Defeating Republicans on Terrorism
My main touchstone with successful debate framing is not through mainline Democratic channels or even on blogs (though they're great in fragments), it's Bill Maher. Fortunately, HBO makes available podcasts of his show, so I get to hear it after a week or so. The show's great strength is in its non-politicians, who take the hacks and flacks on with the kind of insight we almost never see from actual Democrats.
The September 22nd show was a texbook example--and by textbook, I mean one that Dems should study. The guests are Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman from West Wing), Reza Aslan, a CBS foreign correspondent, and Sandy Rios, a right wing hack extraordinare. Watch how the Rios's language is flushed out as the embarrassing hackery it is in the face of plainspoken fact. Without the he-said/she-said framework--which, sadly, the Dems willingly participate in--her rhetoric seems bizarre and extremely harsh.
What follows is a little long, but worth reading. I've cut the crosstalk from the transcript.
WHITFORD: But there’s a perception that [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] is – he is playing off, in a politically-productive way for his point of view, which I’m not endorsing, which is that we are there for the oil and we are there as imperialists.
RIOS: If we’re there for the oil, why haven’t we taken it?WHITFORD: Why do we not say that we will not put permanent bases there? Joe Biden sent a bill down three times—
RIOS: [overlapping] Why shouldn’t we? We have earned the right to have permanent bases in that country. [derisive laughter] We have given up so many lives. We have sacrificed so many lives; we have earned the right to have—
WHITFORD: [overlapping] We have sacrificed so many lives?! They have lost 130,000 innocent civilians. [applause]
RIOS: And that’s our fault?WHITFORD: Yes!
RIOS: No, no.WHITFORD: These are – these are God’s children. These are not—
RIOS: Well, of course.
RIOS: [overlapping] No, the insurgents are the ones who have killed the innocent. Not the Americans.
MAHER: Wait, wait, wait. “Insurgent” is a very interesting word. Because what you’re talking about is, our country went over there and attacked a country that didn’t attack us. Okay, and then you call them insurgents and terrorists. I would think they would say they’re just people who are fighting because there’s somebody occupying their country. [applause] [cheers]
RIOS: No, no, insurgents are people that come from other countries. Insurgents are the people who come from other countries besides Iraq. They’re not Iraqi fighters. And they weren’t there before we attacked Iraq.
MAHER: No, they weren’t. And we all know they weren’t. Let’s stop that bullshit right now! [applause] [cheers]
And then (in a monument to very, very low expectations):
It goes on in this vein. Part of the video can be found here, and I'll paste in the second half below. (It's a pretty big file and slow-loading, but it's higher res than most Youtube vids.)
MAHER: [overlapping] I know, but even the president says he will not talk about the present. What he’s confident about is 50 years down the road.
RIOS: Well, what’s wrong with that, Bill?
MAHER: He always – he can’t get the present right. His every prediction he has made has been wrong. But he says, “Trust me on 50 years down the road.”
RIOS: [overlapping] That’s not true. No, that’s not true, Bill. Every prediction he’s made has not turned out wrong.
MAHER: Name one.
RIOS: Well, I think there are a lot of people in Iraq – have you seen those commercials on television where the Kurds are thanking the American people for freeing them? [laughter and scorn]
ASLAN: The Kurds – the Kurds are doing just fine.