Pelosi Promoting Perfect Pitch to Propel Party

Posted October 14, 2003 at 6:03pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has conceived a clear, concise craft for passing her party’s platform on to the public, as well as Members and the media: alliteration.

Striving to find a way to combat the presidential bully pulpit and GOP leaders, Pelosi has latched on to the literary device, employing strings of words beginning with the same letter to deliver nearly every major message. From broader political themes to specific policies, the Democratic leader weaves repetitious syllables into nearly every speech, press event and talking point.

The first glimpse of what has quickly become a Pelosi trademark — she comes out with a new set every few weeks — began just days after she took over as Minority Leader, when she engaged in word play on the then-newly crafted Republican economic proposal.

Criticizing the GOP, Pelosi said Democrats, by contrast, had put forth a plan that was “fair, fast-acting and fiscally sound.” That drum beat has since become a staple of the House Democratic message, with Members repeatedly applying the three F’s while questioning the credibility of all GOP budgetary priorities.

“She wants it to be memorable for Members and the press so they know specifically what we stand for,” said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly. “With ‘fair, fast-acting and fiscally sound,’ people know exactly what we stand for.”

The Minority Leader, who according to aides devises each of the word strings herself, moved next to apply alliteration as a test of the ideas and proposals Members bring to the table, saying that to be successful they must meet the standard of the three C’s: “clarity, credibility and consensus.”

Pelosi has also assembled alliterations for House Democratic candidates, saying that to win, hopefuls must have the three M’s — “money, message and mobilization.”

When Pelosi took over as Minority Leader in January, she vowed Democrats would never again enter an election year without a clear message — one that not only defines the party but also gives voters a clear understanding of how Democrats differ from Republicans.

Daly said the use of alliterations ties directly back to that idea — by saying it over and over again, Democratic ideas are “easier to remember” and have staying power.

“It resonates and is memorable because of the alliteration, but also because each of the components are important pieces of what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), after repeating Pelosi’s “fair, fast-acting and fiscally sound” trio in his weekly press briefing, said of the use of alliterations: “It’s a way of punchily saying something people can remember.”

Hoyer recently put together an alliteration of his own, calling Bush’s economic policies “warmed over, worn out and wrong.”

In her latest use of the tactic, Pelosi has gone straight after what she charged was Republicans’ abuse of the political process to achieve gains.

“Removal, re-redistricting, recount and recall” points to Republican efforts to impeach then-President Bill Clinton, party battles in Colorado and Texas over the drawing of House districts, the 2000 presidential recount in Florida, and the successful effort in California to oust Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

Pelosi also has recently tied an alliteration to Democratic criticism of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, saying the president “misled, miscalculated and misrepresented” on the conflict.

Throughout the Democratic Caucus, aides and Members acknowledge the alliterations are effective, at times grating and nearly impossible to forget. One House Democratic aide recalled Pelosi introducing alliterations at the party’s retreat earlier this year. “I thought they were pretty good and I thought it made sense,” the staffer said.

“She’s slightly obsessive when it comes to alliterations, but they do seem to work,” the aide added.

Pelosi’s Pearls

Examples of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s use of alliteration to spread the Democratic message:

Clarity, credibility and consensus

Fair, fast-acting and fiscally sound

Misled, miscalculated and misrepresented

Money, message and mobilization

Removal, re-redistricting, recount and recall