Framing the Presidential Press Conference and A Progressive Thesaurus

1. Best line from the Presidential Press Conference:

“America is an ocean liner, not a speedboat.”

Jon Favreau, Obama’s speech-writer, intended these underlying meanings:

-America is a well-oiled machine
-America doesn’t just have one person at the helm, but rather many
-America has a well-regulated, organized crew
-America is on a journey
-America has a destination
-America is formidable in size
-America is dependable, steady, and not unpredictable (important because of the recession)
-Speedboats are wasteful and fickle
-Quick fixes to large problems are not viable

The rest of the main speech followed this theme.

2. Whose fault is the recession?

“…steps we’re taking to move this economy from recession to recovery”

-Recovery implies a sickness or an accident.
-Ergo, The recession is not the fault of the economy (this shows respect to the authority of the free market and the Economy, and is Obama’s way to woo conservatives)
-This avoids attributing blame to anyone, including politicians, deregulators, and Wall Street.

“…this crisis didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t result from any one action or decision. It took many years and many failures to lead us here. And it will take many months and many different solutions to lead us out. There are no quick fixes, and there are no silver bullets.”

-Avoids blaming one party, again, trying to woo conservatives
-Recovery takes time
-‘Silver bullets’ evokes Werewolves, vampires, witches, and monsters. Probably because I’ve been watching Buffy this week.
-Bullets in general imply instability or recklessness
-Saying “there are no silver bullets” attempts to mitigate the idea that Obama will fix everything; reduces his appearance as a daring hero
-This cushions the possible blow of Obama’s future slightly declining approval rating to the hero/savior image.

3. Why should we care?

“It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners…”

-But not to help irresponsible homeowners! Once again, appealing to biconceptuals: people who hold both conservative and liberal values.

“And every American should know that up to 40 percent of all mortgages are now eligible for refinancing. This is the equivalent of another tax cut…”

-Appeals to conservatives: You think that tax cuts are good for America? Well, our policies create the same effectiveness of a tax cut without actually doing it.

4. On Recklessness

“We know that an economy built on reckless speculation, inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards does not create lasting wealth. It creates the illusion of prosperity, and it’s endangered us all.”

-Recklessness, like a speedboat, is bad.
-This appeals to conservatives and biconceptuals, once again, who believe that a government that rules strictly, like a strict parent, frowns upon its child’s recklessness.
-This is a way of softening the blow that America is not actually prosperous.
-It puts the blame of duping America on the reckless “speculation.” What is speculation? No one knows, but it’s better than blaming specific people on Wall Street.
-“Endangered us all” also implies that everyone listening to the speech was duped. It diverts the blame from Wall Street and deregulation once again, saying that all Americans, elected or corporate or not, were fooled. It’s not our fault.

5. Taxes are Investments

We invest in the renewable sources of energy […] We invest in our schools and our teachers […] We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of health care […]”

-He avoids saying “taxes”
-Taxes are investments in the future
-Taxes are good

6. Framing gaffe of the evening, Don’t Think of an Elephant-style

At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led us to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It’s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow-and-spend to one where we save and invest.

-Don’t say “not with a budget that ______.” It’s the same “don’t think of an elephant” nonsense; mentioning something strengthens its presence in your mind via synapses.
-He should have used “the same failed policies” instead of “very same policies” to reinforce his message from campaign times.
-“Narrow prosperity” misleads the listener– it’s already a long sentence, and the old administration led to any prosperity at all? What? Audibly confusing.
-“It’s with a budget” by this time, the listener has forgotten what “It” is. “It” is the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run. Ok.
-Alternative suggestion: “The way to increase our massive debt and to narrow the already small economic prosperity in America would be to continue the failed policies of the last 8 years. But the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is with a budget that…”

Gold star for saving it here:

“That’s why this budget is inseparable from this recovery.”

-My way or the highway, but with class. Avoids using the possessive pronoun “my,” by stating “this” budget.

7. Boat Metaphor reiterated

“But we must remember that we can get there if we travel that road as one nation, as one people.”

-Life is a journey
-Journeys require roads
-America’s together on the road
-This is similar to the boat metaphor.

8. A war or attack on the economy

“I’m as angry as anybody about those bonuses that went to some of the very same individuals who brought our financial system to its knees”

-The position of being on your knees evokes fear, weakness, humiliation, and even sexual dominance.
-America should be angry about losing face
-Individuals have put our economy in a humiliating situation.
-This appeals to conservatives: Conservatives view the government, but also the economy, as stict authorities. By seeing this authority challenged or brought down, it is an affront to American values. Obama is appealing to conservatives to get them to rally to his cause.

9. Responsibility a non-partisan value

“We all have responsibilities to each other and to our country.”

-Evokes the idea of national service
-Evokes biblical reference of being thy brother’s keeper
-Responsibility appeals to progressives and conservatives.

Full text of press conference here.

And a Progressive Thesaurus (apply to daily conversation):

Progressive : Conservative as
Employee Free Choice Act : Card Check
Same-Sex Marriage : Gay Marriage
Anti-choice : Pro-life
Rescue : Bailout
Stimulus : Spending
BJob Creation : Pork
ush Recession : Pelosi Recession
Tax Cuts : Tax Relief (George Lakoff)
Clear-cutting : Even Growth Management (not kidding, Simpson Lumber Mill circa 2000)
Tax Investments : Tax Burden (Rockridge)
Economic Refugees : Immigration Reform (Rockridge)
Illegal Employers : Illegal aliens/immigrants/workers
Social Empowerment Programs : Socialism
War on the Feeling of Being Scared : War on Terror (Rachel Maddow)
Long War or War Spending : Overseas Contingency Operation (The Pentagon)

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