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September 26, 2004: The campaigns settle on preferred rhetorical devices for the final weeks...













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The campaigns settle on their preferred rhetorical devices for the final weeks,

building the necessary narratives….

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Device One: The Democrats Will Outlaw Christianity and Confiscate Your Bible!

A bit comical, but it will be effective, and discussed here:

Republicans Admit Mailing Campaign Literature Saying Liberals Will Ban the Bible
David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times, September 24, 2004

In short?

 

The Republican Party acknowledged yesterday sending mass mailings to residents of two states warning that "liberals" seek to ban the Bible. It said the mailings were part of its effort to mobilize religious voters for President Bush.

The mailings include images of the Bible labeled "banned" and of a gay marriage proposal labeled "allowed." A mailing to Arkansas residents warns: "This will be Arkansas if you don't vote." A similar mailing was sent to West Virginians.

A liberal religious group, the Interfaith Alliance, circulated a copy of the Arkansas mailing to reporters yesterday to publicize it. "What they are doing is despicable,'' said Don Parker, a spokesman for the alliance. "They are playing on people's fears and emotions."

 

No kidding.  Yeah, well, it will get out the evangelical zealots.  They’ll vote now.  One can explain to them that gay marriage would not be mandatory, only optional for those so inclined, and that they can keep their Bibles if they’d like, but the seed has been planted.  This, actually, is pretty effective politics.  It may be absurd, and easily dismissed as a prank, but it gets the job done.

Kirkpatrick in the Times report quotes an editorial on September 22 in The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia: "Holy Moley! Who concocts this gibberish? … Most Americans see morality more complexly. Many think a higher morality is found in Christ's command to help the needy, prevent war and pursue other humanitarian goals. Churchgoers of this sort aren't likely to believe childish allegations that Democrats want to ban the Bible."

But some will, and vote appropriately.  Score one for the Bush team – a very effective move.

Note this exchange on CSPAN – on a recent call-in show:

 

PETER SLEN, HOST: Kenner, Louisiana, good morning.

CALLER (in a very airy voice): Good morning. I’m going to vote for President Bush because, after all, you know, God made us there, you know, in His image, free from any black color and all [Host looks up, surprised]. The only church that Kerry can go to is where they say the Black Mass, and that is in the Merriam-Webster Pocket Book dictionary, where it says that that is the devil worshippers. [Host looks uncomfortably off-camera, at producer?] I would never vote for, you know, Senator Kerry…

 

And there is more at the link.  The Times piece also has much more detail.

This works.


Two: Raising questions about the president’s policies and actions give aid and comfort to the enemy, and giving aid and comfort to the enemy is treason!

The first, or at least the most powerful example of this, was Zell Miller’s keynote address to the Republican convention some weeks ago in New York – see September 5, 2004: The defining moment of the Republican National Convention in these pages for a discussion of that.  The short form – Miller inveighed against those who want to “bring down this president.”  The underlying idea was that opposing Bush, or even having an election, was opposing America. T his is not the time for that.

That message is being refined.

See Tying Kerry to Terror Tests Rhetorical Limits
Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, Friday, September 24, 2004; Page A01

The idea has now been modified in this: support of John Kerry is support of terrorism.

Milbank opens with this -

 

President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric.

Appearing in the Rose Garden yesterday with Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, Bush said Kerry's statements about Iraq "can embolden an enemy." After Kerry criticized Allawi's speech to Congress, Vice President Cheney tore into the Democratic nominee, calling him "destructive" to the effort in Iraq and the struggle against terrorism.

 

Does this really test the conventional bounds of political rhetoric?  Raise questions and you do commit treason?  Milbank admits such accusations have been a component of American politics since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and surfaced in the modern era during the McCarthy communist hunt and the Vietnam War protests.

This is not unusual.

Milbank does cite how this is becoming the new theme of Republican rhetorical with these examples –

 

On Tuesday, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry." On Fox News, Hatch said Democrats are "consistently saying things that I think undermine our young men and women who are serving over there."

On Sunday, GOP Senate candidate John Thune of South Dakota said of his opponent, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle: "His words embolden the enemy." Thune, on NBC's "Meet the Press," declined to disavow a statement by the Republican Party chairman in his state saying Daschle had brought "comfort to America's enemies."

On Saturday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) said at a GOP fundraiser: "I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think they would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops." Asked whether he believed al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency, Hastert said: "That's my opinion, yes."

The previous day in Warsaw, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said terrorists in Iraq "are trying to influence the election against President Bush."

 

This too is effective, and earlier this month Vice President Cheney said that on Election Day, "if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating" and that the United States would not respond vigorously.  Milbank points out Cheney later said that he was not suggesting the country would be attacked if Kerry were elected.  But a few days later Cheney did say, "We've gone on the offense in the war on terror -- and the president's opponent, Senator Kerry, doesn't seem to approve."

According to Milbank the White House and the Bush campaign said they would neither endorse nor disavow the remarks by Hastert, Armitage and all these others.  It’s all just the opinion of concerned citizens.

Milbank also reminds us that a few months after the 9/11 attacks Attorney General Ashcroft said tactics used by critics of the USA Patriot Act "only aid terrorists" and "give ammunition to America's enemies."  And that in 2002, President Bush charged that opponents of his version of homeland security legislation are "not interested in the security of the American people."  And that in 2003, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said that if terrorists think Bush's opponents might prevail, "they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities or that leads to more recruits or that leads to more encouragement."

Milbank has a long memory.  The message has been clear all along – Shut up. Don’t ask questions.  This is not the time.  Questions get our troops killed.  Asking questions means the terrorists have won, and your questions helped them win.  What is needed now is silence, and obedience.  Bush and the Republicans will keep you safe, and you don’t want to die, do you?

Milbank also quotes Ann Coulter on Fox News - "It's unquestionable that Republicans are more likely to prevent the next attack."  Kerry, she said, "will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."

And that’s that.


Three: One could argue that the president is pretending things are fine when everyone knows things are not fine – he is not in touch with reality!

This is Kerry’s counter, hammered hard all this week, to the “shut up and don’t ask questions” Bush rhetoric that is rising rapidly.

Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly lays it all out here -

 

Is George Bush in "fantasyland" regarding Iraq, as John Kerry says? I realize that's the fashionable position among lefty partisans, but it's honestly hard to come to any other conclusion these days. …

 

A long history of the Iraq war over the last two years is then presented, and it’s is clear things are a mess, and Drum ends with this -

… It's no longer clear if George Bush is merely a cynical, calculating politician — which would be bad enough — or if he actually believes all the happy talk about Iraq that his speechwriters produce for him. Increasingly, though, it seems like the latter: he genuinely doesn't have a clue about what's going on. What's more, his staff is keeping him in a sort of Nixonian bubble, afraid to tell him the truth and afraid to take any positive action for fear that it might affect the election.


So things will just get worse, since no one is willing to admit the truth and no one is willing to propose serious action to keep things from deteriorating further — at least not until after November 2nd. But by then it will be too late. And when the Iraqi elections fail, what happens then?

 

Thus the counter device, rhetorically, is that Bush is too stubborn, or dumb, or isolated, or proud, or power-mad, to even acknowledge much less fix an obvious problem that he himself created, and he shouldn’t be reelected.

Digby over at Hullabaloo piles on with an item he titles Shameless. Digby makes the mistake of watching the news.

 

Joie Chen on CNN just interviewed Brigadier General David Grange who basically said that John Kerry is causing the insurgency in Iraq because he is criticizing the president and "emboldening" the bad guys. … It looks as if their plan is to say that the increased violence is John Kerry's responsibility in the hopes that Kerry will ratchet down his effective attack. …

This is just the latest chapter in the classic post 9/11 playbook in which they virtually shut down dissent and paralyzed the country with accusations of 5th columns and treason for speaking out against two-faced Junior Bush. More and more it looks to me as if Rove is simply running a 2002 replay, which depended on keeping the dems off balance on national security and ginning up turnout.

… I've noticed that the wingnuts always vociferously deny impugning the patriotism of their rivals even though they constantly do it. So, I'm hoping the Dems run straight at their accusers with this latest nonsense. I suspect this patented fratboy "don't blame me" strategy is not ringing true with the swing voters. It's just kool-aid for the faithful in a turn-out street fight.

 

Well, it is a street fight. Of course the weapons are only words, so far.

 

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The rhetorical devices have been chosen – memes at dawn.  Opposing Bush causes terrorism and is treason that aids the enemy, and besides that, you want to take away our Bibles and force us to marry gay folks.  On the other side?  This Bush guy has no clue about what he did, or is doing, and he’s dangerous – so let’s get someone to lead us who is at least attached to reality.  This mess may be hard to fix, but it might be nice to start with accepting the facts of the matter.

So we’ve settled how this will play out.































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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