Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A war of words

In his plan to fix Social Security, is Bush proposing "private accounts" or "personal accounts"? That depends on whom you ask. The White House and other Republicans are pushing for "personal accounts" and say the other term is loaded.

This CJR Campaign Desk frames the debate and includes an interesting Washington Post interview with the president:
While most of the haggling over language goes on behind closed doors, the Washington Post's interview with President Bush last week put on display the tug-of-war that is being fought.
The Post: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

The president: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

The Post: Yes, exactly. Scott has been --

The president: We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

The Post: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.

The president: Yes?

The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

The president: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

The president: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.

The president: When?

The Post: To describe it.

The president: When, when was it?

The Post: Mike said it was right around the election.

The president: Seriously?

The Post: It was right around the election. We'll send it over.

The president: I'm surprised. Maybe I did. It's amazing what happens when you're tired. Anyway, your question was? I'm sorry for interrupting.
What is this all about? It's about public perception; both Republicans and Democrats are aware that the phrase "personal accounts" polls better than the phrase "private accounts."
This is a good story to read for copy editors, too. The words we choose to put in headlines will be seen even more than the words in the story. Make whatever choice you wish, but be aware that the battle is going on.


At 3:50 PM, January 26, 2005, Blogger Etaoin Shrdlu said...

The Washington Post had a good article on it, too, over the weekend and before the CJR piece:


At 9:51 PM, January 27, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Good story. Thanks, Vince.


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