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Caveat lector

26 January 2002

Our current howler (part II): Bartlett’s quotations

Synopsis: Bruce Bartlett speaks English—it’s his native tongue. So he knew what Uncle Ted had suggested.

Smoking out the real tax agenda
Bruce Bartlett, The Washington Times, 1/16/02

The Daschle Democrats
George Will, The Washington Post, 1/13/02

What goes through the mind of honest conservatives when they see Michael Reagan’s pandering pitch, in which he throws pleasing feed to the cattle—and, of course, lies in their faces? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/24/02) It’s hard to imagine what an honest con must think when Reagan talks down to the herd. But then, on the current talk-show right, pundits will do and say just about anything in order to please bovine followers.

Example: On January 16, Ted Kennedy gave his speech about tax cuts. That morning, Bruce Bartlett previewed the speech in the Washington Times. Because Bruce Bartlett is perfectly sane, he knew just what Teddy would be saying:

BARTLETT (pgh 6): No doubt, Mr. Kennedy will deny that he favors any sort of tax increase in his speech. He will merely suggest we hold the line on taxes—neither raising them nor lowering them. Prudence, he will say, especially in light of the added governmental demands resulting from September 11, simply demands that tax cuts be put aside temporarily until the fiscal picture brightens. [emphasis added]

And that is exactly what Kennedy said when he limned his proposals; he denied that he favors any sort of tax increase. He said this for an obvious reason—he said it was because it was accurate. Kennedy wants current tax rates to stay where they are; he doesn’t want them to go down or go up. Let’s try it this way—in the areas in question, if you pay an X percent tax rate today, he wants you to pay the same tax rate tomorrow.

And yes, speakers of English will generally "deny that Kennedy favors any sort of tax increase." They will make that denial for an obvious reason—because, as Bartlett predicted he would, Kennedy suggested we hold the line on taxes—neither raising them nor lowering them. Because Bartlett speaks English, he knew quite well what Kennedy would say about this proposal. English is Bartlett’s native tongue. Therefore, when you suggest that taxes stay the same, he knows exactly what you mean. You mean that you don’t want to raise them.

But of course, Michael Reagan also knows that Bush didn’t win big across America. He goes on TV and says what he says because he’s prepared to talk down to the cattle. And sadly, Bartlett is willing to feed the herd too. That’s why he began his piece in the Times with this peculiar construction:

BARTLETT (pgh 1): Today Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, will speak at the National Press Club in D.C.. The title of his talk is, "America’s New Challenge: National Security, Economic Recovery, and Progress for All Americans." But the true topic of the speech will be why taxes should be raised by rescinding tax cuts scheduled for future years. [emphasis added]

Bartlett speaks English—it’s his native tongue—but he’s also a prime cattle herder. So he did his best to please the herd. He went ahead and invented a tortured construction in which he said "taxes" and "raised."

Bartlett found a novel construction with which he could pander to cattle. Even though he knew that Kennedy suggested we hold the line on taxes—neither raising them nor lowering them, he went ahead and fed the herd some pabulum in his opening stanza. But then, a surprising array of major pundits have also been throwing strange feed to the herd. In the Post, George Will was struggling hard, and English is his native tongue too:

WILL: In his remarkably clumsy speech Jan. 4, Daschle said the tax cut "probably made the recession worse"…Daschleized Democrats…insist repeal would not be a tax increase.

So this is Daschleized arithmetic: Your taxes under current law are X. Your taxes would be X plus Y under a new law repealing the older law. But the new law does not raise your taxes.

See how "remarkably clumsy" English gets when you’re trying to mislead the cattle? Kennedy makes a simple statement; he wants taxes to stay the same. It’s remarkably easy to say it. By contrast, Will fills the chalkboard with Xs and Ys as he peddles his clumsy construction. Guess what? When pundits torture the language like that, they’re trying to mislead the herd.

And of course, even with his chalkboard talk, Will misstates the matter. Sorry, wranglers: Here’s what Will would have to say to make his chalkboard torture accurate. Corrections presented in bold:

WILL, CORRECTED: So this is Daschleized arithmetic: Your future taxes under current law are X. Your future taxes would be X plus Y under a new law repealing the older law. But the new law does not raise your taxes.

Huh? Human beings don’t talk like that—unless they’re throwing feed to the cattle.

Amazing, isn’t it, the depths into which the Wills and the Bartletts—and the Reagans—have fallen? When Al Gore wins the popular vote, that means that Bush won big! And when Uncle Ted says that taxes should stay where they are, that means he’s suggesting we raise them! There used to be a word for this. That word, of course, was the "L" word—lying. And guess what? Your major pundits in the Washington Times have been doing an inordinate amount of it lately. In fact, they didn’t even waste their time getting cute when the word came to lie about Daschle.

Next: Real transcripts! (Then a look at Rush Limbaugh.)