Tag Archives: politicians

Life Begins When?

Abortion is such a polarizing issue and hard to talk about with those that disagree. Leave it to the funny people with John Stewart to add some levity while making a point. At issue is the recent bill in the Oklahoma state senate that passed declaring that life begins at conception. The implications of this bill obviously would relate to abortion and birth control laws. Most women don’t know the moment that they become pregnant, so this bill covers something happening inside of women’s bodies that a woman is likely still unaware of. Several female state lawmakers have proposed bills in response to this far reaching legislation and the imposition it means for women. In Oklahoma a bill was put forth that got some men a little miffed.

Check out the video: Bro-Choice.

Go ahead, I’ll wait (the video is not compatible with this format, so I couldn’t provide it here, but it’s really funny so take a few minutes to watch).

It is funny hearing a Republican representative making the argument for men that is made for women when talking about personal liberty and privacy. The “investigative” comedian is hilarious and gives us a chance to laugh at ourselves.

Truly the jesters are the only ones who can tell the truth, point out the obvious, and mock the stalwarts and get away with it.  One unspoken value of America is our comedy. We’ve got all varieties and a whole lot of it isn’t funny, but it takes all kinds. Laughing together, at ourselves is one link to our shared humanity. Thanks to the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, SNL, and lots of others for bringing us together for a giggle. Long live the jesters!

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Obama backs Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Citzens United may have already overstayed its welcome. After the first anniversary of this ruling, politicians are finding out how limitless, unlimited corporate contributions can be. When you want to control the figurehead of the corporate superpower, turns out a whole lot of money starts flowing. RawStory reports that $40 million has already been spent on negative campaigning against Obama, $30 million more has just been raised and quotes Obama’s campaign, “Meanwhile, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and others have joined together to raise almost a half billion dollars, again for one singular purpose: to defeat the president in November”. Finally I think it is sinking in to some politicians how ridiculous these money piles are, especially when they buy nothing but vitriol and further division among our people. When our economy is in such a state, the glaring contrast between the glossed over slime of slick TV ads and the desperation for employment to cover basic needs is nauseating. Continue reading

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Changing the Frame

The right to bear arms

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

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Family Values and the “Free Market”

In yesterday’s post, I outlined some of the inconsistencies Newt Gingrich has shown on the campaign trail  – how he got very touchy-feely with moms yet his platform of ideas does not line up to be that family friendly.  The most glaring inconsistency is – once again – about values. Gingrich is all about unfettered capitalism, exhausting resources for short term gain, and upholding what he considers to be traditional American, God fearing family values. So why is he espousing liberal values in front of an audience that was shown to support Obama? Ok, that’s got an obvious answer – because he wants to be the one they support. Their survey basically showed that moms have more liberal belief systems than the social conservatives (all but Ron Paul) in the Republican race.

Luntz starts off his analysis stating simple facts about the survey, but then showed his bias by backpedaling a bit in order to tow the Republican line. In this clip, he speaks with a CafeMom correspondent about the survey that CafeMom did. First he states the facts pretty plainly, moms are feeling very negative about the American dream, their daily struggle, and political parties, but at about 2:40 he begins putting words in these surveyed moms’ mouths when talking about what moms want from politicians:

They need to address the issues, not from an ideological standpoint, but much more from a day-to-day, quality-of-life standpoint.  How can you help moms achieve their goals from the moment they wake up in the morning ’til the moment they go to sleep at night? Now [moms are] not asking for bigger government – that’s not what they’re saying. What they’re saying is understand, empathize, and at least get out of their way and don’t make it more difficult for me.

Luntz goes on:

They need to show [the moms] that they hear the challenges and they have solutions to it, whether it’s helping them feel more secure in their jobs, whether it’s providing more money at the end of the week, whether it’s helping them save, helping them start a business…or even just getting out of the way so they can do it themselves.

Luntz does a sloppy job of quoting, citing survey results, and interjecting his opinion in this interview. You can’t really be sure when he is paraphrasing on the moms’ behalf and when he inserting his own opinion, though he does call attention to actual quotes from moms. Rest assured, if an actual mom had an actual quote that fit his agenda, he would be using it and trying to push it to the spotlight of attention. In the above quotes he takes the leap in outlining what moms are not asking for – a negative catch phrase that Republicans love to use – “bigger government”. To an establishment Republican, that term is synonymous with Democrats – this is a dog whistle. He wants it to seem like moms reject Democratic ideas when there is no question or response that indicates that. He goes on to state that moms want understanding and empathy – nurturing values that are planks of the Democratic party. Then he throws in “get out of their way and don’t make it more difficult”, as if moms actually responded with those words – again, if they did he would’ve quoted it. He is dog whistling again – throwing out a tagline of the Republican party as if the moms put it out there.

In the second quote above, Frank is summarizing the survey and stating what moms have said that they want from a candidate. Look at the laundry list, job security, more money per week, saving (which also amounts to more money) – what does a Republican have to offer for those day-to-day, week-to-week struggles and fears? The “free market” (a.k.a. capitalism). There’s only one problem, the “free market” does not have a human component. It is about money, money, and money. “Free markets” are not sympathetic when you must miss work due to a child’s illness, there are other workers to replace you. “Free markets” don’t care if your 40 hour work week has turned into a 60 hour work week and you no longer have any daylight hours (or energy) to spend with your family – that’s called “productivity”. “Free markets” aren’t giving out pay raises to allow for some breathing room in a family budget – are you kidding, in this job market? This is the progressive qualm with the so-called “free market”; there is no room for humanity to be human. The trajectory for the quality of life of a worker at this time goes nowhere but down.

Luntz suggests the idea that moms may like help starting a business. I’m sure that is true of some moms, but let’s be realistic: if you can’t find a job, live in fear of losing a job, and have zero or low wages, would you really be in a great position to learn what it takes and have the resources to run a successful business? Without these hindrances – or children that need rearing/child care that needs paying – starting a small business is risky enough. The rate of successful, thriving businesses compared to the number of startups is bleak for the long term. Security definitely does not spring to mind when thinking of risking the well-being of the whole family on an entrepreneurial venture ( a craps game is closer to my mental imagery).

Luntz knows, at least in this instance, that empathy is key to this demographic. It almost seems like he is trying to co-opt the term for himself/his clients even though it is not a traditionally top conservative value – it is the top progressive value. He wants folks to vote conservative though the survey shows their values are liberal. Indeed the bigger problem for Luntz – and the Republican party – is that two of the main factions of their party, social conservatives and “free market” advocates, are not very compatible when you get down to the real world application of those values. Once again, the credibility goes back to a trust issue – just like in interpersonal relationships.  Can moms really trust an unrestrained, subsidized corporation to take care of their families and neighborhoods? Is profit-seeking the same as caring for family values?  When the used car dealer tells you it’s a fine piece of equipment just moments before the fender falls off, you take your business elsewhere. Luntz knows this and relies on our short term memories, then plays a shell game with our futures. Gingrich can talk a sympathetic game, but it is inconsistent with the Republican capitalist platform – the core of his platform.  It will be interesting to see if empathy continues to come up on the campaign trail and how Republicans handle these inconsistencies. Maybe corporations will start eschewing profits to worry about our kids’ future – just kidding, I wanted to end with a chuckle.

As an aside, you may wonder why I continually put “free markets” in quotes throughout my post; the latest buzzword is “enterprise”  (perhaps that was a suggestion of Luntz’s as well, it does sound better). “Free markets” use the contested concept of “freedom” and, as the joke goes, freedom is more free for some than others. I’ll do a future post all about the misnomer of “free markets” or enterprise, or whatever the term of the season is for capitalism in our corporate society. Keep checking back in, with CivilTongue – and your own values.

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Authenticity matters

In communications, authenticity matters. A lot. Our authenticity meters are what make lawyers and car salesmen consistently despised over the years – and Congress currently. We all hate being lied to with a straight face – we don’t even like being fibbed to. We respect those that tell us the truth because it shows that they respect us. Mitt Romney has an authenticity issue, so does Newt Gingrich when he does events like this one (which I will deconstruct the value manipulations attempted there in the future), Obama too. They all are disingenuous in different ways – Romney has the problem of looking and acting like a spokesmodel – a little too polished for an Average American’s comfort – and then completing the role by saying whatever he thinks the customers want. Newt seems to say what he means but in his election bid, is fully involved in the posturing and manipulations of crowds and media to suit his cause – he can only “open up” when it seems it would serve his polling and/or the Republican establishment. Obama seems to speak from the heart and brain but when it comes to following through on his rhetoric, his resolve dissolves. His “compromises” undermine the principles he established verbally. The end result? Not many of us can agree that any of those three politicians are genuinely authentic and are as good as their word; when you match up their deeds with their speech, the integrity gap becomes apparent.

Rick Santorum had authenticity going for him. I really do believe that he is a man of faith that lives by his beliefs, I believe he is a family man and doing something he feels called to do, but his slip about black people getting welfare showed some of his underlying perceptions – possibly racist leanings. All of these attributes still fit into a character that some Americans really admire and want (sadly even the potentially racist part). However, when Santorum was confronted about the racist part, his authenticity fell apart.  He commented, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”  Quickly thereafter he back pedaled on the concept, saying that he indeed didn’t want African-Americans to be dependent on government – up to this point he might be guilty of not being pc but he is still authentic. His next move is what cracks that characteristic – he makes a planned statement, saying that he studied the footage of the rhetoric in question and decided that he did not say the word “black”. This is totally disingenuous and anyone who watches the footage can see that,  Santorum would have gained more respect if he simply stood his ground and apologized by his lack of sensitivity and his implication that black people are the main food stamp recipients in this country; they’re not. The Kaiser Family Foundation puts black recipients at a total of 22% of medicaid benefits. Continue reading

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