Frame #1: The "War Room" Frame Major Proponent: Hillary Clinton Key Points: - Iraq is a war. - The war is complicated. - The goal of the war is a 'Democratic Iraq.' - For America to win the war, Democrats...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 07/05/2006

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Frame #1:   The "War Room" Frame
Major Proponent:   Hillary Clinton
Key Points: - Iraq is a war.
- The war is complicated.
- The goal of the war is a 'Democratic Iraq.'
- For America to win the war, Democrats must first win the 2008 Presidential election.
- Once a Democrat is President, the situation in Iraq will improve.

The first alternative to the Republican view of Iraq is the "War Room" frame, promoted by a variety of Democrats, but associated most clearly with Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Logic of the "War Room" Frame
The logic of the "War Room" frame can be seen in this snippet from Hilary Clinton's "Letter to Constituents on Iraq Policy" (Nov 29, 2005):

There are no quick and easy solutions to the long and drawn out conflict this Administration triggered that consumes a billion dollars a week, involves 150,000 American troops, and has cost thousands of American lives.

I do not believe that we should allow this to be an open-ended commitment without limits or end. Nor do I believe that we can or should pull out of Iraq immediately. I believe we are at a critical point with the December 15th elections that should, if successful, allow us to start bringing home our troops in the coming year, while leaving behind a smaller contingent in safer areas with greater intelligence and quick strike capabilities. This will advance our interests, help fight terrorism and protect the interests of the Iraqi people.

This logic is the essence of the "War Room" frame. Notice how Clinton quickly defines the situation in Iraq as a military "conflict" without "easy solutions."  Her policy paper in Iraq frames the situation with the cautiousness  of a military General sizing up the situation from a room full of experts.  The broad logic is:  haste will bring failure.  In war we are cautious.  And nobody is more cautious than those who are directing the war.

The "War Room" frame is a political strategy designed to cast the Democratic Party as "strong on defense" by talking about Iraq as if Democrats are themselves in a "War Room." 

The Strengths of the "War Room" Frame
The strength of the "War Room" Frame is that it quickly disposes of the Republican lie about Democrats being "weak on defense" and provides a rallying cry for all Democrats who have felt most vulnerable to that attack.  Democrats who believe that the public sees the party as "weak on defense" find a ready made logic of war-style "strength" in the "War Room" frame.   

The other strength of the "War Room" frame is that it strikes a note of caution in an otherwise very ideological debate. Caution has the potential to bring calm. 

The Weakness of the "War Room" Frame
The first weakness of the "War Room" Frame is its obvious proximity to the Republican position.  It uses very similar language to the White House, but simply switches "Democrat" for "Republican" as the solution to the situation.

The second weakness is that it defines Iraq as a "war" rather than an "occupation."  This creates an insolvable problem of having to show the American public how to "win" an "occupation"--which cannot be won, but only ended.

Conclusion:  A Frame For Democrats Who Want To Look Like Republicans On Iraq
For Democrats who want to stay 'close' to Republicans on Iraq, the "War Room" frame is key.  There are many, many Democrats in office who sincerely believe that the public perceives the Democrats as "weak on defense," and will gravitate towards this frame.

Also, most Democrats truly believe that the way to "solve" the Iraq problem is by getting elected, and a good many Democrats believe they cannot get elected without presenting a strong willingness to "win" the "war" in Iraq.  In this mindset, the major difference Democrats can present to the voters our caution and intelligence in the face of a reckless and error-ridden Republican war campaign.  The issue is not the war, but who is best suited to win it.

©  2006 Jeffrey Feldman

© Jeffrey Feldman 2006, Frameshop

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