Newt inflates his word power

Washington - Forget political correctness. Newt Gingrich and the Republican hitmen who now run Congress were never a very PC bunch in the first place. Their new creed is verbal correctness: scientific choice of the right language to promote conser vatismand skewer Democrats, writes Rupert Cornwell.

The search for the mot juste is nothing new in poll-driven, public-opinion obsessed US politics. The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan, would spend hours before every speech trying out sound-bites. Bill Clinton regularly market-tests them before focus groups. But no one is as seriously into the business of words as Chairman Newt.

HarperCollins was ready to pay the Speaker of the House the mind-boggling advance of $4.5m (£2.9m) for two books. He has been in the job barely a month, and four anthologies of Newtspeak nuggets have already been published. And then, of course, there is the patented Gingrich manual of propaganda. First issued to devotees and would-be imitators in autumn 1990, Language, a Key Mechanism of Control, is suddenly the hottest political lexicon in town. It consists of 131 entries, half "optimistic positive governing words", half what are euphemistically called "contrasting words".

The latter include such 1995 Gingrich staples as "pathetic", "sick", "liberal", "traitor" and "hypocrisy", to be applied, says the guide, "to an opponent, his record, his proposals and his party". Read them, memorise them, it continues. "Remember, like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used."

And they are being used - so much so that President Clinton, a prime target of the vitriol, yesterday implored the annual National Prayer Breakfast, grouping America's great and good, Republican and Democrat alike, "for the grace of God not to use the power of words to divide and destroy".

Is Newt listening? Maybe. His pollster, Frank Luntz, has circulated a memo to House Republicans on how to describe the spending cuts Republicans are trying to push through. Never target "programmes", he says, but "bureaucrats". "Charities are OK; orphanages are not." And don't talk about slashing government, he advises. Better to "put government on a diet". With the average American having gained four pounds in the month to New Year's Day, Mr Luntz observes, "the diet analogy plays well this month".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £40,000

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Contracts / Sales Administrator

£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Engineer - Powered Access

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...

Recruitment Genius: Pharmacy Branch Manager

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence