The last two posts have related to Gingrich’s surge in popularity lately and how he has positioned himself – or been positioned by advisers – to achieve that surge. No doubt that the Republican establishment could teach the Democratic establishment a bit about good messaging and effective communication. Whether that communication is authentic is another matter and part of another post. Today I’d like to use another Gingrich moment as a jumping off point. He recently used a key tactic when framing an argument – changing the frame.
A few nights ago, the first question at the Republican debate was directed at Newt and it was a personal question relating to the bombshell interview with Newt’s ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich . She had said that Newt asked her for an open marriage and she would not grant it. Obviously this issue is explosive for the social conservatives that make up one of the three factions of the Republican base. As mentioned in Monday’s post, Gingrich and the Ladies, he is painfully aware that his reputation as a cold hearted womanizer does him no favors when running for office. The last thing Newt wants is to headline a Republican showcase with an airing of his dirty laundry. So what did he do? He did the only thing that might divert attention, he changed the frame.
One minute the audience was waiting to see if he would confirm or deny his ex’s story, the next we are hearing about the problems with our news media. Sure enough, most of us realize that there are plenty of problems with mainstream media in America, but the timing of his indignant response served little purpose other than pushing the current issue out of our minds. It reminds me of the comedic “look over there” schtick – followed by running the opposite direction. However put-on his indignence might be, he did somewhat successfully execute a change of frame.
When a discussion leaves you no room for a position at all – the equivalent of “how long have you been beating your wife?” – it is time to call attention to the corner you’ve been put in and get yourself out of it. It may mean leaving some accusations unanswered, some questions hanging, and not feeling satisfied, but it is necessary to move forward. The reason you let those unanswered feelings drop is because at that point you are not only spinning your wheels, but you are spinning your wheels while your opponent enjoys controlling the conversation. Whether Gingrich should be held accountable for his personal life in a public forum is beside the issue; he got himself out of a jam to raucous applause. It is a good technique to know. Continue reading