Collaborative research is a wonderful thing.
When last we spoke, we were telling you how Republican press operatives were fanning out to editorial rooms around Washington and New York, attempting to ban the phrase 'nuclear option' from print and airwave, unless it is duly noted as a Democrat-created smear phrase.
We also noted one first small success in this new Republican lexical jihad. Today's Times notes that when discussing the abolishing of the filibuster: "Democrats call this the nuclear option, while Republicans call this a constitutional option."
As we went on to explain, this is pure crap. Republicans call it the "nuclear option" all the time.
Or at least they did until a couple days ago when some as yet undocumented focus group showed it didn't poll well. Indeed, Republicans have seemed most to relish the term, gleefully relishing its aura of threat and intimidation. Such was the case for instance when the Rev. Jerry Falwell told Ralph Neas on Crossfire on February 16th that if the Democrats persisted in not approving all of President Bush's nominees "he [i.e., Sen. Frist] will in fact impose the nuclear option. And there will be a 51-vote necessity only. When that happens, you guys are dead in the water, and you ought to be."
But who actually came up with the term?
When I first heard yesterday about these latest Republican word game antics, I was pretty sure that it was the Republicans themselves who coined the phrase 'nuclear option', for the reasons I note above. But I wasn't sure of the details.
But, in fact, as many of you have now written in, it seems that the guy who came up with this notorious Democratic smear was none other than its prime proponent, Sen. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi.
For more on this we listen in on Jeffrey Toobin's piece from March 7th issue of The New Yorker ...
Changing the Senateâs rules on judicial filibustering was first addressed in 2003, during the successful Democratic filibuster against Miguel Estrada, whom Bush had nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Ted Stevens, a Republican Senate veteran from Alaska, was complaining in the cloakroom that the Democratic tactic should simply be declared out of order, and, soon enough, a group of Republican aides began to talk about changing the rules. It was understood at once that such a change would be explosive; Senator Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader, came up with ânuclear option,â and the term stuck.
You might have thought getting gamed on 'privatization' might have led some of these newshounds to a greater skepticism the next time those RNC operatives came calling. But it seems we have not yet plumbed the depths of the 'spank me, spank me' journalistic ethic.