Hypocrisy and arrogance: Frame it baby

Just how much impact “Scooter” Libby’s disclosure that Bush and Cheney personally authorized the leaking of classified information will have on the public will likely be decided over the next few days, depending largely — to steal from George Lakoff — on how the issue is framed.

Come what may, this will hurt Bush; but how badly it hurts him is still very much in play.  Will it be the perfect storm I suggested was possible yesterday, or will it, instead, be just one more in the long line of politically damaging, but survivable, thunderstorms?

Thanks to Scott McClellan’s pathetic dance and weave performance today, we have a pretty good idea how the White House plans to play it.  It’s a one-two strategy: First, use the “we can’t comment due to a pending investigation” dodge to avoid directly responding to the specific issue; and then, second, argue that it’s no big deal anyway, since the President broke no law.

Here’s Scottie at his “best”:

QUESTION: And since you put it in a context, is this the same information that Mr. Libby cites in his affidavit?

Scott McClellan: That’s a question relating to an ongoing legal proceeding and, as you know, I can’t get into commenting on that. We want to make sure that there is due process, that there is a fair trial, and that we don’t do anything to jeopardize an ongoing legal proceeding.

*   *   *

QUESTION: The President has been very critical of leakers on a number of subjects throughout his time. And if this information is true, that the President authorized the dissemination of this information, does he feel that it’s appropriate for him to unilaterally — and I know he has the legal authority to declassify information — but it, to some people, gives an appearance that he may not have followed all of the procedures — by letting other Cabinet members know, by letting the CIA Director know, things like that.

Scott McClellan: Again, that’s asking about a question that is mentioned in this latest filing by Mr. Fitzgerald. And I can’t get into confirming those issues because it’s relating to an ongoing legal proceeding. But I think it’s important — I mean, you pointed out one aspect of this — step back from the legal proceeding that’s going on. You pointed out one important fact, the President has the authority to declassify the information.

This represents the first of the two frames most likely to ultimately control the public debate on this issue, and the one that is by far the least damaging to Bush — the legalistic frame.  Under the legalistic frame the talking heads will spend most of their time debating whether Bush had the power to do what he did, which works in his favor in two major ways.  To begin with, he probably did have the legal authority, or at least that’s the consensus among the “experts” who have spoken on the subject to date.  But even aside from the technical legal niceties, by structuring the subject in this way, the legalistic frame strips the issue of passion and turns it into just another boring lawyers’ argument.

No, if we want to see Bush held fully accountable for his misconduct, for once, we must avoid the legalistic frame like poison.  When the press asks Democrats whether the President had legal authority to declassify the information in question, they need to respond (as many are), “Who cares?  This isn’t a question of law, it’s a question of right and wrong.”

That’s the winning frame — the one based upon the moral and ethical bankruptcy of Bush’s conduct.  What he’s claiming, after all, is the right to selectively disclose secret information for political purposes.  He actually has the temerity to suggest that it’s perfectly acceptable for him to give away America’s secrets anytime it helps him out politically, but to keep similar information hidden anytime it doesn’t support his actions.  What arrogance!  What hypocrisy!  What conceit!

And what a frame!

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15 Responses to “Hypocrisy and arrogance: Frame it baby”

  1. iowametal76 Says:

    But his conduct is above any moral or ethical inquiry because he’s the president, and he was endowed by god to be the leader in the crusade against terror.
    It’s not even a simple question of right and wrong (it’s not like this is Bill Clinton we’re talking about here). “Right” and “wrong” are totally amorphous in this case, because we’re fighting a different kind of war, a different kind of enemy. As the president he has the inherrent autrhority to do whatever he wants in the name of Freedom and the War of Terror.
    And besides, Congress already authorized him to do all of this when they passed the Use of Force resolution.

    Advocate of the Devil

  2. Chuck Says:

    Let me get this straight, 1st “HE” calls it classified information that is illeagal to leak, then because “HE” was the leaker it was no longer classified– RETROACTIVE to his previouse statement? Because “HE” said it, for no other reason necessary, I’m an enemy combatant without any human rights? Because “HE” said it, if I give money to a begger who becomes a “terrorist” according to “HIS” whim at the moment, I’m supporting terrorism and therefore lost all human rights?

    This is beyond arrogance and hubris! This is nothing less than declaring “HIMSELF” King & Lord, whose every word is law even when said on a whim, no matter how how unwarranted & gratuitous!

    (Maybe I was a little hyperbolic, but it doesn’t seem like I can be with this regime.)

  3. iowametal76 Says:


    Yep, that sums it up very nicely.

  4. alwayshope Says:

    If Clinton had done this, it would be a high crime. The media would be using the words treason and impeachment.
    What are they saying now? Nothing, except that he has the right to declassify info. They don’t mention that he did it for revenge! I also don’t hear the word hypocrisy. The conservative pundits just shrug the whole thing off, nothing to see here, move along. If this was Clinton, Oh my God, we would be hearing about nothing else from the liberal media.

  5. SWConnie Says:

    I have one question that I haven’t heard the media ask. If Valarie Plame was an uncover agent tracking WMD and still working undercover, how could Bush declassify that information putting her and her contacts at risk?
    That is information that never should have been declassified under any circumstances. As far as I am concerned, Bush commited treason.

  6. Jess Wundrun Says:

    “Declassify” and “Leak” are not the same things. Please shout that from the rooftops anytime someone tries to use that argument. If the president truly wants to declassify information he should just do it. He didn’t.

    Simply put, if the president wanted information de-classified (by definition made public) it would not need to be leaked. It would be public.

    Besides, we are talking about the identity of a CIA op in wartime. I don’t think anyone foresaw the president’s right to declassify info as one which gives him the right to recklessly endanger individual citizens lives. (Not just Plame but Plame’s associates.)

  7. RJHall Says:

    The front page headline in the local newspaper (I am an American who has now lived in Luxembourg for several years) is: “Bush in CIA-Affäre unter Druck” (Bush under pressure in CIA affair). My ability to read German being little better than Prexy’s own, I immediately turned on the computer to see whether this was as big a deal in the American and English-language press too. What I was really hoping for, of course, is Steve’s suggested headline: “Bush and Cheney Resign in Disgrace”!

    On that last suggested hoped-for headline, which of course I am ALWAYS looking for, I am reminded of a story about an FDR-era conservative who was asked why he only glanced at the front page of the newspaper. He answered that he was looking to see whether somebody had died. “But the obituaries are at the back of the paper,” he was told, to which he responded, “The one I’m looking for will be on page one.” So now I too am always looking on page one for just such a dramatic headline! (But I’m still enough of a political news junkie to read elsewhere too.)

  8. iowametal76 Says:

    The “if Clinton had done this…” scenario is yet again, mind-crushingly appropriate.
    This is one of the biggest and stinkiest hypocricies these scumbags continue to perpetuate. Shit, if Clinton were still the man, not only would the words treason & impeachment have been bandied about, he’d have already been tried, convicted, executed, and his maggot-strewn disembodied head put on display on the White House lawn as an example of how a non-Republican president must never act.

  9. iantuttle Says:

    I’d like to see a new reality TV show, perhaps called “Neocon Island.” Here all the neocons are gathered. The toture they employ on others is now employed on them. The object of the game is to see who can hold out the longest. I bet the “bubble-boy” is the first to crack.

    Only then would get ant real truth.

  10. hizzhoner Says:

    I’m a big fan of GreeK Tragedy and the Bush Administration is following the tragedy formula perfectly….

    the tragedy? That Bush had the opportunity for greatness thrust upon him where he could have been a beloved and respected WORLD leader and through the “tragic flaw” he will fall in disgrace.

    The tragic flaw?

    ARROGANCE! or as the Greeks called it Hubris


  11. Chuck Says:

    What I’m begining to suspect is that Bush/Cheney, or Cheney/Bush, are delusional in the classic medical sense; they have messianic/Napoleonic delusions.

    (But then would Hastert for president be much better?)

  12. armagh444 Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the importance of properly framing the issue and of staying as far away as possible from the legalistic argument. The American public is more than capable of understanding it, but it’s boring. Heck, legal arguments are boring for lawyers sometimes, and this one is likely to be hung up enough in the minutia to prove tedious for lawyers and laymen alike. Beyond all of that, it’s likely a loser.

    The argument about right and wrong, though, now that’s an argument that people can sink their teeth into and get passionate about.

  13. Again Says:


    The argument about right and wrong, though, now that’s an argument that people can sink their teeth into and get passionate about.

    i’m waiting…

    do you know Terry Pratchett?

    Because stories are important.
    People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.
    Stories exist independently of their players. If you know that, the knowledge is power.
    Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time…
    And their very existence overlays a faint but insistent pattern on the chaos that is history. Stories etch grooves deep enough for people to follow in the same way that water follows certain paths down a mountainside. And every time fresh actors tread the path of the story, the groove runs deeper.
    Witches Abroad (ISBN 0-552-13465-1)

    doesn’t that sound like

    The problem with focusing narrowly on the personalities of these people is that the reader invariably starts wondering how such freaks and lowlifes could ever have obtained power in the first place. Brothers under the skin by Henrik Bering

  14. armagh444 Says:

    The only work of Pratchett’s I’m familiar with is the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman. I like that quote though.

  15. Again Says:


    The only work of Pratchett’s I’m familiar with is the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman. I like that quote though.

    the first time i read that i was confused - but actually his poetic words describe perfectly how information processing works. I’m often amazed how much truth is in (good) SF or Fantasy

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