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Thursday, 25 January 2007 06:01

Frameshop: [Cheney] as [A Rabid Animal]

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If you watch only one news video today, make it Wolf Blitzer's recent interview with Vice President Dick Cheney (transcript). I am not a huge fan of Blitzer, but the interview yesterday was incredibly revealing. In it we see Dick Cheney coming unglued. The mask is off Vice President as he expresses with no uncertain terms his contempt and disdain for journalists, the democratic process, the American people, and anything vaguely resembling the truth.

Dick Cheney's message to the American people? Iraq is an "enormous success" and you "won't stop us."

In other words, Dick Cheney is trying his best to frame anyone who disagrees with him as an accomplice to terrorism.

How can you respond to Dick Cheney?

  1. Contact everyone you know about Blitzer's interview with Cheney
  2. Describe Cheney as "cornered and dangerous" (e.g., not "defiant")
  3. Identify Cheney as a "roadblock" on Iraq
  4. Argue that for the sake of U.S. troops, we must deal with Cheney

It is time for Dick Cheney to learn a tough lesson. When he lashes out recklessly, the American people do more than just respond: we frame the debate.

1. Contact Everyone You Know
One of the keys to a good response to Cheney's unhinged attack on the American people is to bring as many people as possible into the discussion. The more people know about how unglued Cheney has become, the more effective our efforts at framing the debate will be.

To contact people effectively, I like to make a list first of three different places and how I will connect with them:

  1. Frameshop > email, blog posts
  2. kitchen table > conversation
  3. social plans > text messages

In addition to publishing this essay to the Internet, I will e-mail highlights of it to a list of readers and cross-post it to a variety of larger group blogs. The Internet is a incredibly important tool and the key to contacting many people as quickly as possible. By the start of the business day, today, news of Cheney's outburst will have been distributed to tens of thousands of blog readers at desks across the country and the world.

This morning at breakfast, I will engage my family in a discussion of Cheney's outburst. Since I spend more time than anyone else in my family keeping track of news stories, I will let everyone know how cornered and dangerous Cheney has become, and -- most importantly -- I will ask them for suggestions and ideas about how to frame this discussion.

Finally, in preparation for some social plans today and tomorrow, I will end cell phone text messages to everyone in my address book. Short, clear text messaging is a great way to bring friends into the effort to frame the debate and essential to this effort.

Describe Cheney as "Cornered and Dangerous"

The focus of the progressive effort to frame the debate on national security has been, and continues to be, describing Bush and Cheney as impediments to national security. The White House, by contrast, has tried to frame the debate by scaring the American people into believing that anyone who defies the Bush policy is aiding the terrorists.

To focus this effort in light of Cheney's recent statements, we can begin to use the basic phrase:

cornered and dangerous

The power in this phrase is that it frames Cheney in terms of this logic:

[Dick Cheney] is [a rabid animal]

Rabid animals are dangerous when cornered, bearing their teeth and attacking anyone who attempts to come near them. Cheney's performance in his interview with Blitzer was precisely the angry, unhinged behavior we associate with an infected animal.

"Cornered and dangerous" invokes the frame that identifies Cheney as the problem, controls the discussion, and dispatches the spurious claim that the American people's rejection of escalation in Iraq is a threat to national security.

Identify Cheney As "Roadblock" on Iraq

The metaphor of [Cheney] as [a rabid animal] is not, of course, just a hollow insult, but is intended to focus the debate on the real problems we face in Iraq: a dangerously intransigent administration who arrogantly flaunts the collective will and expertise of the American people.

To sum up this situation, we can say that Dick Cheney, like John McCain, is a "roadblock" on Iraq. With an interest in helping our soldiers and insuring the security of the American people, we must get Cheney out of the road.

The problem, of course, is that Cheney has become "cornered and dangerous," and so he has begun to lash out with dictatorial rational when contradicted.

Is it any wonder? In recent days, he has been the focus of discussion in the trial of I. Lewis Libby -- during which the nation has seen how Dick Cheney violated ethics and most likely the law in an effort to destroy anyone who questioned Iraq.

Angry and desperate, with Cheney at the help our soldiers in Iraq are in real trouble.

Argue That for the Sake of U.S. troops, We Must Deal with Cheney

The framing of the debate, thus, steals the ball from Vice President Cheney. Try as he may to define the American people, the media, and the Congress as aiding terrorism -- our effort to frames him as the problem.

Democrats and Republicans have all generated effective plans to once again strengthen U.S. national security in the face of the weakness we have suffered as a result of Iraq. The problem that remains is implementing these plans.

To deal with the situation in Iraq effectively, in other words, we must deal with Cheney.

Cheney is the problem.

The Transcript: "Stomach" and "Won't Stop Us"

Following the details of Cheney's outburst is also important, although by now most of us know the frames he uses to attack the American people. Two quotes from the recent transcript reveal his tactics most vividly.

Cheney's first tactic is to accuse his critics of being cowards through the phrase "have the stomach":

Now, the critics have not suggested a policy. They haven't put anything in place. All they want to do, all they've recommended is to redeploy or to withdraw our forces. The fact is, we can complete the task in Iraq. We're going to do it. We've got Petraeus -- General Petraeus taking over. It is a good strategy. It will work. But we have to have the stomach to finish the task.

Cheney uses the "stomach" frame to suggest that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those with the courage to follow his reckless Iraq policy, and those afraid to follow it.

To use Cheney's own term: these options are "hogwash."

America's plan for Iraq was put forth by the Iraq Study Group, and included region diplomacy and redeployment as the hallmarks of a new U.S. policy in Iraq.

The problem is not a lack of courage, but a arrogant administration driven by a cornered and dangerous Vice President.

Cheney's second tactic is to make false claims about what does and does not hurt U.S. troops:

Q What if the Senate passes a resolution saying, this is not a good idea. Will that stop you?

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: It won't stop us, and it would be, I think detrimental from the standpoint of the troops, as General Petraeus said yesterday. He was asked by Joe Lieberman, among others, in his testimony, about this notion that somehow the Senate could vote overwhelmingly for him, send him on his new assignment, and then pass a resolution at the same time and say, but we don't agree with the mission you've been given.

Cheney would have us believe that the real danger to American soldiers serving in Iraq is a Congress that cares about their well-being, as opposed to an administration who sends them into the middle of a multi-sided civil war in Iraq.

In fact, the key to protecting our soldiers is not just to get them out of Baghdad, but to redeploy them where they can best serve the national security interests of the country. Cheney's policy is not only dangerous to the well-being of soldiers currently serving in the military, but also to the morale of Americans dedicated to future service in the military.

Talk Back to Cheney

The bottom line: talk back to Cheney, control the debate, protect the troops, strengthen national security.

To get started, try these four steps:

  1. Contact everyone you know about Blitzer's interview with Cheney
  2. Describe Cheney as "cornered and dangerous" (e.g., not "defiant")
  3. Identify Cheney as a "roadblock" on Iraq
  4. Argue that for the sake of U.S. troops, we must deal with Cheney

It is time to teach Dick Cheney a long overdue lesson: Lash out at the American people, and we respond by framing the debate.


Jeffrey Feldman's new book on framing and progressive politics is available for pre-order: Framing the Debate (in stores April 1, 2007). Support progressive publishing: reserve your copy right now online.

© 2007 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop.

Read 3430 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 January 2007 06:01