[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
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 presidents 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
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
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 Navys $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."
Bushs 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 Bushs
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 Bushs 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
didnt 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 Kerrys 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 Cheneys 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
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 doesnt 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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