To describe their initiatives as "new...


December 12, 1990|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

PRESIDENTS LIKE to describe their initiatives as "new." The most famous example of this is Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal."

Theodore Roosevelt had his "New Nationalism." Woodrow Wilson had his "New Freedom." John F. Kennedy had the "New Frontier." Richard Nixon's motto was "The New Malfeasance." No! Just kidding! It was "New Federalism."

Advertising copy writers say "new" is always a good modifier, even for something that isn't, but that "new and improved" is better. That's okay for products, but I don't think it would work for political ideas. I mean, if FDR had said when he was nominated in 1932, "I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new and improved deal for the American people," delegates would have thought he was selling soap. (Some Republicans even to this day think he was, in fact, selling soap.)

George Bush's administration has come up with not one but two slogans with "new" in them. Both are, I think, losers.

One is "New World Order." When he spoke to Congress in September about the Persian Gulf, Bush said one of the objectives of his policy was "a new world order." The phrase caught on with the press, the public and other politicians and has been used repeatedly since.

But George doesn't always get credit for it. Neil Kinnock of the British Labor Party has used the phrase without attribution! When Joe Biden used Kinnock's language without attribution, he got run out of the 1988 presidential race!

A worse slight to Bush came from the Nobel Peace Prize committee's Gidske Anderson. She said, "We hope that the prize to Gorbachev will strengthen him in his continued work to create a new world order."

That's not the worst slight. Some commentators have said Bush borrowed the phrase from Adolf Hitler. Hitler proposed a "New Order," and that phrase was long associated with him and his ideas for Germany and the world. This is probably what Saddam Hussein had in mind when he said that George Bush was another Hitler.

The other "new" phrase the Bush administration is toying with is "New Paradigm." This won't work for two reasons.

One, most people don't know what it means. My small desk dictionary give three different meanings. I think what the Bush administration has in mind is "a pattern, example or model."

Two, most people don't know how to pronounce it. That dictionary gives two pronunciations: PAIR-uh-dime and PAIR-uh-dim. (My unabridged gives four pronunciations, none of them the way I said it for 30 years: "pair-uh-DIJ-um.")

Jim Pinkerton, the deputy assistant to the president, came up with the slogan. He admits "paradigm" is no household word, but defends his choice this way: "My theory is that it's like an old dog. It drools on you, it's ugly, but you remember it."

Hey, wait a minute! That's it! How's this for a presidential slogan, "The New Drool"?

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