9/12/2005

Daily Kos: Frameshop: 'Blame' is not the Frame

Frameshop: 'Blame' is not the Frame
by Jeffrey Feldman [Unsubscribe]
Mon Sep 12th, 2005 at 07:11:19 CDT

[cross posted at Frameshop --JF]


Despite all the talk about the `blame game,' Democrats should realize that `blame' is not the frame in this debate. The real issue controlling the debate are `time.'

Frameshop is open...

* Jeffrey Feldman's diary :: ::
*

Consider this clip from the September 6 White House Press Conference:
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I think you heard from the President that we've got to remain focused on the task at hand. We've got to remain focused on getting help to people in the region. There will be a time to do a thorough analysis, and he will lead an effort to make sure that there is a thorough analysis. Now is not the time to do that. We've got to make sure all our energies and all our resources are focused not only on the short-term priorities, but making sure that we're planning for the long-term response efforts.
(read the full transcript here)

In other words, `blame game' is actually an abbreviated version of the longer phrase being pushed by the White House: There will be a time to do a thorough analysis.

There will be a time.

There will be a time.

That's the frame the White House wants to get out and they have been, I believe, accidentally successful at keeping this idea below radar of media and Progressive organizers.
Initially the conceptual logic being pushed is:
[time] is [a bag of beans]

Once Americans see this logic being pushed, we can begin to understand what the Bush team actually wants us to hear when they chirp `blame game.'

The White House wants Americans to think about `time' as a fixed and finite bag of beans. If we use our beans for this, well, then we will not be able to use our beans for that. The bag of beans logic puts us in a `zero sum game' of either A or B, but never both at the same time.

And that is the real frame in this debate: an either or logic. We cannot hold anyone accountable and help people at the same time, says the White House because if you use your beans to `blame,' well, then you cannot use your beans to `help.'
Now, Americans are absolutely correct to respond to the President's `time' frame by saying that they want `accountability.' The White House should be held accountable immediately. But by responding to `there will be a time' with some variation of `the time is now,' we end up struggling against the `time' frame. And that is not helpful.

The solution is to drop the time frame altogether and switch to the discussion of accountability.

In particular, it will be crucial at this stage to think about the big picture that is coming to light in this debate, which is not about hurricanes. The real issue up for debate, here, is how Americans think about the Presidency.

Speaking about the difference between the German government and the U.S. government, Theodore Roosevelt observed the following in 1918:
Our Government is the servant of the people, whereas in Germany it is the master of the people. This is because the American people are free and the German are not free. The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but it is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

(Theodore Roosevelt, Kansas City Star, 17 May 1918).

I've never been a particularly big fan of Teddy Roosevelt, but this statement strikes me as the most accurate description of how Americans see the President. The President is `the most important among a large number of public servants.' To suggest at any point in time that criticism of the President is wrong is to attack American patriotism by attempting to transform the President from servant into master of the people.
The American people will never bow down to a master in the White House.

The American people has an important job to do, one that they take very seriously: making sure that government serves the public interest at all times and in all ways. And when government stops serving the public good, the American public is duty bound to stand up and hold them accountable.
The American people, in this way, are dedicated to lives of service, but are never servile.

The American people will not be silenced in their efforts by the President or by any other public servant.

The American public, it would seem by their reaction after Hurricane Katrina, holds a Progressive view of the Presidency that stands in stark contrast to the aristocratic view held by the current White House.

Daily Kos: Frameshop: 'Blame' is not the Frame

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