[Mb-civic] Nailing the frames of the RNC

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Fri Sep 3 20:17:01 PDT 2004

Nailing the frames of the 
Republican National 
Wednesday, September 1: Red-meat night frames Kerry
By George Lakoff
2 September 2004

Last night was red-meat night. Tear up the opposition and throw 
them to the dogs. This is traditionally a vice-presidential task so 
that the president can keep his hands clean. But this time Vice 
President Dick Cheney had the help of Zell Miller, a nominal 
Democrat who almost always votes with Republicans. 
It is important to distinguish between honest framing on the one 
hand, and framing by distortion and spin on the other. Arnold 
Schwarzenegger may actually believe that everyone and anyone 
can make it in this American economy, even though a quarter of 
the jobs pay very little money. But the frame that Miller and 
Dick Cheney were constructing last night was one that they 
could not have believed. This was framing by deception.
Their job was to frame John Kerry. And frame him they did. Here 
are the techniques they used. First, Zell Miller's: 
•Frame the Iraq War as indistinguishable from the September 11 
attacks, as part of the Global War on Terror

•Frame the global war on terror as monumental and a defense of 
freedom itself, as defining the highest duty of our generation — 
akin to World War II and the Cold War. Evoke Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan over and over

•Call opposition to the president’s policies opposition to the 
defense of freedom

•Call a vote against one appropriations bill as multiple votes 
against individual weapons systems. Represent votes against the 
weapons systems as votes against national security and hence as 
weakening America

•Represent Bush as strong ("a spine of tempered steel") and 
Kerry as weak ("fainthearted," "indecisive," self-indulgent), 
wanting to turn America into a helpless child
The first three have been consistent throughout the convention, 
so there's no need to go over them again. Let's concentrate on 
the deliberate distortions.
Zell Miller: Listing all the weapon systems that Senator Kerry tried his 
best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national 
security, but Americans need to know the facts. 
Miller claims that Senator Kerry opposed the B-1 and B-2 
bombers, the F-14A Tomcat and F-14D fighter jets by voting 
against them. 
Miller: I could go on and on and on: Against the Patriot Missile that shot 
down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles over Israel. Against the Aegis 
air-defense cruiser. Against the Strategic Defense Initiative. 
Against the Trident missile, against, against, against. This is the 
man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed 
Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?
"The facts"? This list was mostly taken from a single Kerry vote 
in 1991 against a spending bill that was also opposed by five 
Republican senators. Outside the frame is the fact that Cheney, 
then Secretary of Defense and the overseer of the department's 
budget, around that same time killed a number of major weapons 
systems, including the Navy’s $30 billion to $60 billion A-12 
Stealth fighter. Cheney tried but failed to kill the F14D jet — the 
one that Miller proudly proclaims "delivered missile strikes 
against Tora Bora" — and restricted the B-2 Stealth bomber 
program to 20 planes, when the Air Force wanted more than 80.
Over and over in this convention, speakers have used the phrase 
"voted against X" to condemn Kerry. But a bill is a collection of 
many, many items, and a vote to pass it or not can be 
characterized as a vote for or against any of those items. 
Let's examine the most ridiculed Kerry quote about the $87 
billion appropriations bill for the Iraq war, "I voted for it before I 
voted against it." 
Bush’s bill contained a $20 billion blank check to provide no-bid 
contracts to Halliburton and other firms for Iraq reconstruction, 
and none of the $87 billion price tag would be paid using Bush’s 
tax cuts. As the Washington Post has reported, Kerry voted for a 
different version of the bill that would have funded some of the 
spending by raising taxes on incomes greater than $312,000, 
while Bush vowed to veto a version that would have converted 
half of the Iraq rebuilding plan into a loan. Kerry's alternate 
version was defeated and Bush’s original bill came up for a vote. 
Most Democrats decided to support it, as it would be sure to 
pass. Knowing this, Kerry on principle voted "against" it — that 
is, he voted against the $20 billion blank check and the no-
repealing-the-tax-cut provisions. Cheney, as president pro-tem of 
the Senate, knows this. 
Dick Cheney: Although he voted to authorize force against Saddam 
Hussein, he then decided he was opposed to the war, and voted against 
funding for our men and women in the field. He voted against body 
armor, ammunition, fuel, spare parts, armored vehicles, extra pay for 
hardship duty, and support for military families. Senator Kerry is 
campaigning for the position of commander in chief. Yet he does not seem 
to understand the first obligation of a commander in chief — and that is to 
support American troops in combat
Cheney also knows that the president had previously sent 
soldiers into battle in Iraq without sufficient flak jackets, and 
that one of the many provisions in this bill was to provide them 
at last. Kerry knew that, when the bill passed, the flak jackets 
would be provided. Cheney represents this situation as Kerry 
voting against providing flak jackets to soldiers, as if Kerry 
didn’t care whether the soldiers were protected, when Kerry has 
criticized the president for not providing them in the first place. 
More distortion: consider what Cheney does with a portion of a 
speech by Kerry at the UNITY 2004 Conference in Washington, 
D.C. Here is Kerry’s actual statement:
John Kerry: I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more 
strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to 
other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values 
in history. I lay out a strategy to strengthen our military, to build and lead 
strong alliances and reform our intelligence system. I set out a path to win 
the peace in Iraq and to get the terrorists, wherever they may be, 
before they get us. 
In context, the word "sensitive" means "sensitive to the concerns 
of other nations we should be trying to recruit as allies." The 
whole context is about waging a strong and effective war on 
terrorism. Here is Cheney’s rendition:
Cheney: Even in this post-9/11 period, Senator Kerry doesn't appear to 
understand how the world has changed. He talks about leading a "more 
sensitive war on terror," as though Al Qaeda will be impressed with our 
softer side. 
At the Democratic Convention, Kerry said he would not only use 
force against terrorists, but if necessary, preemptive force. 
Cheney distorts the real position:
Cheney: He declared at the Democratic Convention that he will forcefully 
defend America — after we have been attacked. My fellow 
Americans, we have already been attacked, and faced with an 
enemy who seeks the deadliest of weapons to use against us, we 
cannot wait for the next attack. We must do everything we can 
to prevent it — and that includes the use of military force.
There we have the anti-Kerry frame: We are in a historic war to 
defend freedom itself. The war absolutely requires every possible 
advanced-weapons system. Kerry, by voting against a single 1991 
appropriations bills, has shown that he is against national 
defense and the defense of freedom. He doesn’t even want our 
soldiers to be protected. A president in such a war must be 
strong and unchanging. Bush has "a spine of tempered steel," 
Miller tells us. Kerry is a flip-flopper ­ he changes his mind and is 
therefore undependable and weak. He would turn America into a 
weak child throwing "spitballs" (Miller) and "asking for a 
permission slip" (Cheney). He thinks we can carry on a soft-
hearted "sensitive" war against a ruthless enemy. He is weak, 
deluded and would not protect our country.
Framing can be an honest expression of what you really believe. 
It has been for a number of speakers at this convention. But last 
night's speeches by Miller and Cheney are filled with classic 
examples of framing by willful distortion. 

George Lakoff's affiliation with the Rockridge Institute appears 
for identification purposes only.


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