The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Reframing Jeb’s “He Kept Us Safe” Framing

This week, Jeb Bush said that his brother George W. had “kept us safe” when he was president. And given opportunities to walk that back, he doubled-down on the message. Donald Trump didn’t let him get away with that. Paul Campos at Salon:

For years, W. got a pass from his party. Questioning him meant questioning our foreign policy. Those days are over.

Campos asks us to imagine that the Republican presidential primary race is a Thanksgiving dinner, and that Donald Trump is the crazy old uncle who says outrageous things that embarrass everyone at the table. Sometimes those things are embarrassing because they are not true.

But occasionally, Uncle says something that’s embarrassing, precisely because it’s true.

The Donald’s tweaking of Jeb Bush’s W. kept us safe claim falls into the latter category. Trump’s mockery is justified. On its face, Jeb’s claim about W. is analogous to Exxon boasting about its record of keeping the Alaskan coastline “mostly free” from oil spills.

The meme of “he kept us safe” uses the technique that sociologists call “framing.” Wikipedia calls framing a process of selective influence over the individual’s perception of the meanings attributed to words, phrases or memories.

The cultural frame that the Republican Party has so successfully managed to build up since the days of Ronald Reagan says that Democrats are weak-kneed appeasers and pacifists, while the GOP is the party of Big, Bad, War Daddy figures, who deal with foreign threats with realism and ruthlessness.

You might think it would be impossible to fold the 9/11 terrorist attacks to this frame, but you would be wrong. Such is the power of this pre-ordained narrative that, when America suffered a terrorist attack under a Republican president, this inconvenient fact was magically disappeared down a collective memory hole for huge numbers of Americans.

Jeb’s defense of his brother repeats years of GOP messaging. The idea that George W. Bush kept the nation safe from terrorism is something that Republicans repeated constantly when he was in office, and since. The core of the argument was that W. shouldn’t be held responsible for the terrorist attack, even though his administration was warned about it in advance, because he only had nine months to do something about it, and al Qaeda was already around at the time he took office, (i.e. al Qaeda should have been taken care of by Clinton).

The power of this frame is evident if we use a thought experiment: Imagine that the 9/11 attacks happened during Obama’s first term. If 3,000 Americans had been murdered on US soil by foreign terrorists nine months into the Obama administration, no one would claim that Mr. Obama had “kept us safe,” because the claim wouldn’t be supported by any equally powerful Democratic cultural framing. Instead, the political fallout would have been Benghazi x 750!

Or, you could imagine Mr. Obama sending US troops into a civil war in Lebanon, and 241 of them being killed in a terrorist bombing ordered by Iran. And, imagine if a few years later, that it was senior members of Obama’s administration, not that of Ronald Regan, who were discovered sending Iran weapons in exchange for hostages. Democrats would still be paying for that at the polls.

Framing explains why Republicans give Jeb’s older brother a mulligan on terrorism, to the point where it was their family member Crazy Uncle Donald who had to state the obvious.

It’s understandable that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, almost no one wanted to consider assigning responsibility for the attack. Fourteen years later, we no longer have an excuse not to, and that applies especially to today’s GOP presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush.

Now, everyone is ducking and covering. To assign some responsibility to the Bush administration for letting 9/11 happen could lead to uncomfortable questions of what we knew, when we knew it, and what we did with that knowledge.

Undressing the 50 year Big, Bad, War Daddy perception that supports/excuses W.’s Iraq adventure could represent an existential threat to the GOP in 2016, particularly if the attack comes from the Right instead of the Left.

That is why it’s a strategic imperative for them to pursue Benghazi-gate to the end, even if it’s off a cliff.

If the War Daddy framing is lost, they could be left touting Reagan’s winning in Grenada.

And how would Republicans spin THAT as this country’s finest hour?


Thursday Cartoon Blogging?

We will not have Sunday Cartoon Blogging this week, as Ms. Oh So Right and the Wrongologist will be in Vermont at a wedding. However, some are too good to pass up. There will be a 9/11 column on Friday. On to cartoons!

Kim Davis is out of jail. She remains on the case, however:

COW Kim Davis


“I want you to go down to Morehead Kentucky, and instruct Kim Davis to stop putting words in my mouth”

Last week saw the incredible shrinking NFL Commissioner Goodell:

COW Godell


The surprising track races continue:

COW Track Race


With Hillary looking weaker, Dems consider a relief pitcher:

COW Warm up the Lefty

The Iran deal now has a bullet-proof minority in the Senate. Time to get frisky:

COW Peace Prize













At the time, Wrongo thought that awarding Mr. Obama the Nobel Peace Prize was a mistake. It was also a mistake for Mr. Obama to accept it. We will see if the Iran deal holds, and if it promotes peace in the Middle East.

Why Trump and Cruz hang out together:

COW TrumpCurz

And the GOP explains their Wall strategy:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 30, 2015

That light from the city on the hill isn’t a beacon. It’s the flash of gun fire.

The snuff video of two TV journalists this week got everyone talking about gun ownership and gun control for the umpteenth time. pointed out that despite the fact the US ranks in the middle among other industrialized countries in virtually every form of crime, and only has 5% of the world’s population, we have had 31% of the mass shootings since 1966.

By cutting off federal funding for research and stymieing data collection and sharing, the NRA has tried to do to the study of gun violence what climate deniers have done to the science of global warming. Mother Jones had a chart for you to consider:

Gun Ownership and Gun Deaths
Gun ownership is a part of our culture. We could have a conversation about why Americans need so many guns, but the current level of gun ownership is not going away. And there is a large disconnect between the current gun control proposals and the facts in the Virginia case. The TV killer wouldn’t have failed any test, either now in place, or contemplated under the new proposals.

A simple solution to the problem of gun deaths would be to require gun owners to have liability insurance for any gun that they buy. Mr. Market (beloved by the right) would then come up with solutions to keep that liability insurance costs low enough that people could own their guns, but fewer third-party deaths and injuries would occur, and there would be compensation for victims. You could still carry guns, but you would have to be able to produce proof of insurance. Like driving a car.

On to cartoons. The gun culture has a new Caliph:

COW Gun Culture

New media and old media loved talking about the killings, live on your TV:

COW News Cycle

Hillary’s week didn’t improve, so she got help:

COW Hillary Email

I’m you from 2015, Hillary. I’ve come back to help you set up your e-mail.

Biden called in a few favors:

COW Biden Back Rubs

Trump’s week was fine. Republicans? Not so much:

COW Anchor Baby

China’s stock market fell:

COW Bear Market



The Political Stylings of Donald Trump

We see a torrent of Trumpism, and viewed from the sidelines, it is a presidential candidacy based on emotion, while shockingly lacking in policy. It is difficult to see him succeeding, unless Republicans believe that being a vain, obnoxious and unapologetic old uncle is all that it takes to run the world’s largest superpower.

If that’s what they think, they have found their man.

The Donald has co-opted Tea Party rage. But, there’s nothing to grab onto, except the rage itself. He and his supporters hate immigrants. They hate Mr. Obama’s withdrawal from our blundering wars in the ME. They hate the vastly expanded access to healthcare coverage, and apparently, they hate being rescued from a Republican Depression. They do love them some American Exceptionalism, though.

As Bloomberg’s Melinda Henneberger comments about a recent Trump rally in New Hampshire:

Very little of what the conservatives in the hall were going wild over could be characterized as conservative, and most of it wasn’t political at all.

What Trump wants us to believe is; “I’ve got this.” His strategy is to have us believe he is a strongman brimming with rage. His “tell it like it is” approach has a true populist appeal, but his slogan “Make America Great Again” is as vague as it can be. Here are a few NH quotes: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

We will make great trade deals.

We will have Social Security without cuts.

We will come up with health care plans that will be phenomenal, phenomenal, [and] that will be less expensive.

Describing a future-perfect conversation between President Trump and the Ford Motor Co. officials, he’ll change their minds about building cars in Mexico. He says:

This is too easy, too easy! This is a couple of phone calls.

Some Trump supporters will vote for him, some will not, but all like his honesty, his lack of PC, his ability to run without outside money, his success, his independence from America’s political elite.

Krugman says the conservative explanation of the GOP’s onset of Trumpism is that their base voters are victims of celebrity. What they really want is a true conservative, but they’re being hoodwinked by someone who is entertaining on TV.

Krugman thinks the liberal version is that Trump is appealing to resentment that ultimately rests on economic failure: working-class whites have been left behind by growing income inequality, while they mistakenly blame immigrants taking their jobs. But he thinks Trump’s supporters look a lot more like the Tea Party, who are:

For the most part not working-class…They’re relatively affluent, and not especially lacking in college degrees.

Republicans seem to be in a mood to require heavy doses of impatience, resentment and outrage from any successful 2016 presidential candidate. Trump realized that sooner than his competitors, and neatly fills the bill. He is disorienting the Establishment Right. His supporters don’t give his political platform much thought, which works, since thoughtlessness is at the base of most of Trump’s policy cure-alls. He is cleaving the Republican Party into one camp that gawks helplessly at its past and a new camp that is inserting a shiv in the Establishment Right’s tired old body.

For progressives, what’s not to love? Trump said on Meet The Press: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

And if I’m president, we’re going to have a great country…And then we will really have [it] better than Reagan, better than anybody. We will make America great again. That’s what it’s all about.

Ok, Chuck Todd, you can’t ask: “How?”

Trump is the expression of today’s conservatism: loud, abrasive, and vacuous. Forget data, forget policy. Why search for evidence when you can rely on belief and tradition?

There are two options: Republicans either oust Trump and his Trumpeteers, perhaps forcing them to form a third party. Or, Republicans can accept that Trump is in their mainstream, and run a populist platform, laced with doses of anger and vague policies. If he is the Republican nominee for President, Republicans will then witness the Trumpocalypse, and be picking up the pieces for years.

Those are the choices. Either way, contemporary conservatism will be in ruins.

What’s not to love?


Monday Wake Up Call – August 3, 2015

Today’s wake up is for the US neo-con policy makers who made so many mistakes in the 1960’s and 1970’s that some are still being uncovered. Last week, NHK Tokyo had a report about the US’ operation of a secret experimental nuclear reactor in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

We put a nuclear reactor in Vietnam? When there was a war underway?

The site was in the city of Da Lat, 120 miles northeast of Saigon, where Americans had installed a research reactor. It was a General Atomics TRIGA Mark II model. We began building the TRIGA in the 1960s as another example of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” campaign at the end of the 1950s, just like the reactor we sent to Iran in 1967.

So many neutrons, so little peace.

According to NHK, as the North Vietnamese Army was approaching, Henry Kissinger ordered the site dismantled to keep the technology out of communist hands. The big news: In the event of an inability to dismantle the reactor, the NHK reports that, as a last-ditch measure, Kissinger ordered that the radioactive core be blown up rather than fall to the North Vietnamese.

NHK interviewed Wally Hendrikson, now elderly, who in 1975 was a nuclear fuel specialist at the Idaho National Laboratory. He was on the small team sent to recover the reactor’s fuel. When Hendrikson arrived at the US Embassy in Saigon:

We were told distinctly that if we could not remove the fuel and get it out of the country, we were to make it inaccessible and to pour concrete…to cover the core.

If all else failed, Hendrikson says,

We were to dynamite the core

Luckily, the team got the fuel out of Vietnam without needing to create a nuclear disaster. Vietnam later rebuilt the reactor, using technology and nuclear fuel from the Soviet Union. Today, the facility remains the only functioning research reactor in Vietnam.

How many times will we have to dodge bullets that the neo-cons and cold war warriors keep loading in guns that keep getting get pointed at America’s head? Wake up, neo-cons! To help you with your wake-up, here is #5 in our songs of summer series, Katrina and the Waves with “Walking on Sunshine”:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

Monday’s Hot Links:

A map of American swearing usage, produced by a lecturer in forensic linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, UK. Hell, damn and bitch are especially popular in the south and southeast. Douche is relatively common in northern states. Bastard is beloved in Maine and New Hampshire, and those states – together with a band across southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas – like using motherfucker. Crap is more popular inland, fuck along the coasts.

Earlier this year, Trump for President, LLC trademarked “Trumpocrat” and “Trumpublican.” Who knew that Trump wanted you to have a ball cap with “Trumpocrat” emblazoned on the front? Doesn’t Trumpocrat sound more like a plutocrat than Democrat? “Trumpocalypse” sounds correct, and has a nice ring to it, but it apparently isn’t one that they trademarked.

Exxon’s lobbying firm donated to Chris Christie’s Super PAC while Christie pushed for favorable 9to Exxon) NJ environmental settlement. Public Strategies Impact, the firm that represents Exxon’s interests in New Jersey, has donated $50,000 to “America Leads,” a super PAC supporting Christie’s presidential campaign. Christie’s proposed settlement, aims to reduce levies against ExxonMobil from $8.9 billion to just $225 million. Christie has defended the agreement as a good one for the state. NJ Democrats legislators have been seeking to block the settlement. Nothing to see here.

Ebola vaccine trial in Guinea proves 100% successful. The trials involved 4,000 people. Unlike using the randomized approach, taking a population at risk of Ebola and vaccinating half of them while giving the other half a placebo, this study used a “ring” design. When Ebola flared up in a village, researchers vaccinated all the contacts of the sick person who were willing to take the vaccine, family, friends and neighbors, and their immediate contacts. Children, adolescents and pregnant women were excluded because of an absence of safety data for them. In practice about 50% of people in these clusters were vaccinated.

To test how well the vaccine protected people, outbreaks were randomly assigned either to receive the vaccine immediately, or three weeks after an Ebola infection was confirmed. Among the 2,014 people vaccinated immediately, there were no cases of Ebola from 10 days after vaccination. In the clusters with delayed vaccination, there were 16 cases out of 2,380. Scientists, doctors, donors and drug companies collaborated to push the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months. Merck owns the rights to the drug. Invest at your own risk.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 26, 2015

Happy Sunday! Americans hate theocracy everywhere but at home. According to the Pew Research Center, 49% of Americans think churches should speak out about political matters, while 48% disagree, reflecting our divided politics. This has changed since 2010, when 52% wanted preachers to stay away from politics, and 43% didn’t.

The new urge to hear their pastors pillory politicians is supported mostly by Republicans. About 63% of Americans still think churches should stop short of endorsing candidates for office (vs. 32% who favor endorsing), but the gap has narrowed since 2010 when it was 70-24%. Moreover, only 29% of Americans see the Democratic Party as friendly to religion, while 47% see the Republicans favoring religion.

So in the most devout parts of the country, Democratic candidates tend to distance themselves from the party’s national stereotype. You will see this again in 2016.

Churches as institutions should be apolitical. And conversely, the political process should not explicitly favor members of certain religions for office. If it is really true that pious people are more honest or ethical, that fact will be clear when individuals are evaluated during the campaigns. On the other hand, nothing is easier to fake than religious faith, precisely because we can’t see into the heart of another person.

While politicians must pander to lobbies or to wealthy individuals that pay for their election campaigns, if they pander to religion, it makes a hole in the fabric of US politics. Having religious organizations directly sponsor political candidates would be so much easier. After all, “God wants you to vote for John Doe” is a pretty irresistible campaign message. Luckily, that isn’t America – yet.

Another week of summer with more Trump, Iran, and killings in Louisiana. Kerry met with the Senate:

COW Cooler Heads

Boehner has a strategy for Iran deal:

COW Same as Obamacare


GOP has to scratch its itch:

COW Fleas

Trump also deserves a medal:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Fugelsang nails it about mass shootings, this time in Louisiana:

Fugelsang on Louisana

The Louisiana gunman’s rage dates back decades. CBS News in Louisiana reported:

A local TV host frequently invited him as a guest, knowing he’d be a lightning rod who could light up the phone lines with rants against abortion and working women…

So he was part of what Donald Trump and Ted Cruz affectionately refer to as “The Base.”


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 19, 2015

We live in an amazing time. Donald Trump is again running for President, and the Huffington Post has decided it will not cover his run, because they consider him to be a joke.

Yet, the Republican base is happy with Mr. Trump. WaPo reports that 57% of Republicans now have a favorable view of Trump, compared to 40% who have an unfavorable view. That is a complete reversal from a late-May Post-ABC poll, in which 65% of Republicans saw Trump unfavorably. The Donald has pushed some candidates polling numbers down to the point where it could affect their ability to raise money.

Since Trump is currently polling at the top of the big group of Republican presidential candidates, the media shouldn’t assume his candidacy is a joke. They should be taking him seriously. Trump’s approval numbers with Republicans is currently the biggest story in the political campaign, and the reasons why he’s so popular deserves to be front and center.

He is the Cliff’s Notes version of today’s Republican Party.

What he is saying resonates with many in their base, which has been diligently cultivated and grown for the last 40 years. Now, their crop is coming in. Consider that Sen. Ted Cruz is only in his third year of his first term in office and Sen. Rand Paul is only in his fifth year. Except for Scott Walker, not one of them has a political record they can run on. The rest are bottom of the barrel careerist pols.

Once, we thought that no one could be lower in that barrel than Nixon. Then we had Reagan. And then, GWB. Hard to believe that the next Republican presidential candidate could be lower in the barrel than GWB, but if there is someone, the GOP will find him/her, and about 45% of the electorate will vote for him/her.

So, don’t focus simply on the media’s carping about Trump’s comments on Mexicans, because 55+% of American Republicans agree with him.

Trump’s bombast actually helps the others:

COW Trump Favor

Pluto is clearer to us than the 2016 Super PACs:

COW Pluto Transparency

Obama now has to deal with our domestic Ayatollahs about Iran:

COW Nuclear GOP


Iran deal will never be good enough for some on the Right:

COW Bad Deal


Harper Lee’s book has startling revelation:

COW Harper Lee Cosby


The Greek deal is mythic:

COW Greek Deal



Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 12, 2015

In recent years, many on the right talk as if they have inside knowledge of what the Creator wants us to think and do. As reported here last week, we have been arguing about the role of religion in our politics since the founding of the Republic. In 1789, George Washington declared a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” 12 years later, Thomas Jefferson abruptly canceled the ritual. The First Amendment, explained Jefferson, erected a “wall of separation between church and state.”

But Jefferson’s contractor failed to make that wall strong enough.

So, Wrongo is adding a book to his summer reading list. It is “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” by Kevin Kruse. The book tries to explain the religiosity in our politics. Kruse investigates how the idea of America as a Christian nation was promoted in the 1930s and ’40s when industrialists and business lobbies, chafing against the government regulations of the New Deal, recruited and funded conservative clergy to preach faith, freedom and free enterprise. He says this conflation of Christianity and capitalism moved to center stage under Eisenhower’s watch in the ’50s, when the words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “In God we trust” was inserted on the back of the dollar bill.

This week saw the USA Women’s soccer team take Manhattan, the NYSE go dark, Greece on the verge of going dark, the Confederate flag comes down in Charleston and Trump jumps into the lead in Republican opinion polls.

Women’s soccer is America’s new role model:

COW Soccer II

Stock Exchange glitch wasn’t explained clearly, so speculation ensued:

COW Glitch

South Carolina makes something old new again:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Socratic Method not enough to fix Greek quagmire:

COW Socrates

Trump divides Republicans:

COW Trump II

And forces a new strategy:

COW Trump

While W keeps rolling along:

COW W Speech