Direct-mail milestone

They all do it — doctor up direct-mail solicitations to make it look like some official  document — it’s just that a recent mailing from the National Republican Senatorial Committee took the genre to new heights.

The NRSC uses all the psychological techniques. The mailing attempts to make the person who gets the mail feel important. In the case at hand, the mailing consists of a four-page letter from Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), the NRSC chairman, and a survey.

At the top of the survey is this notice: “This survey is registered in your name and must be accounted for upon completion of this project. If you choose not to participate in this crucial Republican Leadership Survey, please return this Survey Document at once using the postage-paid envelope provided.”

That’s followed by a warning: “Official Republican Party Document — Do Not Destroy.” Then there is a stern instruction: “Please return your completed Survey [capitalization courtesy of the NRSC] within the next 7 days to ensure timely processing and accurate results.”

Some questions in the survey are loaded; some are not. For example: “Do you agree with liberal Democrats who want to repeal and reverse President Bush’s tax cuts?” (See below for a discussion of political language.)

Then there’s the particularly blunt “Can the U.S. economy function without the low-wage labor provided by illegal immigrants?”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) remains a reliable GOP fundraiser, though this question is very 1994: “Hillary Clinton is calling Senate Democrats to push a passage of measures to institute government-run healthcare. Do you support efforts to give government control of your healthcare costs and choices?” The NRSC is not killing itself for accuracy here.
The Clinton of 2007, along with other Democratic White House hopefuls, is talking about covering the millions of uninsured in our nation and bringing down costs — and not promoting “government-run health care.”

A section of the questionnaire — remember, this is just a warm-up for a pitch to send money to the NRSC — does have a few revealing questions that provide some insight into the inner soul of Republican leadership. “Do you believe that voters have turned away from the principles and ideals of the ‘Reagan Revolution’ — lower taxes, smaller government and a strong, proud America?”

Could the answer be suggested in this query? “Have Democrats won a national mandate to raise taxes and dictate foreign policy to President Bush for the remainder of his term?”

And I would love to know the answer to this question to the party faithful: “Do you believe the Republican Leadership in Congress needs to listen more closely to grassroots Republicans on issues such as spending, ethics and immigration reform?”

In a word, liberal vs. progressive

 At Monday’s debate, Clinton was asked to define the word “liberal” and if she would use the word to describe herself. She said she preferred the “real American” term of “modern progressive.”

A standard technique in the GOP playbook is to hurl the word “liberal” as a slur. When a Republican refers to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as a “San Francisco liberal” it’s intended as a negative hit. Pelosi herself uses the word “progressive.” Examples:

Ensign says, in a fundraising letter: “Confront the liberal Democrats and underwrite our campaign to retake the Senate majority in 2008.’’

Pelosi says, at a minimum-wage rally: “It’s part of a progressive agenda for economic growth in our country.”


Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. E-mail: lsweet3022@aol.com.