Many Americans might be surprised to learn that the Iraq Study Group (ISG) eport called The Way Forward - A New Approach is now available for purchase on, and it is rising up through the sales rank quickly. But...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 12/06/2006

Many Americans might be surprised to learn that the Iraq Study Group (ISG) eport called The Way Forward - A New Approach is now available for purchase on, and it is rising up through the sales rank quickly.

But even before we have have a chance to study the ISG's 160 pages of recommendations, Frameshoppers will notice that the report has thrust the word forward into the debate.

Why is the forward frame so central in the ISG report?

Because it provides President Bush the cover to reframe the debate away from the idea of "failure" as "leaving Iraq" to a new idea of "failure" as "not working together."

As most Americans know, President Bush has spent the past few years framing "failure" in Iraq in these very basic terms:

[failure] is [U.S. troops leaving Iraq]

In other words, Bush's concept of success in Iraq has really been the product of a very aggressive attempt to frame the debate so that Democratic proposals to withdraw troops would be seen by the American public as "failure."  All of Bush's political attack messages--incuding "pull out," "cut and run" and "timetables"--have made sense within and reiterated this frame. 

The difficulty Bush's failure frame presented for the ISG comes from the simple fact that their main recommndation is that the only way to salvage the U.S. Iraq policy is for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

Whoops.  Given the failure frame that President Bush has been pushing on Iraq,  if he accepts the advice to pull out, then he will admitting failure.  Many progressives would like to see President Bush do this, but I am 100% sure that he will not.

Instead, President Bush is trying to reframe the question of "failure" so that it no longer means "troops leaving Iraq" but now means "political stasis."

Failing is "Not Working Together"
Consider this quote from Bush at the meeting when he accepted the report from the ISG, and notice the phrase that President Bush repeats (emphasis mine):

The commission is headed up to Congress, and I urge the members of Congress to take this report seriously. While they won't agree with every proposal -- and we probably won't agree with every proposal -- it, nevertheless, is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue.

The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington, and they understand that on this important issue of war and peace, it is best for our country to work together. And I understand how difficult that is, but this report will give us all an opportunity to find common ground, for the good of the country -- not for the good of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but for the good of the country.

We can achieve long-lasting peace for this country, and it requires tough work. It also requires a strategy that will be effective. And we've got men and women of both political parties around this table who spent a lot of time thinking about the way forward in Iraq, and the way forward in the Middle East, and I can't thank them enough for your time. You could be doing a lot of other things, you could have had a lot more simple life than to allow your government to call you back into service. But you did allow us to call you back into service, and you made a vital contribution to the country. Our fellow citizens have got to know that it is possible for people of goodwill to come together to help make recommendations on how to deal with a very serious situation.

So, here we clearly see an effort by President Bush to reframe the discussion towards an idea that he has been pushing since the Democratic victory in the 2006 midterm elections--the idea that both parties have an obligation to "come together and work togehter."

In this new frame for Iraq, the problems we face do not stem from Bush's dangerous inability to look beyond his own nose, but from the "political bickering that happens in Washington."

In this logic--President Bush's new frame--the great value of the ISG repport on Iraq is that it provides a way "forward" by giving Democrats and Republicans a chance to work together.

Covering For President Bush
Thus, while the entire world is looking to the ISG report as a solution to the problems in Iraq, President Bush appears to be looking to the ISG report as an opportunity to salvage his political image.

The great challenge President Bush is trying to tackle is not the debacle in Iraq that he caused, but the debacle in the polls that he feels he can still resolve.

And Americans should be very conscious of the irony--the cynical irony--at the heart of this new framing strategy by President Bush:  a man who has proven himself incapable of working with anyone but a small group of "yes men" and "yes women" is now posing as the paragon of cooperation.

Bush would be sad if he were not so dangerous.

What To Say Back:  Working Together Is Not the Issue!  Listening Is The Issue
To fight off President Bush's cynical attempt to spin the IRG report away from the real issue at hand, progressives can offer a very simple and very simple word:


The problem that must be solved is not that Democrats and Republicans need to work together, but that President Bush must listen to the advice given to him:

  • Who cares if we work together if Bush doesn't listen?
  • Unless Bush listens to the advice, Iraq will just get worse?
  • The key is for President Bush to listen to what he is being told

And finally, the most phrase  that can be offered to frame the debate:

  • When the voters spoke, Bush did not listen.  Will he listen now?

Whether it is listening to the voice of the people or listening to the voice of the Iraq Study Group, the frame remains the same.  The obstacle that the world faces in Iraq is not the working environment in Washington, DC, but a President who has proven himself deaf to all advice.

Failure, in other words, is a President who welcomes advice, but hears none of it.

©  2006 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop

© Jeffrey Feldman 2006, Frameshop

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