On 60 Minutes, Pelley used GOP-favored "Democrat leadership"


During his interview with President George W. Bush on the January 14 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley twice used the word "Democrat" as an adjective -- "Democrat Party" and "Democrat plan" -- a usage that, as Media Matters for America has noted repeatedly, is one that originated with Republican operatives. Republicans consistently refer to the "Democrat Party," even though that is not what members of the Democratic Party call themselves, and use the noun "Democrat" as an adjective, which New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg identified as an attempt to deny the opposing party the claim to being "democratic," or as Hertzberg wrote, "to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation."

In the early 1990s, apparently due largely to the urging of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the use of the word "Democrat" as an adjective became near-universal among Republicans.

Hertzberg pointed out in an article for the August 7 issue of The New Yorker that the word "Democrat" is a noun, arguing that its use as an adjective defies the rules of English grammar:

The American Heritage College Dictionary, for example, defines the noun "Democratic Party" as "One of the two major US political parties, owing its origin to a split in the Democratic-Republican Party under Andrew Jackson in 1828." (It defines "Democrat n" as "A Democratic Party member" and "Democratic adj" as "Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Democratic Party," but gives no definition for -- indeed, makes no mention of -- "Democrat Party n" or "Democrat adj".) Other dictionaries, and reference works generally, appear to be unanimous on these points.

Hertzberg further noted:

There's no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. "Democrat Party" is a slur, or intended to be -- a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but "Democrat Party" is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams "rat."

As Hertzberg documented, Republicans "as far back as the Harding Administration" have referred to the "Democrat Party," including the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who "made it a regular part of his arsenal of insults," and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), who "denounced 'Democrat wars' ... in his [1976] Vice-Presidential debate with [former Sen.] Walter Mondale [D-MN]."

Further, Hertzberg wrote that "among those of the Republican persuasion," the use of " 'Democrat Party' is now nearly universal" thanks to "Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo 'Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,' and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz." While Hertzberg noted that Luntz "road-tested the adjectival use of 'Democrat' with a focus group in 2001" and "concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the ... Democratic Party," he also wrote that Luntz had told him recently that "[t]hose two letters ['ic'] actually do matter," and that Luntz "recently finished writing a book ... entitled 'Words That Work.' "

Bush frequently employs the "Democrat" slur when describing the Democratic Party or leadership. For instance, following the 2006 midterm elections, Bush stated in a November 8, 2006, press conference that "it is clear the Democrat Party had a good night last night, and I congratulate them on their victories"; noted that he had "spoke[n] with Republican and Democrat leadership in the House and Senate"; and while vowing to work with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion, promised to "begin consultations with the Democrat leadership" on ways "to accomplish big objectives for the country."

From the January 14 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes:

PELLEY: Back at home, there is a raging debate over the president's plan on Capitol Hill even within his own party. The congressional leadership said it might try to stop him. The president has not answered that challenge until now.

The Democrat leadership says, "We want to support the troops who are on the ground; we just want to redline the extra 20,000."

BUSH: Yeah. I will resist that. Listen, we've got people criticizing this plan before it's had a chance to work. They're saying, "We're not even going to fund this thing." They're not going to give it a chance.

PELLEY: There's no Democrat plan?

BUSH: It doesn't look like it to me. And the interesting thing is, Scott, a lot of people are saying, "Well, we can't afford to fail." In other words, people understand the consequences of failure. And -- but what's deafening is those who say, "We can't afford to fail, and here's the plan that will cause us not to fail." Frankly, that's not their responsibility. It's my responsibility is to put forward the plan that I think will succeed. I believe if they start trying to cut off funds, they better explain to the American people and the soldiers why their plan will succeed.

Posted In
Government, The House of Representatives, The Senate
Scott Pelley
60 Minutes
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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