Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Party patter

'Talking points' revealing chatter

        LOS ANGELES — Did you know that Al Gore was “disillusioned” by Watergate and the Vietnam War, so he became a journalist and began a family with Tipper?

        Or that the Democratic National Convention is “truly” representing “real people from real walks of life”?

        Or even that Joe Lieberman “has been fighting for working families over a 30-year career in public service”?

        If you don't know these very pertinent “facts” about the Democratic ticket, then you will after talking to one of the Kentucky delegates at this week's nominating convention.

        At least you will if the delegates are following the marching orders they were given during a Tuesday morning breakfast at their hotel in wacky West Hollywood.

        Each delegate was given a card containing several dozen items about the candidates.

        Called “talking points,” the prepared information is designed to keep the delegates on message when they return to Kentucky and begin campaigning for the Gore/Lieberman ticket.

        “Keep these cards with you,” delegation Chairman Bill Londigran told the delegates. “Use them when you talk to friends or the media.”

        Nothing nefarious here. All campaigns and candidates use talking points, and if they tell you they don't, they have probably been instructed to do so in their talking points.

        The whole idea for the person delivering the points is not only to make a case for the candidate's agenda and ideas but also to convey that the pol is just a regular person.

        For instance, “Al met Tipper at a high school dance and have been married for 30 years,” and “Joe and Hadassah Lieberman have been married for 17 years” — no mention of Mr. Lieberman's first marriage that ended in divorce — and “they have four children and two grandchildren, including one named Tennessee.”

        The points are heavy on the ticket's political agenda and loaded with buzz words and phrases like “saving our schools,” “middle-class tax cuts,” “retirement security” and “health care for every child.”

        There are lots of mentions of the candidates' records. Mr. Gore “chaired the first Congressional hearing on toxic waste dumping.”

        Mr. Lieberman “helped restore fiscal discipline, reform welfare (and) strengthen our national defense” as a member of the U.S. Senate.

        You know how Republican George W. Bush served in the National Guard during the Vietnam war? Well, Mr. Gore “didn't take the easy way out of Vietnam, he enlisted and served in the Army.” They left out that he worked as reporter.

        And how about Mr. Bush's work in the oil industry?

        Well, Mr. Lieberman “fought for consumers against unfair-price gouging by big oil companies.”

        Sounds like a lot of talk to me. But that's the point.

Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for the Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort.