Framing Science

The NY Times runs a lengthy front page Sunday feature exploring Obama’s years as an activist and politician in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. As the feature recounts, Obama has always been a political pragmatist and a master at framing a message that brings diverse constituencies together.

“There are some people who say he’s not strong enough on this or that, that he’s wishy-washy, that he’s trying to have it both ways,” Abner J. Mikva, a former congressman and mentor to Obama tells the NY Times. “But he’s not looking for how to exclude the people who don’t agree with him. He’s looking for ways to make the tent as large as possible.”

Here’s how the article recounts Obama’s now famous speech rejecting an invasion of Iraq:

With his possible run for the United States Senate, he wanted to speak with Mr. Axelrod and others about the ramifications of broadcasting his reservations about a war the public was fast getting behind. An antiwar speech would play to his Chicago liberal base, and could help him in what was expected to be a hotly contested primary, they told him, but it also could hurt him in the general election.

“This was a call to assess just how risky was this,” said Pete Giangreco, who along with Mr. Axelrod described the conversation. When Mr. Obama tossed out the idea of calling it a “dumb war,” Mr. Giangreco said he cringed. “I remember thinking, ‘this puts us in the weak defense category, doesn’t it?’ ”

The rally was held on Oct. 2, 2002, in Federal Plaza before nearly 2,000 people. On the podium before speaking, Mr. Obama joked about the dated nature of crowd-pleasing protest songs like “Give Peace a Chance.” ” ‘Can’t they play something else?’ ” Ms. Saltzman recalled his saying.

The speech, friends say, was vintage Obama, a bold but nuanced message that has become the touchstone of his presidential campaign: While he said the Iraq war would lead to “an occupation of undetermined length with undetermined costs and undetermined consequences,” he was also careful to emphasize that there were times when military intervention was necessary.

“What’s fascinating about Barack is what he’s trying to do is reframe and change the discourse so you build support for liberal alternatives within the electorate,” said Will Burns, a former aide whom Mr. Obama also consulted on the speech. “He has an ability to frame stuff so it’s not an all or nothing proposition.”

Still, Mr. Obama’s refrain about supporting some wars perplexed some in the crowd. An event organizer, Carl Davidson, recalled that a friend “nudged me and said, ‘Who does he think this speech is for? It’s not for this crowd.’ I thought, ‘This guy’s got bigger fish to fry.’ At the time, though, I was only thinking about the U.S. Senate.”

Comments

  1. #1 Greg Lewis
    May 14, 2008

    The full speech is at the bottom of this page:
    dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/5/10/163233/227/209/513370

    Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

    The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I donít oppose all wars.

    My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Pattonís army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.I donít oppose all wars.

    After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administrationís pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
    I donít oppose all wars.

    And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

    What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income Ė to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
    Thatís what Iím opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

    Now let me be clear Ė I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.
    Heís a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
    But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

    I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.
    I am not opposed to all wars. Iím opposed to dumb wars.

    So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Letís finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

    You want a fight, President Bush? Letís fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

    You want a fight, President Bush? Letís fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

    You want a fight, President Bush? Letís fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesnít simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

    Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

    The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not Ė we will not Ė travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!