BELTWAY: To cover Capitol Hill, PR pros need to know the lay of the land and the language behind it

Good PR people - like all good writers - must first learn to read between the lines, so as to understand what they were meant to understand.

Good PR people - like all good writers - must first learn to read between the lines, so as to understand what they were meant to understand.

Good PR people - like all good writers - must first learn to read

between the lines, so as to understand what they were meant to

understand.



Sports publicists have the easiest job probably, because a final result

is always available. If ’it doesn’t matter who won or lost, but how you

played the game,’ then why, the cynics ask, do we keep score?



And the language of sports is easier than others to translate into

reality.



After a while, we come to know that if a player withdraws because of

’exhaustion,’ he’s hungover; if he’s ’troubled,’ he’s on drugs; and if a

pitcher has ’lost a little on his fastball,’ he may not last the

season.



Here in Washington in our other national sport - politics - it’s more

difficult to translate governmental actions into reality. This is

because there is no final score; the game never ends, even though the

media are continually adding up wins and losses as well as runs, hits

and errors.



It’s July and the ’Confrontation’ season has begun. The opening day of

’Compromise’ season comes just after Labor Day and then the ’Analysis’

season - post-adjournment - arrives when we will be told who won, just

in time for the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary to begin it

all over again.



As this column is being written, the media is telling us that the

Republicans have won a victory on the tax bill. A version of a tax cut

has narrowly passed the House, the product of fierce PR and lobbying by

business (’taxpayers’) and the securities industry, looking for a

capital gains tax reduction.



But the best of our industry know better.



The real compromise was never between Democrats and Republicans, who

will meet in the Fall Classic, but between conservative and moderate

Republicans, each finally reluctant to embarrass the Speaker. Anyone,

even a lobbyist/PR rep for the American Council for Capital Formation

(whose motto is ’End Capital Gains Taxation’), eager to sell securities

now, counting on the GOP version (a 25% reduction effective July 1) and

looking for a lower tax burden, is fooling himself. If we read the words

of the tax bill, it looks like Easy Street - but when the music is

filled in along with a veto message calling it ’welfare for the rich,’

the message is truly more like ’wait ’til next year.’



That’s why PR firms seek recruits with experience on Capitol Hill. If

they’ve been alert, they’ll know things are seldom what they seem. Know

the terrain, our advice should be. The road maps and mileage signs (and,

for that matter, the press accounts) are - as Justice Owen Roberts once

said about laws - ’Like bus tickets, good for this day only.’



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