The Stupidest Political Hairsplitting

Quick — what’s the opposite of  increase?  Tough question, right?  Well, it was for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi since it involved the Bush tax cuts and is a political hot potato.    So, in a CNBC interview, she went for the time-honored, old-fashioned political doubletalk that pols on both sides of the aisle often excel in — but she couldn’t quite pull it off . . .

Reporter: “But, on the tax issue, allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would essentially be a tax increase.”
Pelosi: “It isn’t a tax increase. It is, it is a … a … uh … eliminating a tax decrease that was there.”

Ed Barr on Communication

There have been, of course, other memorable examples of political doublespeak,  hairsplitting, and plain ol’ talking around the issue.  Herewith, some of our favorites:

  • The “It’s All in the Timing” Hairsplit

Rep. Charles Taylor (R-North Carolina) lunched with several lobbyists from Greenberg Traurig (the firm of Abramoff fame).  A few days later, his campaign received eight checks – including one for $2,000 from Jack Abramoff himself, and one for $1,000 from Abramoff’s client, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan.   (A little bit later, Taylor “spontaneously” decided to help the Saginaws get a school construction grant from the Department of the Interior, but that’s neither here nor there.)
The AP termed the lunch a fundraiser.
Nuh unh, said Taylor.  Yes, he DID meet with a least six Abramoff-connected lobbyists on that date.  But it sure wasn’t a fundraiser….because, as he said, he “received no checks there.”
He got them later.
(Oh, he also said he doesn’t remember why he met with the lobbyists in the first place, but he is sure it was “not to raise money or discuss the tribe.”  Funny how both of those things happened after the fact!)

  • The Teeny Tiny Difference Hairsplit

Florida governor Jeb Bush was being harassed by anti-Republican protesters in Pittsburgh while on the way to a fundraising event for Senator Rick Santorum.
Media reports said that to avoid the crowd, he hid in a closet.  More specifically, “a subway station supply closet.”
Bush vehemently denied he hid in a closet.
It was actually a boiler room.

  • The Being EXTREMELY Specific Hairsplit

When White House Press Secretary Tony Snow appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz asked him about the Iraq Study Group report – that was critical of the Bush Administrations handling of the Iraq War.
CNN host Howard Kurtz: They [The Iraq Study Group] also said the policy is not working.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow:  No, what they said is that you need a new policy.
Umm…okay.  So they said that a new policy was needed because the old policy was working?  Makes perfect sense.

  • The Innocent on a Technicality Hairsplit

While running for re-election, Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) brazenly ran an ad stating, “I have never taken a bribe from anyone.”
This, in response to the FBI investigation for taking bribes, in which they videotaped him accepting a briefcase stuffed with $100,000 in cash.
But Jefferson didn’t take a bribe.  No sir.  The money was intended for the Vice President of Nigeria, not him, morons.  (Of course, even though he told an informant he had indeed passed the cash to the VP, the FBI found $90k of it hidden in his freezer…but it’s not a BRIBE.  He’s really just stealing someone else’s bribe for the VP of Nigeria.  Get it?

  • The “If WE Do It, It’s Different” Hairsplit

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) says Democrats shouldn’t show pictures of flag-draped coffins from the Iraq war in political ads.  It’s exploitative.  But Republicans CAN show pictures of flag-draped coffins from the 9/11 attacks in their ads.  It’s different.
Asked one reporter, What’s the difference?
Boehner:  “You want me to describe the difference between men and women of the military out there defending the American people, and victims – victims – of terrorist activities?”
Reporter: “They were both killed by opponents, right? Terrorists or Islamic insurgents?”
Boehner: “The World Trade Center victims were victims of a terrorist act here on our shore and I think all Americans were appalled that this did in fact happen. But I think the differences, in terms of the images, are as clear as night and day.”
Mmm-hmmm.

  • The “I’m More Educated Than You Are” Hairsplit

National Review editor and pundit Jonah Goldberg snarkily weighed in on Democratic hypocrisy and media hype about the Rep.  Mark Foley (R-Florida) page sex scandal – and pointed out an extremely important distinction that had heretofore been unnoticed: Mark Foley was not a pedophile.
As Goldberg sagely reported: “Foley may or may not be a predator, but pedophiles don’t dig post-pubescent teens; ephebophiles do”

  • The Frantically Trying To Put A Good Face on a Pitiful Failure Hairsplit

It’s really not a big deal that Osama Bin Laden hasn’t been caught or killed, despite Bush Administration vows to do so after the 9/11 attack.  The White House surely hasn’t failed to do the job.  Let Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Frago Townsend explain.
CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we’re going to get him. Still don’t have him. I know you are saying there’s successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That’s a failure.
Townsend: Well, I’m not sure — it’s a success that hasn’t occurred yet. I don’t know that I view that as a failure.

  • The It’s All In a Word Unsuccessful Hairsplit

Senator George Allen (R-Virginia) had a noose hanging in his office from 1998 to 2000.  When repeatedly asked about this potentially offensive knick-knack, Allen explained that it was “more of a lasso” and “it has nothing to do with lynching.”  Finally, in 2006, he came clean and said, well, okay, it was a noose…but it was just a “little old noose.”

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