Monday, April 16, 2007

FrameWork: Sorting Out the Supplemental


With Congressional Dems and the President lobbing words from their proverbial lines in the sand and Obama coming out to claim he won't play "chicken with the troops," it's time for some clarity on the framing behind the supplemental spending bill.

FrameWork's clammy c and thereisnospoon cut through the nebulous doublespeak to offer insight into the framing that should be used when discussing Iraq funding.

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1 comment:

Political Nexus said...

theKK: Welcome to FrameWork! A weekly program dedicated to discussing the biggest political issues of the week and the framing behind them. I am your host, theKK. Joining me by phone today are resident guests David Atkins, who posts as thereisnospoon and Adam Lambert, posting as clammy c. Today’s topic is Sorting Out the Supplemental: the framing behind it. Welcome to the show, gentlemen.

clammy c: Hey, there.

thereisnospoon: Glad to be here.

theKK: Talk over the last few weeks has centered on the supplemental spending bill. Nancy Pelosi managed to narrowly shepherd it through congress and Bush has threatened to veto it. The White House has ratcheted up the rhetoric and Vice President Dick Cheney has said he is "willing to bet" that dems will back down. On Face the Nation he said, and I quote: "I don't think that a majority of the Democrats in the Congress want to leave America's fighting forces in harm's way without the resources they need to defend themselves." With all the emotion and politics rolled into the issue, give us some guidance on how we should be talking about the supplemental bill?

clammy c: Well I’ll start. I think it is interesting that Cheney keeps coming out with these quotes and I think it is interesting that he tried to turn this around in making it the democrats leaving the forces in harms way when it is in fact, if you look at the last six years or so, or five years, it is the republicans in congress that have repeatedly refused to fund equipment, armor and bullet proof vests—any of the highest technology that is needed for our troops out there. I think that it is also interesting that Cheney and a number of the other republicans will come out time and time again and they will say, well, this whole thing about setting a time frame and a deadline just means that the insurgents and the terrorists or whoever will just wait us out and they will set their watches and as soon as we leave, well then, boom. They will ratchet everything up again. I think that that really leaves us an opening in terms of how to frame this whole debate. The other thing with this whole escalation or what they had called the Surge, was that this was going to be a temporary thing, and one of the first questions that came to my mind was that if this is a temporary thing then what is to stop those same insurgents from waiting us out. But I think more importantly, and this is something I haven’t seen used at all, but this is their country, absent Al-Qaeda, which I don’t think Al-Sadr and his militia or even the Sunni Iraqis aren’t really in favor of, but this is their country and if we are not going to be there for a hundred years or two hundred years they are going to be ultimately waiting us out anyway. Eventually, we are going to leave, whether it is next week next month or in ten years. So I think that is one thing we need to hit on, that republicans have really been leaving the fighting forces in harms way without the equipment and armor and also this whole waiting us out line is really just nonsense if you break it down.

thereisnospoon: Yeah, the republicans have been playing this sort of framing game since Vietnam, talking about the troops being left out in the field with no equipment and no armor and stuff. In my mind there are two big things to say about that and I think Adam is one hundred percent right about everything there. First of all they are the ones who have failed to provide adequate supplies to the troops, and adequate pay and health care to them for ages so it is not hypocritical to be talking about it, but more importantly this is the president refusing to fund the troops and he has refused to fund the troops in Iraq from the very beginning and he has done it again and again and again in his administration by failing to put it in the budget and that is so that he can make it look like he is balancing the budget every year or coming closer to doing so even though there are still massive deficits and it is a numbers game and he expects congress, every single time he does this, politically, to come in and clean up his mess, by asking for a supplemental bill, as he does every single year. And the democrats are saying ok, we are going to clean up your mess but you can’t just do whatever you want. And the President is coming back and saying, well, no I am not going to fund the troops unless you let me do everything I want. It is like a little spoiled child, and it is the obligation of the democrats to actually play the adult and to let him have the money but only if he acts responsibly with it--like a parent would with a teenager. And if Bush refuses to take the money under those circumstances, than he is the one acting irresponsibly and he is the one leaving the troops in a lurch. And again, the whole premise is stupid—we can talk about this another week. It is not like if the troops don’t get the funding they are going to be in Iraq and not get have any body armor. If the funding is taken away, the troops will be coming home. But to cover the last thing that you said Adam, which is a great point, it is their country. The idea that by putting a withdrawal date in they are just going to wait us out is preposterous. They can wait us out for a hundred years. And this really goes back to the whole war and occupation thing. It isn’t a war if they can wait you out for a hundred years. You’re occupying their country and it is just a question of when you get out but you are going to withdraw at some point.

theKK: So let’s talk about what Obama said this week. Senator Obama came out last week and said that "nobody wants to play chicken with our troops," even going so far as to say " I don't think that we will see a majority of the Senate vote to cut off funding at this stage." A lot of bloggers were very angry with him for what many described as his signaling to the white house that dems would not stand firm on the issue. Is this a framing failure? The notion of cutting off funding and funding the troops is just not going away, so how does this tie into the way we should be talking about the supplemental bill?

clammy c: Well, I think that this ties into a whole number of things and it is really not just the supplemental bill I think it is really how we are going to talk about Iraq in general. Things are really getting progressively worse and there is no sign of anything getting better, unfortunately, no matter which way you slice it. Al-Sadr is now leaving the government again, with his backers and while that is not certainly going to collapse the Iraqi government immediately, this is the second time he has done that and he is now doing it saying, ok, we want American troops out. Everyone wants the American troops out: the Iraqis want the American troops out, the Saudis I believe would like the American troops out in a responsible manner, but in terms of Obama, I think a lot of people are writing him off as a serious presidential candidate because of this remark and I think that is a mistake. What I do think, however, is that Obama and senator Levin, who has also talked about fully funding the troops and sending them a bill that does fund everything without a time frame, there was a poll that just came out by CBS and a full 67%, two out of every three people that were polled said that we should either block all funding or allow funding only with a time limit, so that is two out of three, and actually, one third of the people that said that all funding should be allowed without strings attached said there should be no funding what so ever. So we are already seeing a significant increase in the way that the public is talking about this and what the public wants. And at this point, almost 60% of the people want a time frame—people want funding with strings attached. They don’t trust the president and I think that is really the issue. They don’t trust the President; they don’t trust the Republicans to do the right thing. Nobody wants to hear that things are great when they know that things are not great.

Thereisnospoon: Right. That is certainly true. You know. It is insane, and as L C Johnson posted on a diary today, on dailykos today, you’ve got a country in Iraq that is one sixth the population of the United States and we had this horrible shooting in Virginia. Was it West Virginia or Virginia?

theKK: it was Virginia Tech

clammy c: Virginia Tech I believe.

thereisnospoon: Yeah so this horrible shooting in Virginia Tech and you have 32 people dead, or more, but this is, you know, everyday in multiple different places in Iraq, in a country with one sixth the population and significantly smaller in geographic area. It is horrific and to talk about this as an ongoing or improvement is preposterous for sure. I want to go back to the Obama bit as well. I agree, people writing him off or saying they are not going to support him on the democratic side for president at this early date just on the basis of those remarks, it’s quite premature. And Obama himself realized he made a mistake in his backtracking but I do want to read something that he said in that backtracking because it is really a trifecta perfect example about how not to be talking and framing about any of these issues. He said that “if he decides to veto it,” referring to Bush, “I think the President is the one who is putting troop funding at risk,” he argues, and this is on the 11th, “My advice at that point to democrats would be to try to ratchet up the pressure to shape a series of other conditions that would somehow reign in what I consider to be a continuation of a disastrous course on the part of this administration.” First of all, that is “senate talk,” you need to be a lot more direct, John Kerry learned that. Secondly, that is acting as if the democrats should be somehow involved in war strategy, which is not the prerogative of the congress. It is the prerogative of the congress to make sure the president is using the troops in a responsible manner and to make sure of that by the power of the purse. To talk about these things in terms of course correction and strategy in terms of the war is a mistake. He also said he is not at the point where he is prepared to cut off funding because he spent a lot of time in Iowa and Illinois and he wants to make sure that the troops get home but also that they get home safely and making sure they’ve got the night vision goggles and armor and so forth. Essentially stating that it is his job to make sure that that happens and that by cutting off the funding the troops wouldn’t have night goggles and that by continuing to ratchet up the rhetoric against the president to sign a responsible bill that he himself as a senator would somehow be responsible for not getting the troops the night vision goggles. So it is obvious that he, and there are other candidates as well that do not know the basics of this-and there is an easy way to talk about this-but Bush failed to fund it first, they are funding it in a supplemental and bush is rejecting that funding because he wants a blank check to abuse the troops however he wants, as long as he wants.

clammy c: I think the other thing is, this is not a game of chicken with the troops: this is a game of chicken that bush is playing with the democrats in congress and he repeatedly will say, it is the democrats that aren’t doing this or the democrats that are doing that and it is not a matter of congress doing this, but the republicans did the right thing and the democrats are not doing this. It truly is Bush viewing the democrats as the enemy and I think that is another way to point out the lunacy of the way that Bush is talking about this.

theKK: With the amount of politics involved in this and coming into the primary season with candidates such as Obama and Hillary, are we going to see any clear action on Iraq? Are we going to see framing that is coming out that is in any way constructive or helpful or are we pretty much doomed to turning this into a political matter that isn’t going to go anywhere as everyone seeks to exploit it and hedge their bets to take the best position on it?

clammy c: (laughing) I think the answer to that is yes. I think we are going to see both, actually. I don’t think that there will be a political answer here, one of the things I have been very critical of here with respect to both Obama and Clinton is that in their leadership roles in the senate right now, if they want to be the leaders of this country, then they should really be stepping up and trying to rally support for what they feel is the best and neither one of them is doing that. And I think they are both falling far short. I do think that events on the ground are going to dictate that troops be withdrawn or redeployed or something will happen, make or break, one way or another regardless of the politics behind this and I think it is going to happen sooner rather than later. What we may see is politics with respect to the supplemental bill two months or three months at a time or other strings attached but I think events going on in Iraq, with the violence getting worse, the republicans starting to get a little more antsy, a lot of pressure being put on the administration by Iran, by Pelosi, by Saudi Arabia, I honestly think that there is a decent chance the troops may be on their way out before the election and I think we need to think about how if it is going to be sooner.

thereisnospoon: Honestly, I agree. I think we’re going to see a little bit of both, but the American people are so far in support of withdrawal dates, I mentioned the numbers in the late poll already, and the violence is going to continue to escalate in such an unacceptable way that essentially, if the leading candidates, Hillary and Obama, continue to play it so safe and so senatorially with their rhetoric on this issue when the issue is actually fairly clear about who is doing what and is who is failing, in terms of who is failing to support whom in terms of this mess, you are going to see Edwards and Richardson continue to creep up in a way that is not unlike Howard Dean in the previous election. Because Edwards is talking essentially the write game, though I have problems with even the way he is talking about it. Richardson is certainly talking about it in the right way and since Iraq is going to be by far the biggest issue in this election, upcoming in 08, if those two continue to play it that safe, I don’t think either one of them will end up being the nominee.

clammy c: Funny you say that because I have been an Edwards supporter more by default since probably since I knew Clark and Gore weren’t going to be throwing their hats in the ring. And just over the last week or so I have switched over to the Richardson camp. I’ve always liked Richardson, I know he’s got some warts, but, you know, it is the way he has been positioning himself in Iraq and the way he has been positioning himself from a foreign policy perspective that really makes him show that he knows what he is doing. I think he is probably the one that—I know we are digressing here—but I think he has really taken on some leadership roles when it comes to what we need to be doing and we should keep an eye on what he says.

thereisnospoon: Well, what Richardson certainly has is what people are clambering for and need and what is a breath of fresh air and that is honesty. He talks honestly about what is going on in Iraq, and quite bluntly—even more so than Edwards, but the reasons you are seeing such netroots and grassroots support for Edwards and Richardson, I refuse to say I am in any camp, but the reason you see that is because there is so much namby pambying from Obama and Hillary in ways that are completely unnecessary.

theKK: Is there a way to bridge the gap, though, between the popular public support for ending the war or at the very least attaching conditions to the spending bill, and in some way—from the bottom up—framing out the politicians who are insistent on trying to find a middle ground and go in a direction that the public, in polls, does not support?

clammy c: I think it is going to be tough. I think that you are already seeing the discussion being framed a little bit more in the way that we would like for it to be framed. Five or six months ago, leading up to the election there was no talk about a time table for withdrawal, no talk about attaching strings to a supplemental bill. There was no talk about anything other than full steam ahead. And you are seeing poll after poll now not only asking the questions but you’re seeing the responses being overwhelmingly in favor and the debate being in favor of some kind of means to an end here. I don’t know that you are going to see the front running politicians changing their tune unless they see the wind blowing the other direction, and you may see that from some other politicians who we would expect them to be changing their tune a little sooner but I don’t see the politicians changing much, but I do see the conversation changing and just continuing to hammer away.

thereisnospoon: I think you are going to see it in two different directions, as the people powered media grows stronger you are going to see a lot of these politicians realize that they have to pay attention to what the new media is saying. You saw that with Obama, he, we already discussed how poorly he did his backtracking efforts but he made the backtracking efforts almost immediately after he said what he said, largely by bloggers. But I think it is just a simple matter of old school politics, too. People who do not talk about this in a self evident way that the American people understand implicitly, if they don’t understand it explicitly, and if they can manage to frame this simply, and so far that is mostly Richardson and to a lesser degree Edwards, are going to increase their support that other candidates are forced to follow, much like the democratic field in the wake of Howard Dean.

theKK: So talking about effective ways to get the frame out there-- we talk all the time about the importance of the way in which we discuss issues. But what can we do as individuals, bloggers, activists or politicians? Specifically in respect to the supplemental bill, what would you suggest for our listeners?

thereisnospoon: Continue to fire away at the candidates and the media in question. It has been the same thing it has always been. Write blog posts about it, get it recognized, write letters to the editor, email—it is not an easy game and there is no silver bullet as far as I am concerned.

clammy c: I would echo that. I think it is something that we have seen starting and it is certainly something I talk about when I get the opportunity to discuss it in the same manner as we are, among ourselves, have been discussing for months now. I think it is one of these things that now more and more people are starting to recognize that this is how it has to be and that the events on the ground are not dictating anything other than we have to do something and do something drastically different right now. I think the election really told us that people wanted big drastic change on Iraq and since then we have been inching toward the framing of the discussion in the manner that it should probably been discussed four years ago but I don’t think people were ready to.

theKK: With that we are going to be out of time. Gentlemen, thank you for your participation. This has been another episode of FrameWork, join us next week on Monday at the 3:30 hour for another episode, we will be discussing additional framing issues. You can check us out online at political-nexus.blogspot.com. The show will be available in one our. You can also visit us at our blog talk radio page, which is blogtalkradio.com/FrameWork.