the May 15 Inside Politics, Candy Crowley made it three, saying that the Bush campaign hoped that “voters will see Bush’s proposal as a sign of bold leadership.” “Bush’s defenders say he should get credit for boldness,” E. J. Dionne wrote in the Post.

Was Bush a bold leader? His aides said he was. And obliging pundits framed the issue just as Bush had requested. Here, for example, was Kate O’Beirne on that weekend’s Capital Gang. As Sean and Bill would later do, Kate fought to get in the two spin-points:

O’BEIRNE: I agree with Al [Hunt]. It is bold and courageous, and you’re right, it’s a gamble, but he deserves enormous credit for doing this…And secondly, I think Bush looks like a leader. He’s ahead on the polls on leadership quality, and he has a bold proposal.
The notion that Bush was showing “bold leadership” was voiced all over the press. This week, Bush again told the world he was “bold.” Courtiers ran to repeat it.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: When Gore picked Lieberman, the press called it “bold.” Incomparably, we told them to stop; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/11/00. For the record, this was the only thing Gore ever did that the press corps liked. So they knew what to do—they said “bold.”