Those who control the language control the debate

President Barack Obama speaks on the Affordable Care President Barack Obama speaks on the Affordable Care Act in the White House briefing room. (Nov. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Ellis Henican Newsday columnist Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a political analyst at the Fox News Channel and ...

Was it just an early fumble -- or Barack Obama's Hurricane Katrina?

Tell me which analogy you like. I'll tell you which side you're on.

Long before a winner is crowned in the bitter battle over the president's health insurance policy, we'll have to suffer through some just-as-hard-fought preliminary fights over the powerful language that is used. Round one's winner will have a huge advantage in round two.

Need proof of how important language is in politics? Ask a right-to-lifer. Or a pro-choicer. Just please choose carefully. For decades now, the side that's controlled the words of abortion has controlled the policy momentum. Why wouldn't the same hold true for the Affordable Care Act -- or Obamacare? You see? Right there. Biology isn't destiny. Word choice is.

Does the healthcare.gov website have "glitches -- or is it a "technological nightmare"? The facts might be the same. The conclusions are not.

Are we advancing "health care reform" or "letting the government take over one-sixth of the national economy"? You pick it. Are people losing "insurance policies they love" or "greedy junk plans"?

How can we possibly resolve this major issue? The word fight isn't close to done.

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PHRASE THAT PAYS

1. Leader of the Free World/Better Than That Romney Guy

2. People's House/Boehner, Pelosi and Their Ilk

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3. World's Greatest Deliberative Body/Planet Filibuster

4. Fifth Estate/A Bunch of Loud, Angry People Yelling at Each Other on TV

5. The American People/The Idiots Who Keep Voting for These Hacks

ASKED

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AND UNANSWERED: Panicking over the pre-Hanukkah knish shortage after the fire at Gabila's Copiague factory? How 'bout this desperation move? Robin Goldberg of Knoxville, Tenn., is eBay-ing three boxes of frozen Gabila's knishes, snagged from her local Kroger's . . . What's the real reason John "Junior" Gotti was stabbed outside the Syosset CVS? He's staying mum, so, of course, the speculation's swirling wildly . . . What would historically sensitive East Hampton officials prefer: "garish" LED signs warning truck drivers about low trestle heights? Or more large trucks slamming into the trestles at Accabonac Road and North Main Street? . . . Are LI's Catholic churches seeing a measurable rise in Mass attendance? Can we credit the "Pope Francis effect"? Will local Catholic schools be the next beneficiary of the new pontiff's popularity? . . . Will next week's Common Core curriculum hearing at Eastport-South Manor High School be as heated as state ed Commissioner John King's raucous welcomes to Setauket and Mineola? Curious rubberneckers might want to keep an eye on state Sen. Ken LaValle's gavel-to-gavel website live stream Nov. 26 . . . What's causing the early grumbling over the new MasterCard/Parkeon parking meters on Rockville Centre's Park Avenue? Normal adjustment jitters? Or some deeper problem with the new coupon-disgorging technology? . . . Why did a US Airways attendant eject Bellport's Albert Rizzi and his service dog, Doxy, from a Wednesday night Philly-to-Islip flight? Did 35 other passengers really deplane in protest? Was Doxy behaving badly or just being picked on?

THE NEWS IN SONG: Banana-fana-fo-health-reform: "The Name Game" by Shirley Ellis: tinyurl.com/bananafanafo

LONG ISLANDER OF THE WEEK: THANKSGIVING THANKFUL

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So many fine organizations rev up this time of year, delivering turkeys to LI's needy, good cheer to our depressed, making extra efforts to help our homeless find accommodations. I'm not singling anyone out today. There are too many, and they aren't here for praise. I'm just reminding everyone -- and myself: We are amazingly blessed. Don't do nothing this year. It's the holiday season of giving. Do something, that's all.

Email ellis@henican.com

Follow on Twitter @henican

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