The Washington Post clearly caved — to whom isn’t clear — to forces wanting to call the $700 million bailout bill a “rescue.”  Clearly, the Wall Street Journal has followed suit today with its lead story.

I counted more than a half dozen references this morning to a rescue package and not a single reference by reporters to a bailout.  Why the change?

The right-wing talking heads on CNBC, which I think fairly represent the views of Wall St., have been calling for the rescue term instead of “bailout.”  It has a nicer ring.  A rescue does not connote any malfeasance.  It also is an action verb of a heroic actor.  The taxpayers are coming to the common good rescue of the Wall St. damsel in distress.  Bailout, in its common usage, suggests some who would think that we should let the perpetrator sink.  Guests and the so-called reporters on CNBC have been arguing that the economic repercussions of the credit crunch demand that we not call this a bailout, because it’s not, they say.  There’s no doubt that government, i.e., taxpayers, must do something or else the economy will be under tremendous distress.  Whatever the “good” reasons might be, the fact is that many on Wall St. will be sheltered from their own greed and stupidity as a result of this plan.

It’s not just the CEOs who are to blame.  Complicit are those who worked for the banks and investment firms.  They must have known they were playing with a house of cards.  They were rewarded handsomely.  I have no sympathy for Bear or Lehman workers.  Maybe next time, they’ll get an honest job.

But it’s not only Wall St. who wants the “rescue” terminology. 

Campaigning in Nevada on Tuesday, Obama rejected the loaded term “bailout” — a phrase that has been abandoned by the White House because of the connotation that it would help the perpetrators of the meltdown — and said that if the plan were designed to save “a few big banks on Wall Street, it would be one thing.”

“But that’s not what it means,” Obama said. “What it means is that if we do not act, it will be harder for you to get a mortgage for your home or the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. . . . Millions of jobs could be lost. A long and painful recession could follow.”

He attempted to reframe the bill from the idea of just handing $700 billion to Wall Street, and he said the plan had been “misunderstood and poorly communicated.”

“When it’s called a bailout, nobody is in favor of a bailout,” Obama said.

John McCain made the same argument yesterday.

So it’s not clear why The Post has decided to change terminology.  I may be that the support of Wall St. and the presidential candidates is enough.  Damn the readers and taxpayers.  Or it may have bowed to pressure of its advertisers, including a coalition of business groups who took out a full page ad (A9) today to call on Congress to pass, not a bailout plan, or even a rescue plan, but a “recovery plan.” 

When will The Post start calling it a recovery plan?

For those who know a bailout when they see one, read the New York Times.  Today, they still call a bailout a bailout.  How quaint, eh?