Old wine, new skins

January 24, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

(NOTE: It's Wednesday. Is MN Senator Norm Coleman for or against escalating the war in Iraq today?)

I listened to Berkeley linguist, Dr. George Lakoff, on NY Public Radio this morning. He was invited to do a brief post-mortem on Bush's SOTU speech.

Lakoff started by saying that the speech was in post-Rovian mode, by which he meant that the Rovian elements are sneakier than in earlier times.

Lakoff noted that Bush reverted to calling Dems "the Democrat Party"'"a departure from the SOTU speech distributed before the fact. Rovian crap or Bush inability to speak English? Either way, the imprint is there.

Lakoff cited "generational struggle in Iraq" as Republican framing for a Cold War-like environment. It implies that this is a very long-term situation that will require further militarization of this country.

Bush talked about lessening dependence on foreign oil, implying yet again that that's where the problem lies vs. dependence on oil, period. This suggests that in order to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we gotta drill at home. It's not that we really want to savage the wilderness. But we GOTTA, you see? So get those damn caribou out of the way.

Bush invited listeners to "support the troops and those on the way"? How could Dems not applaud supporting the troops? But the add-on (earmark?) was "those on the way." Dems lurched to their feet in response to Part A. Package deal. No cherry-picking.

The Lakoff interview was very short. And during his fifteen minutes (literally), he didn't get to say much. The show host kept interrupting with recorded speech clips and comments of his own. The thing is, I didn't tune in to hear Brian Lehrer. I wanted to hear Lakoff's take on the SOTU speech.

I support his strong bias that language and framing is a huge part of success in political gamesmanship. Ask the GOP communications guru Frank Luntz. Whatever else is wrong with the Republic Party, they've got this part right and, until recently, down pat.

It's interesting to see how often louder, more aggressive folks cut Lakoff off in mid-sentence. He's a soft-spoken man. And he listens attentively. When he is rudely interrupted, he generally lets the interrupter blather on. I had the privilege of meeting with him a couple of years ago with a fledgling candidate in tow. I had high hopes that face time with Lakoff might illuminate the essential matter of deep listening and careful framing of responses.

Turns out that some people are so intoxicated by their own brilliance that they cannot or will not cede center stage to a wise and willing mentor. Lakoff was basically shouted down as the candidate droned on and on. It was interesting to watch him watch the candidate. Impassive, for the most part, and I wondered if like me, he was thinking, "What is the point of this? You. Don't. Listen."

Which brings me full circle to George W. Bush. The Least Listener. He was certainly toned down last night from his earlier snarky, smirky, agitated rants. Same old disregard for the opinions of the people, of wise and willing mentors, though. Just packaged differently. Later, I'll take a look at the transcript and try to figure it all out without the distraction of the downright scary Condi Rice, the pasty-faced and unwell-looking John McCain, and Blunt and Boehner looking like the two grumpy old Muppet men in the balcony.

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.
~ Abraham Lincoln

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susan | January 24, 2007 - 12:47pm

Good one Babs. Would you please review the non-listener's words on earmarks? How he spoke of them like they were something he couldn't do anything about? "They just slip 'em in there, and sometimes I don't even see 'em." How many times has he used the power of his veto? He just saves that for bills allowing stem-cell research, right? Or does he not have power of line-item veto to strip out the pork? Would a person of spine, say a Jim Webb, veto the whole bill if he knew it was full of said earmarks? I'm not on firm footing here, so I hope someone will fill me in.