Proponents roll out semantic strategy


WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is searching for a new way to sell its financial rescue plan. One big key: Insist it’s not a Wall Street “bailout.”

Now it’s not about institutions. The focus has switched to everyday Americans. And it’s not an expenditure of taxpayer money, it’s an “investment.”

This was clearly evident in Bush’s grim warnings on Tuesday of “economic hardship for millions” if the plan can’t be revived. He declared, “For the financial security of every American, Congress must act.”

This emphasis was echoed on the presidential campaign trail.

“Let’s not call it a bailout. Let’s call it a rescue,” said Republican John McCain.

Democratic rival Barack Obama said, “This is no longer just a Wall Street crisis – it’s an American crisis, and it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s take: Its not a bailout but “a buy-in, so that we can turn our economy around.”

An AP-Knowledge Networks poll last week that asked whether people supported Bush’s proposed federal “bailout” only 30 percent backing it. Surveys by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that asked whether people support “investing” or “committing” billions to keep markets secure found slightly more favoring the plan than opposing it.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto agreed the administration’s initial efforts to explain the legislation to Congress and the public left something to be desired.

“We need to be able to better demonstrate that there are impacts for American families, for retirees, for small businesses, for larger businesses who are hiring, for our banking system, for the ability to get home loans, for businesses to be able to make their payrolls, their small-business accounts,” Fratto said.

He said “it’s a hard thing to do” because of the complexity of both the problem and the solution.


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