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27 posts from November 2006

November 30, 2006

Frameshop: Bush's Body Language Says "I'm Afraid"


Sometimes, non-verbal communication--that aspect of how we talk that does not involve words--carries the most meaning in a given situation. 

Such was the case during President Bush's recent press conference in Amman, Jordan.  Having read the transcript of this press conference to analyze the President's repetition of the word "success,"  I then went over to C-SPAN  to watch the video footage.  What I saw in that footage took me by surprise, adding an entirely unexpected dimension to my  thinking about the way President Bush attempted to frame Iraq.  With his words, Bush said, "Success, success, success!"  But with every other aspect of his being--his gestures, his tone, his disposition, his glances--President Bush was saying:  I'm afraid.

The President of the United States was the very image of fear in this Amman press conference.   And that image of fear was more revealing than any words coming out of President Bush's mouth, today.

Continue reading "Frameshop: Bush's Body Language Says "I'm Afraid"" »

November 29, 2006

Frameshop: "Violence" vs. "War"

Americans should listen closely over the next few days to hear how their politicians and newscasters are talking about the situation in Iraq.

Do they say "violence" or "civil war" in their descriptions?

On Monday, NBC decided to label the situation in Iraq a "civil war."  The White House fired back immediately, insisting that it was "sectarian violence."

Right now it is a tug of war.  Which of the two words are you hearing more?

© 2006 Jeffrey Fedman, Frameshop

Frameshop: Stuck in the Midddle, Caught, Trapped

As big media sources in the U.S. start to use "civil war" to describe Iraq, progressives should give some thought to how we talk about U.S. soldiers currently serving.

For some time, now, Democrats have used this two-part formula:

  1. I support the troops
  2. I am against the policy (e.g., against how the policy was conceived, carried out, etc.)

While not a bad formula, as the frame for Iraq shifts to "civil war," progressives might revise their formula to begin with these one of these key metaphors

  1. Stuck in the middle
  2. Caught
  3. Trapped

These three metaphors help to orient the debate--to explain the situation of U.S. troops in terms of one object in the middle of two opposing forces. 

The purpose of using these metaphors is to drive the debate into a logic of "freeing" our soldiers.

Stuck  In the Middle
In the logic of the "civil war" frame,  Iraq is engaged in a war between opposing sides--both of which are endangering the lives  of our soldiers. 

Fareed Zakaria at Newsweek, for example, frame the situation our soldiers face in terms of being "shot at by both sides":

"We're in the middle of a civil war and are being shot at by both sides."

Notice how this "stuck in the middle" logic clearly defines two issues:

  1. The danger to our troops (being in the middle)
  2. The key to ending that danger (getting the heck out of the middle)

Zakaria's phrase "being shot at by both sides" can be a very effective way for progressives to define the terms of the debate.

Once progressives orient the debate in terms of the danger our soldiers face (e.g., in between waring sides), the next step is frame the difficulties they face getting out of that danger.

One way to do that is to use the metaphor "caught" to link the danger in Iraq to the politics that are holding back change.  That might look like this:

Our soldiers are caught in President Bush's dangerous policy

Here the idea is it to define what is holding us back from liberating our soldiers from being caught in the middle--it is not "Al Qaeda" or Iraqi leadership, but President Bush's policies.

Finally, progressive can talk about the consequences of the situation in terms of our soldiers being "trapped."  Here we can see the three stages of this kind of framing:

  1. Define the danger (stuck in the middle)
  2. Attribute the cause (caught by Bush's policies)
  3. Name the consequences (trapped in a no-win situation)

So far, this idea of being "trapped" has been tossed around by politicians who talk about "no military solution" to the problems in Iraq. But progressives could also talk about this problem in much more basic terms:

Our soldiers are trapped in a no-win situation, leading only to more deaths.

"Trapped" is a powerful metaphor not just because it is an accurate description of the situation in Iraq, but because it leaves no option but change. Safety and survival become understood in terms of "freedom from" or "being released from" the trap.

Continue reading "Frameshop: Stuck in the Midddle, Caught, Trapped" »

Frameshop: Bush's War on Failure

President Bush's cocksure pseudo policy called the "war on terror" seems to be morphing of late into something that Americans might call the "war on failure."    If the goal of the "war on terror" was to defeat the terrorists, the new goal of the "war on failure" (my phrase) is to defeat…uh…failure.   A sure sign that this new policy is taking root, Bush has developed such an obsessive fixation with the words "success" and "succeed," that his press conferences now sound like out-takes from the movie Rain Man ("Succeed... succeed... success... success... time for Wapner... succeed... success...").

In his last press “availability” (as they call them in White-House-ese), in which he was paired with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq, President Bush repeated "success" and "succeed" nine times in his opening statement alone (he said "terrorist" only three times).  In the Q &A that followed, Maliki—also a fan of Rain Main, apparently (or maybe the Manchurian Candidate)—took up Bush’s hypnotic "success" mantra as well, for a total of sixteen repetition in under an hour.   The whole thing sounded like an infomercial for a Tony Robbins style self-help seminar based the idea that anyone can turn failure into success if they just repeat the word over and over.

So what is all this "success" talk about, anyway?

Continue reading "Frameshop: Bush's War on Failure" »

November 28, 2006

Frameshop: The Framing War Over "Civil War"

"Sectarian Violence" is latest attempt by Bush officials to fog up America's understanding of Iraq.  Iraq is not a "civil war," they insist.  It is just full of "sectarian violence."  In their White House press conference on Monday, Tony Snow and Steve Hadley used the magic words "sectarian violence" over and over again in what was clearly a planned attempt to reframe the debate away from the phrase "civil war." 

Why all this repeating of the phrase "sectarian violence" of late?  More car bombings in Baghdad?  Moqtada al-Sadir stirring up trouble?  Nope.  The fuss is over something Matt Lauer said the other day on the Today Show:  that Iraq was now in a "civil war."

While obvious to most Americans, the change in phrasing by NBC has serious implications for political debate in this country.  If Americans begin to frame Iraq in terms of a "civil war," then they will also begin to perceive U.S. soldiers as being "trapped" in a deadly situation--leading, inevitably, to widespread calls for U.S. soldiers to leave the fight to the Iraqis and come home.

Continue reading "Frameshop: The Framing War Over "Civil War"" »

November 23, 2006

Frameshop: What's Your Family Talking About?  Here's An Idea

(What is your family talking about this Thanksgiving? Here's an idea...JF)


THE WARM SPRINGS SPIRIT: In his 1939 Thanksgiving remarks, FDR talked about religion, family and human relationships.

During the course of his political career, FDR made a habit of celebrating Thanksgiving in Warm Springs, Georgia--a therapeutic spa that he turned into a foundation dedicated to the treatment of polio. At one such dinner on November 23, 1939, FDR delivered some remarks that are still relevant and moving to this day.

The short speech is well worth printing out and reading with your family this Thanksgiving.

In this diary I include a quote from FDR's 1939 Thanksgiving remarks and my interpretation as a starting point for your conversation.

Continue reading "Frameshop: What's Your Family Talking About?  Here's An Idea" »

November 20, 2006

Frameshop: Bush Deaf to "Voice of the Country"


BUSH DEFIES VOTERS: Despite the resounding "No!" to his Iraq policy in the 2006 elections, President Bush continues to openly defy the will of the American people.

Following the 2004 general election, President Bush proud and said that the outcome of the vote meant that the people had evaluated his policy and endorsed it:

we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.

In other words, Bush told voters that the time to endorse or reject his Iraq policy was in an election, and since his party won the 2004 election, that meant that the Iraq policy would continue.

Fast forward two years.  The President's party lost the elections in 2006 and lost big.  So, does the President now say that he will change his Iraq policy because the voters rejected it?  Nope.  Instead, he says that he is waiting to "hear from a variety of sources" about Iraq before he makes a decision about changing his policy.

Interesting.  Win the election and that means everything stays the same--an endorsement.  Lose the election and that means--still waiting to hear all the information. 

Sure, President Bush fired Secretary Rumsfeld.  But when we actually listen to what Bush says, it is clear that he is completely and willfully ignoring the voice of the people following the 2006 elections.

Continue reading "Frameshop: Bush Deaf to "Voice of the Country"" »

November 15, 2006

Frameshop: Lott Takes GOP Backwards

Hee Haw!  Trent Lott is back in the saddle again as a big #2 (...ehem) for the Republicans in the Senate.  And with that choice, the Republicans once again embrace the politics of openness and inclusion.


This photo is from Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party and don't' they all just look so happy.  Bush in particular looks very young and rested.

Ah, the good old days. No terrorism, no homeland security, no hurricanes--just good old fashion Republican racism.  (sigh....)

Who says they can never go home again?

Continue reading "Frameshop: Lott Takes GOP Backwards" »

Frameshop: Eyeing Latinos, RNC Talks "Rags to Riches"


RAGS TO RICHES: After years of ugly Republican racism towards immigrant Latinos, Mel Martinez has been tapped to head the RNC--and pledges to make the hate go away.

Fresh off their losses in the 2006 midterm elections, the Republican Party has changed the guard at the Republican National Committee. Out with Ken Mehlman, in with Mel Martinez. The goal? Earn more votes from Latinos:

President George W. Bush moved yesterday to renew the Republican courtship of Latino voters that had frayed over the past year amid conservative efforts to combat illegal immigration. But in backing Cuban-born Sen. Mel Martinez to lead the Republican Party, Bush drew fire from some conservatives who disdain Martinez's support for a guest worker program.

The response to Martinez at the RNC is very revealing of the true color of today's Republican Party. A mere six months ago President Bush was framing Latino immigrants using the same words he used in his speeches about terrorism--a cynical attempt at the time to whip up racist hatred in the basest part of the Republican base.

But Karl Rove is convinced that the Republicans only lost by a few thousand votes in several key districts, and believes that the key to getting those districts back is strategic gains in the Latino vote. The appointment of Martinez is designed with that slim 2008 victory goal in mind. But can the Senator from Florida turn the racist RNC into something that embraces cultural diversity? Doubtful But progressives should beware: With Martinez at the helm, the RNC will try to get Latino votes by pushing the "Rags to Riches" frame.

Continue reading "Frameshop: Eyeing Latinos, RNC Talks "Rags to Riches"" »

November 10, 2006

Frameshop: It's Not "Bipartisanship"

It is truly amazing how quickly the Republicans, even when wounded, crawl out  from under their rocks and successfully frame the debate.  Even more amazing is how quickly the Democratic leadership lets them to it.

Yesterday and today, President Bush convened a series of photo ops where he and Vice President Cheney sat down to "meet with" Democratic leaders.  

But if we listen carefully, these were not meetings "with" the Democrats, but were carefully staged events designed to look like the President was "meeting" the Democrats for the first.  "Hi, my name's George!  You work here, too?"

Why would President Bush stage these events this way?  Well, it appears that Bush wants the country to believe that the elections signal a new beginning, a new start.  

And it appears that now, more than ever, the Republicans have redoubled their effort to frame and control the debate.

Continue reading "Frameshop: It's Not "Bipartisanship"" »