Tag Archives: Debate

Lakoff Part Deux

Professor Robinson brought up some <a href=”https://election2008ucdenver.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/lakoff-metaphors-and-08-campaign-oh-my/#comment-329″>great points</a> in his comments about my last post regarding <a href=”https://election2008ucdenver.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/lakoff-metaphors-and-08-campaign-oh-my/#comments”>George Lakoff</a>. I would like to address them and other issues that have crept up over the past couple weeks.

<em>”…the real debates are not about frames–they are about fundamental policies.”</em>

Professor Robinson is right, the real debate is about fundamental policies. The debate between Democrats and Republicans are fundamentally about the differences in policies. We have no need here, to rehash the differences, as long as we take as fact, that there are differences. The differing policy positions truly determine how someone is going to lead and what they are going to do while in office. This is probably the most vital functions of elections. Determining which policy position is the correct one. I would challenge the majority of people to tell us the last person to win the office president who focused their campaigns on policy positions.

Kerry and Gore focused their campaigns on policy, Bush didn’t. Clinton, Dole and Bush Sr. did not focus on policy. While Clinton did not focus on policy issues he did touch on it. Bush Sr. in 1988 did not focus on policy Dukakis did. Reagan spoke very generally about policy but was more focused on ideas and vision. As far back as most people would like to go, the winning presidential candidate’s focus was not on policy.
The American people unfortunately have a history of voting for people who are not focused on policy. The general consensus is that Bush Jr. won two terms because he was somebody people <a href=”http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTFhYjk3NDNmMGFjYTNmZWZlYmY1NzkzYmYzNzc2YTI=”>wanted to have a beer with</a>, Clinton was a charmer and had a silver tongue he was able to present a vision which people believed in and clung to:

Bush Sr., was someone that people trusted was a continuation to continue the Reagan legacy. None of these Presidents focused on policy, instead they all won election from something far more intangible, they won because they were able to “argue” that they were the best man for the job. They were able to “frame ” an argument in which the majority of the populace (excepting Bush Jr. in 2000) that they were the “correct” person to lead the country. To convince a large group of people that they are the cight person for the job, the candidates had to campaign in way to alienate the least number of voters. Often people talk about being disappointed that they had to vote for the<a href=”http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=E82DC2AEC0DDD5D47E9482627A9B522B.tomcat1?fromPage=online&amp;aid=105425#”&gt; lesser of two evils</a>. In reality, this is by design.

Lakoff argues that the Democrats have the progressive ideals that people crave. He also argues that the Democrats have forwarded policies which aggressive enough to capture most of the left but not so progressive that it alienates those people in the center. I would argue that the democrats ideas and policies have been the right policies for each particular moment in history. That however does not change the fact that over the past thirty to forty years, the democrats have been on the losing side of the vast majority of presidential elections. I believe that both Lakoff and I would argue that the lack of winning is not because the policy proposals are bad or not good enough; instead these losses are directly attributable to a lack of communicating these policies in a way which is easily conformable to <a href=”http://labs.google.com/inquotes/”>sound-bites</a&gt;.

A political sound-bite is not a way of communicating policies but instead a way of communicating ideas. The key is to frame the policy in a way that the ever present <a href=”http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fourth%20estate”>fourth estate</a>, will decide to use in their own interests. For instance, a policy proposal on taxes will in some way effect every American. Realistically, something that is going to affect all Americans is going to be fairly lengthy. Something that is short enough to fit into a 8 to 30 second sound-bite is unlikely to contain or able to communicate a policy proposal.

Politics today largely come down to these sound-bites. As a result policy can only be on the periphery of the discussion. While it is the most important part of the discussion, it is in no way influential enough. Instead it is more important to frame the policy debate in a way which will receive the most electoral votes. This is done through framing sound-bites and framing an argument which reaches beyond the base. A presidential candidate has to frame themselves not as the best person for the job; instead they must frame themselves as a better person for the job then their opponent. This, in successful presidential campaigns, is done through framing the argument to promote themselves and/or denigrating their opponent/s.



Filed under McCain, Media, Negative Campaigning, Obama, Voter Demographics

Debate Debacle

By Ilasiea L. Gray

I had never watched a Presidential debate in my life until this year and I must say I’ve had an indifferent experience.  When I watched the first debate between Sen.Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, I had no idea what to expect. Originally, I thought it would be a typical debate where the two candidates would talk back and forth to each other (and of course the audience).  Right away, talking to each other proved to be a challenge.  Moderator Jim Lehrer repeatedly asked the two candidates to look at each other and talk to one another.  Obama took this in and was able to look at McCain and address him saying “John” or “Senator McCain.”  McCain on the other hand refused to look at Obama.

I found this to be very annoying and disengaging.  People watching the debate want to see humans up there, listening and responding to one another; not robots spitting out answers.  I also found McCain to be somewhat arrogant.  Stating things such as “I was called sheriff…”, “I’m a maverick”, and on Obama’s attacking of Al-Qeada, “you don’t say that out loud.”  Regardless of how I felt about McCain’s style, there were 52.4 million other viewers tuning in as well.

I wonder how they felt.  Already, this debate had about 16% less viewers than the first Presidential debate in 2004.  Does this mean people are less into politics?  Less into debates?  One thing is for sure, the first debate between Obama and McCain changed very little, if any minds at all.  They both said what they have already been saying and brought nothing new to the table.

Another theory brought up by Newsday.com is the day the debate aired.  70 million viewers tuned in for the Vice Presidential debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Paliin, which was held on a Thursday.  Thursday is one of the biggest nights that people watch TV, while Friday…not so much.  If this is the case what about Tuesdays?

I wish the tone of the second debate held on Tuesday, October 7th could have been nearly as happy and somewhat exciting as this picture above.  I can not find the numbers on how many viewers tuned in last night but I’m guessing many turned the channel after the first 30 minutes.  As I mentioned before, I had never watched any Presidential debate until this year, but I was excited for this one because of the Townhall format.  After watching the major clip from the 1992 Bush-Clinton-Perot Townhall debate and how much it effected this format and the rules, I thought for sure this format would give viewers/voters the best look at the candidates character and that hopefully, they would warm up since the first debate.

Once again I was confused.  I wouldn’t say I was disappointed because the two candidates for the most part stated their policies and what they would do as President.  McCain opened up, reaching out to the voters, making sure to personalize his answers, repeat the questioners name (talking directly to them).  Obama did what he does and outlined what he would do as President.  However, I became very bored with this debate.  There was nothing that stood out to me except for the thing that made me feel the most disconnected; the time limitations.

After reading about how the candidates agree on certain conditions and time limitations I already felt skeptical about the debate.  But when moderator Tom Brokaw had to repeatedly remind the candidates that they “signed off” on certain rules it made me sick.  The first time; fine.  But after the third and fourth times, and the candidates consistently got cut off and were not able to rebut the others previous comment, it got to be ridiculous.  I didn’t even want to watch anymore and actually fell asleep.

My debate watching experiences have been indifferent and I don’t know how pumped I am for the last one.  I may not even watch it and instead, let the news/media just give me the highlights.  Either way, I hope the candidates can at least sway some voters instead of the same static narratives.  See you after election day.


Filed under McCain, Media, Obama

My Friends, My Friends, My Friends

By Alicia Long

There were high hopes for last night’s debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain.  With Obama widening his lead in the polls (his current lead is around 4-9 points nationally), McCain really needed this debate to help him turn the trend back into his favor.

The high hopes that McCain fans had for this second debate were justified.  Late last year, McCain had all been counted out in the race for the Republican ticket.  Some blogs even had reader polls as to when McCain would drop out (The Right’s Field had the longest running poll on this topic).  But McCain fought his way back using town hall-style meetings with thousands of New Hampshire residents all across the Granite State, and ultimately winning the January primary and rocketing his way to the Republican nomination.

Town hall meetings are McCain’s favorite way of communicating with voters, and he typically does very well in this format.  Many politicos felt that since the second presidential debate was a town hall, McCain had a good opportunity to reignite his campaign.  Unfortunately, he did not succeed.

I’m not saying McCain didn’t do well.  In fact, both Obama and McCain did well in this debate.  The popular opinion amongst the talking heads was that McCain needed this debate to be a game changer –  he needed to make a strong, new attack against Obama, or Obama needed to make a big gaffe – neither of which happened.  Both candidates stuck to their tried and true tactics and nothing really happened that made the performance of either candidate stick out.

This is not good for McCain.  This debate retained the status quo for voters, so one could argue that Obama “won” the debate.  Not because he did anything special or made better points than McCain, but simply because he came out of this debate the same way he came in… ahead in the polls.

CNN analysts thoroughly picked apart the debate last night.  This group is informative because it is compromised of Democratic and Republican analysts, as well as non-partisan journalists.  Overall, they rated Obama with a “B” and McCain with a “C.”  You can read more about their individual grades and opinions HERE (you can also give your personal grades through CNN’s online poll).

Just to mix things up a bit, I created tag clouds of Obama and McCain during the debate.  These tag clouds visually represent the 40 most frequently used words, with the biggest words being used the most frequently.


Visually, Obama definitely kept to the issues that are strong for him.  Health care, energy, and change were among the topics he kept bringing up.  Amusingly, the word he used most was “going.”


One thing I am not surprised to see in McCain’s cloud is the word “friends.”  I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “my friends” so many times in 90 minutes.  This is something he says frequently in his town halls, and last night was no different.  However this came off as less of a personable remark and just became annoying after the first half hour.

Thanks for reading my post, my friends.

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Filed under McCain, Obama

Poor Thing

NBC has apparently shown some sort of bias towards the Obama campaign. An article in the Guardian which is UK online Newspaper tells of the sad story of John McCain’s campaign being abused by NBC and their “Irresponsible Journalism”.

I wonder if NBC will embrace this in the same way that FOX news corp has embraced their position as a biased news organization for the GOP. The Problem is that FOX has embraced their position with programming but they have done nothing in regards to the somewhat amusing claim of being fair and balanced.

Businesses do not for the most part want to be associated with news outlets that are dogmatic or possible purveyors of propaganda. The main reason is to increase sales. If a advertiser becomes to cozy with one side of an issue their is a very real and well founded fear that people will associate the products of an advertiser with the slanted news outlet that they advertised on.

The problem of objectivity has since been codified in the “Journalism Code of Conduct”. This code of conduct leaves out any directives to be objective. What it does include in the preamble is a sentence which urges; “Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty.” (Society Of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics)

The result is a world in which news organizations strive for objectivity and disregard their natural bias that will come out in he news they report and the way they report it.

“We are extremely disappointed to see that the level of objectivity at NBC news has fallen so low that reporters are now giving voice to unsubstantiated, partisan claims in order to undercut John McCain,” Davis wrote in his letter to Capus, sent late yesterday. (guardian.co.uk)

The Letter from the McCain camp claimed that there was unsubstantiated claims is a little amusing. McCain wasn’t in the so called “Cone of Silence” during part of the question and answer session with Obama. Instead he was on his way in a secret service limo to the event. It could be assumed that McCain would have access to the radio in the limo in addition to his ever present cell phone and that if he had wanted to listen to Obama’s answers he could have, or he could very easily have had his aides call him to prep him on the questions and answers.

The New York Times wrote an article describing the McCain absence from the cone of silence. And presumably the McCain campaign had access to this article prior to the letter being written. Even in that article the whereabouts of Mr. McCain were noted and questioned. For Andrea Mitchell to not comment on this would have been irresponsible Journalism according to the Journalism Code of Ethics.

One of the things that the Professional Journalists Code of Ethics makes special note of is that it is unethical to relate only the parts of a story that agrees to the Journalists political viewpoint. It also makes pains to point out that it is the Journalists job to report everything they learn even if it may be unpopular (in the McCain camp). In this case She clearly states that this was something the Obama camp was privately talking about.


What seems irresponsible is for the McCain campaign to cry foul when there was no foul made. The McCain camp is using this to further reinforce the image that the GOP has perpetrated over the past 20 years, that the media has a ” liberal bias”. While this may or may not have some accuracy, the media seems to respond to this pressure on their advertising by increasing positive coverage of the GOP and decreasing positive coverage of the DNC.

The Letter:

August 17, 2008
Mr. Steve Capus
President, NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112


We are extremely disappointed to see that the level of objectivity at NBC News has fallen so low that reporters are now giving voice to unsubstantiated, partisan claims in order to undercut John McCain.

Nowhere was this more evident than with NBC chief correspondent Andrea Mitchell’s comments on “Meet the Press” this morning. In analyzing last night’s presidential forum at Saddleback Church, Mitchell expressed the Obama campaign spin that John McCain could only have done so well last night because he “may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.” Here are Andrea Mitchell’s comments in full:

Mitchell: “The Obama people must feel that he didn’t do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because what they are putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well-prepared.” (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” August 17, 2008.

Make no mistake: This is a serious charge. Andrea Mitchell is repeating, uncritically, a completely unsubstantiated Obama campaign claim that John McCain somehow cheated in last night’s forum at Saddleback Church. Instead of trying to substantiate this blatant falsehood in any way, Andrea Mitchell felt that she needed to repeat it on air to millions of “Meet the Press” viewers with no indication that 1.) There’s not one shred of evidence that it’s true; 2.) In his official correspondence to both campaigns, Pastor Rick Warren provided both candidates with information regarding the topic areas to be covered, which Barack Obama acknowledged during the forum when asked about Pastor Warren’s idea of an emergency plan for orphans and Obama said, “I cheated a little bit. I actually looked at this idea ahead of time, and I think it is a great idea;” 3.) John McCain actually requested that he and Barack Obama do the forum together on stage at the same time, making these kinds of after-the-fact complaints moot.

Indeed, instead of taking a critical journalistic approach to this spin, Andrea Mitchell did what has become a pattern for her of simply repeating Obama campaign talking points.

This is irresponsible journalism and sadly, indicative of the level of objectivity we have witnessed at NBC News this election cycle. Instead of examining the Obama campaign’s spin for truth before reporting it to more than 3 million NBC News viewers, Andrea Mitchell simply passed along Obama campaign conspiracy theories. The fact is that during Senator Obama’s segment at Saddleback last night, Senator McCain was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed. In the forum, John McCain clearly demonstrated to the American people that he is prepared to be our next President…..

We are concerned that your News Division is following MSNBC’s lead in abandoning non-partisan coverage of the Presidential race. We would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss our deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC.


Rick Davis
Campaign Manager
John McCain 2008

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Filed under McCain, Media, Republican