01/22/07 - senators and language

In today's excerpt - Dr. Frank Luntz, 'language architect', pollster and advisor to clients from Rudy Guliani to Steve Wynn, talks about U.S. Senators and their use of language:

"Senators go on television, ostensibly, to communicate with their constituents, but then squander the opportunity by droning on about 'reconciliation' and 'markup' and 'cloture.' They have the distinct ability to take a simple issue and mutilate it beyond all recognition. In December of 2005, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson stepped onto the Senate floor to talk about the complicated, unfair system of federal taxation—and instead uttered the sentence that did not end.

"'Simply put [how ironic], we would sunset the current tax code on the Fourth of July 2008 and command the Congress to take the next three years analyzing consumption taxes, progressive taxes, flat taxes, revenues of all sorts, and the effect each has on the economy and economic policy, and then come back to the American people prior to that date with a new, simplified, fairer, flatter tax system, or failing to do so the Congress of the United States would then be forced to vote on this floor to extend the existing system we have and all the injustice that goes with it'.

"Count it: one hundred and three words to say what should have been said in eighteen: 'Congress needs to study and simplify the tax code, and they have three years to get it done.'

"And that's the reason why John F. Kennedy is the only member of Congress in modern times to have gone from Capitol Hill straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, you'd have to be more than a hundred years old to have voted for the last legislator to move directly to the White House prior to Kennedy. (Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920) ... Legislators are handicapped when they run for executive office precisely because they tend to speak a language the American public simply doesn't find compelling."


Dr. Frank Luntz


Words That Work: It's Not What You Say That Matters, It's What People Hear




Copyright 2007 Dr. Frank Luntz


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