Search This Blog

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who Controls the Narrative?

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. You may enjoy this.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.

Inigo Montoya to Vizzini in The Princess Bride

That line from the movie is so apropos of many of the things in the Media. Take, for example “Swiftboating.” To the Media it means to tell lies about a candidate for public office. To people who actually read the Swiftboat Vets books and saw their ads it refers to Kerry's fellow Swift Boat vets telling the truth about John Kerry’s actions in Viet Nam and his activities to smear his fellow vets when he got back.

So now we have what appears to be a controversy about the “Bush Doctrine.” Let’s be clear about this: George Bush did not say in either a speech or in written form anything with the title “Bush Doctrine.” The reference to the existence of a Bush Doctrine was a literary invention of Charles Krauthammer; at the very least he claims to be the first to have used the term. So anyone who wished to define the term Bush Doctrine should show some deference to Krauthammer’s opinion of what Bush Doctrine means.

He devotes his latest column to the subject and tells us that what the media claims and what Charles Gibson claims is simply wrong.

The Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.

There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration -- and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today.

He asked Palin, "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

She responded, quite sensibly to a question that is ambiguous, "In what respect, Charlie?"

Sensing his "gotcha" moment, Gibson refused to tell her. After making her fish for the answer, he grudgingly explained to the moose-hunting rube that the Bush doctrine "is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense."


I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard titled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

[The]...fourth and current definition of the Bush doctrine, the most sweeping formulation of Bush foreign policy and the one that most distinctively defines it: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world. It was most dramatically enunciated in Bush's second inaugural address: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

This declaration of a sweeping, universal American freedom agenda was consciously meant to echo John Kennedy's pledge that the United States "shall pay any price, bear any burden ... to assure the survival and the success of liberty." It draws also from the Truman doctrine of March 1947 and from Wilson's 14 points.

If I were in any public foreign policy debate today, and my adversary were to raise the Bush doctrine, both I and the audience would assume -- unless my interlocutor annotated the reference otherwise -- that he was speaking about Bush's grandly proclaimed (and widely attacked) freedom agenda.

Not the Gibson doctrine of pre-emption.

Not the "with us or against us" no-neutrality-is-permitted policy of the immediate post-9/11 days.

Not the unilateralism that characterized the pre-9/11 first year of the Bush administration.

And here is slaps Gibson upside the head:
Yes, Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the phenom who presumes to play on their stage.

It will be interesting so see how this controversy evolves. Will the term Bush Doctrine be defined by the media, like Swiftboating was? Will the mastery of the ability to define the language remain with the media dinosaurs?

It does remind you of Lewis Carroll, doesn’t it? Is Charlie Gibson Humpty Dumpty? 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'

From Martin Sieff at UPI we get this:
The pattern of previous presidential election interviews and debates has always been that individuals who come across as intellectually superior, arrogant and condescending forfeit support that goes to their perceived victims. This dynamic played a crucial role in propelling George W. Bush into the White House eight years ago. It remains to be seen if Gibson's perceived arrogance and condescension will give Palin another boost.

Gibson should get contact lenses for his next interview. That way he will be able to read his questions without looking down his nose.

Democrat strategist Mark Penn:
I think here the media is on very dangerous ground. I think that when you see them going through every single expense report that Governor Palin ever filed, if they don't do that for all four of the candidates, they're on very dangerous ground. I think the media so far has been the biggest loser in this race. And they continue to have growing credibility problems.

And I think that that's a real problem growing out of this election. The media now, all of the media — not just Fox News, that was perceived as highly partisan — but all of the media is now being viewed as partisan in one way or another. And that is an unfortunate development.

The Democrats had a very powerful weapon against the Republicans in the media. That weapon is now misfiring; it's in a self destructive mode and is breaking under the strain of carrying Obama across the finish line. For an organ that depends for it's very life blood on credibility, it's committing suicide.


Anonymous said...

And I'll bet that many Americans were relieved when Palin asked her question because they too didn't know what is meant by the Bush Doctrine and considered it "wonk" speech. Once Gibson clarified (whether he was correct or not) they said "oh that" and listened to her answer and based their opinion on her answer. The fact that she needed clarification of a term didn't even register.

Strabo the Lesser said...

I wonder if the media will examine Obama's disbursements from the Annenberg projects. I mean, you never know when he might have gotten together with an ex-terrorist to give taxpayer money to another ex-terrorist. Nah. Not that it would ever happen- a media investigation of Obama, that is. The financial shenanigans of the Annenberg project? What, are you some kind of right wing nut for asking that?

rhhardin said...

For an organ that depends for it's very life blood on credibility,

It depends on audience, not credibility. They sell audience to advertisers.

It draws audience with soap opera. If it can't be cast in soap opera characters, it can't enter public debate.

The soap opera news audience is the only one that can be relied on day in and day out, news or no news, so that's the business model.

It may not be able to support the news organizations in the end, but it's that or nothing.

Regular people aren't interested daily in hard news. Think city council meetings.

Soap opera news can be created every day, in contrast, and draw its faithful viewers, and support the business.

tim maguire said...

NC, that's the part that strikes me as most ridiculous--this notion that she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was. Gibson asked a poorly worded question, she asked for clarification, he clarified and she answered. What's the big deal?

Why is this a controversy? How could anyone in good faith hear "in what sense" and conclude she had no idea what he was talking about? Since when is asking for clarification an admission of ignorance?

Yet again, the left made itself look stupid by shouting "gotcha!" when it didn't have anything.

Anonymous said...

I remember thinking similarly in 2004, for all the water that the media carried for John Kerry, he still lost. The media gave him cover, attacked Kerry's accusers and never held him accountable for his own comments.

In 2004 it seemed as though the media was going to hemorage from the thousand of self-inflicted cuts and it hurt them then, as it does today. In retrospect there is greater clarity. I believe many people who began to have doubts about the impartiality of the media in 2004 still remained convinced of the media's mission to deliver the unbiased truth to their readers and viewers.
It is rather glaring today. The media has a mission, to, as you say "drag Obama over the finish line," and without the pomp and pretense; more flippant, strident even. After all, the world has spoken, the world wants Obama, the media must deliver him up, or perish in the effort.

It's wonderful insanity. The most entertaining election of my long life.

Pat said...

I honestly thought that "The Bush Doctrine" referred to the President's 9/11/01 statement that "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." But that isn't even on Krauthammer's list.

If the term has multiple definitions and there is no agreement on which one is primary, then it seems to me that the term is effectively meaningless.

Perhaps Gibson refused to define the term because he has no clear idea what it means.

Unknown said...

Pat, that definition is in Krauthammer's piece, just not the part quoted here.

"Then came 9/11, and that notion was immediately superseded by the advent of the war on terror. In his address to Congress nine days later, Bush declared: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." This "with us or against us" policy regarding terror -- first deployed against Pakistan when Secretary of State Colin Powell gave President Musharraf that seven-point ultimatum to end support for the Taliban and support our attack on Afghanistan -- became the essence of the Bush Doctrine."

Anonymous said...

Even though the President may have said it, the actions of the US do not represent a "with us or against us" mindset, do they? It's possible for a nation to NOT harbor terrorists, but still not actively support the US. The lack of support for the US doesn't make them enemies of the US, but active support of terrorists will. This formulation of that aspect of US foreign policy appears to be reflected in what the US has actually done since 9/11/01, regardless of what pundits or commentators of any political stripe might claim otherwise.

Anonymous said...

The Bush Doctrine was most discussed in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. It was known broadly as a doctrine of preventive war, and by its critics as aggression cloaked in rhetorical trickery.

That is a fact, regardless of what Krauthammer says. Being the first to string together the words 'Bush' and 'Doctrine' does not make one the overarching authority on what most understand those words to mean.

Palin's meaningless answers to Gibson show she had no clue what the Bush Doctrine was, even when its most common definition was explained to her. It also shows that she seems not to have had an interest in the well-covered national debate on preventive war that occurred prior to the invasion of Iraq.

That she rambled on at some length on a subject she really didn't grasp is not a good sign in a candidate for the second-highest office in the country.

Anonymous said...

"Being the first to string together the words 'Bush' and 'Doctrine' does not make one the overarching authority on what most understand those words to mean."

- - - -

Well, it does when your audience is concerned that historical fact play at least a noticable part in historical analysis. Those involved in drafting Historical Fiction have their own set of reliable sources.

So, I suggest you get that Plame woman's husband involved at this point. To reignite the base, ya' know.

Unknown said...

"highly partisan" Fox News, yea right. Isn't it Hillary and her crew (Ed Rendell being one) that said that Fox was the only network who acted in a professional manner towards Hillary. I guess now that he and Hillary are out he can go back to kissing Kos' a**.

That pompous twit should have said MSNBC if he wanted credibility.

Jay said...

"That is a fact, regardless of what Krauthammer says. Being the first to string together the words 'Bush' and 'Doctrine' does not make one the overarching authority on what most understand those words to mean."

The left's grip on controlling the definitions is a large part of how they maintain influence.
In any other circumstance, the first person to coin a phrase for a concept gets some deference. Not in the political realm, where maintaining illusions of moral authority are so key.

Here we have Krauthammer who coined the phrase, and Anonymous plugs his fingers in his ears and mumbles "lalallalalalala". He's been trained well by his leftist overlords.

Chris Of Rights said...

It's also worth pointing out that, Krauthammer has written, what, about a dozen articles critical of Palin? It seems unlikely he'd spin things in her favor to prop her up.

Anonymous said...

Where the heck are the board of directors of the media companies? The employees are blowing billions of dollars worth of shareholder value in their exercising their personal political demons.

If I were screwing the owners that badly I'd be out on my ear pronto!

Anonymous said...

Exactly. We have a group of media-educated nincompoops who will vote for Obama, and a group of careful gleaners of information from all possible sources, who will overwhelmingly vote for other candidates than Obama.

The media is acting as a Darwinian force, steadily dumbing down the Democratic Party voting base, without doing them the service of letting them in on the joke.

Even graduating from an elite or ivy league school is no protection from the dumbing down effect of popular and news media, unless a person makes a valiant effort to stay on top of conflicting sources orbiting around events and ideas.

Most people do not have the time, so they have individuals whom they trust to keep them informed. Woe to the idiots who trust personalities in the media.

TDP said...

The media is spending time, money and reputation in a concerted effort to destroy Obama's enemies. This fact is disturbing on many levels. Some more significant than others.

Consider that if Obama is elected, the sycophantic media would be obliged to ensure he does not fail.

They will provide cover for him to and extent not seen in modern times to the potentially severe detriment of the nation.

The sad spectacle we see on the front page of the NYT, WAPO, ABC News, et al, is a sign of far worse things to come.

Obama's dismal track record of choosing associates will result in a dismal cabinet and staff.

That will result in dismal policy and results. If Congress remains fully controlled by Democrats, as a nation, we're toast.

TDP said...

That she rambled on at some length on a subject she really didn't grasp is not a good sign in a candidate for the second-highest office in the country."

If there is a real "Bush Doctrine" as opposed to what the fevered imaginings of the left refer to, it is the National Security Strategy of The United States, from September 2002.

That document covers about eight or so areas spanning the full breadth of national security matters.

The document explains the policy of the United States pertaining to our actions in the world. It covers many subjects with a broad range from transforming our intelligence capability, dealing with threats from WMD, promoting economic growth through free markets and trade, and such things as HIV/AIDS.

That document accurately reflects George Bush's strategy for managing the United States place and position in the world.

It is completely accurate to refer to as his "world view".

"Words matter", Barack Obama.

Gibson is a pathetic, preening ass.

Anonymous said...

The Dems focus on Palin is self-defeating. Obama is running against McCain, not Palin. Pace Matt Damon, the actuarial probability of McCain serving out his first term is 95%, and serving out his second, should he choose to run, 82%, so that bit of scare mongering isn't going to pull Obama's fat out of the fire, even in the unlikely event that he is successful in tarring Palin as 'too inexperienced'.

Anonymous said...

You want some real fun? Read the transcript of the first night and see what Palin really answered (compared to what ABC showed of her answers)...

There's a lot of difference there. Enough that I suspect the later nights where I can't yet find a transcript are probably useless.

Weird that ABC would deliberately att... HAHAHAHA, sorry thought I coudl type that without laughing.

Seriously, read Palin's real answers to the questions, you might like those better than the partial chopped sentences ABC provided.

Anonymous said...

I think that the CBS "60 Minutes" report on GWB's Texas Air National Guard service in 2004 and the subsequent crash and burn of Dan Rather, resulted in tipping the election to Bush.

I also think that the MSM with their open and virulent attacks on Sarah Palin is going to result in another Republican victory.

The Republicans are lucky. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

Jamie said...

Anonymous at 2:21 p.m., I've been using the term "Bush Doctrine" in conversation since at least 2003, and my understanding of it is not the same as yours. "My" Bush Doctrine hews closely to Krauthammer's: nations where some democratic form of government and the rule of law are the norms are less likely to war with their neighbors (and "neighbors" doesn't necessarily mean "nations right next to them" any more) than less liberal nations. Therefore, it's in the U.S.'s national interest to support, and sometimes to foster, democracy and the rule of law wherever possible. Sometimes it may be necessary to oust a dictator. At other times, economic actions may be sufficient to help bring about beneficial change. Diplomatic pressure may be enough. Carrot and stick should both be considered, and used where they'll work best.

It's certainly possible that Gov. Palin understands the Bush Doctrine as I do, or that she knows that there are people like you who understand it in a more limited sense, or that she has a third view of what it means; any of these would be reasons for her to ask for clarification. In any case, before you go asserting that your definition is the only one in common use, you might ask around a bit.

Anonymous said...

Whitehall said...

"Where the heck are the board of directors of the media companies?"

Good question but run it through what would happen if they did something.

Not only Kos would go crazy claiming the right wing corporate board was trying to control news content... so would all the lib dem reporters at the organisation.

They're really in a bad position (management). They may see things are wrong but their hands are somewhat tied in what they can do.

Then again, if not doing anything starts to cause more pain than doing something about it....