Frameshop: On 'Patriot' Act, Dems Should Use Cindy's Playbook
by Jeffrey Feldman, Thu Feb 02, 2006 at 04:24:42 AM EST
As Republicans Talk Of Eliminating 'Wall' Between FBI and Police, Democrats Should Reframe Debate By Demanding To 'Meet With The President'
In the debate to renew the Patriot Act, Democrats are losing because they are not framing the debate on their terms. The current debate is being framed by the President and his allies in Congress. They are winning the debate by talking about a 'wall' that exists between police and the FBI or CIA. This 'wall' is a magic word that is being repeated over and over again, defining a frame that helps the President achieve his agenda on the Patriot Act.
To respond, the Democrats must set their own frame, use their own magic word. But what should that be?
Democrats should reframe debate in terms that make sense to the American people: Security is about working together. The first step to working together: The President should meet with Senators seeking to clarify the Patriot Act. "Mr. President: For the Security of the American people -- Sit down with us."
Changing the Frame to 'Unity' and 'Working Together'
The goal of Al Qaeda is not just to cause harm to people in the United States, but to isolate the American people from each other--to turn us against ourselves--resulting in an America crippled by fear and suspicion, unable to act.
America is strongest when we work together and weakest when we work alone.
To defend our nation, we must work together. But now, each time the Congress tries to work with the President to make the Patriot Act a better, more effective set of tools to protect the American people--each time members of Congress approach the President and ask to work with him--the President refuses to accept their call, refuses to sit down with them.
Members of Congress--Republican and Democrat--are seeking one thing and one thing only: to work with the President to improve the Nation's security. But the President is refusing to even consider any of the suggestions by anyone in Congress.
Congress is saying to the President, "Giving the police authority to search library and Internet records of ordinary Americans--this may make us less safe, more suspicious of each other." But the President is responding by saying "I will not meet to discuss this. Pass my legislation or pass nothing."
The debate on national security is about unity vs. division. Congress is asking to sit down with the President and he is refusing.
Dems Should Stop Talking About 'Library Records' and Steal a Page From Sheehan
Rather than talking about the invasion of privacy or writing letters to the President and his cabinet, Congressional Democrats should steal a page from Cindy Sheehan.
Democrats should stand in front of the White House, hold a press conference and ask for a meeting with the President to discuss ways to make the Patriot Act better.
"Why won't the President take our call? Why won't the President meet with members of Congress, elected by the people of the United States, to discuss ways to make the Patriot Act better and stronger in the interest of National Security?"
The magic words in this campaign would be 'sit down' with the President, a metaphor that gives a concrete image to the idea of unity and cooperation.
The frame? "National Security Begins With Cooperation."
Talking Points in the Media: Steal the Ball on 'Wall' of Separation
Once this issue has been reframed by the Democrats, media coverage will be easy to control.
When asked why they do not support the Patriot Act, Democrats should respond by saying that "They have asked to sit down with the President, but he has refused."
Then, they can say this: "The President talks about tearing down a 'wall of separation' between Police and intelligence. But why is he building up a wall between the President and Congress?"
The real wall that threatens the American people is the wall that separates the President from the Congress--the wall that President Bush hides behind in his refusal to sit down with members of Congress.
Cindy Sheehan used this 'wall' to make her case to the American people with great success. While she called for a meeting with the President to discuss the war in Iraq, the President hid behind the walls of his vacation home.
"Mr. President! Tear down the wall that separates you from the American people! Work with us to make the Patriot Act better."
© 2006 Jeffrey Feldman