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February 5, 2017


What is framing? George Lakoff, cognitive brain scientist, devotes a few chapters of his book (The Political Mind) to the topic. Framing is the art of posing the answer with the question or issue. For instance, consider the question of “Have you quit beating your wife?” There is no answer you can give that will suffice; you have been “framed.” Lakoff recommends that you re-frame the question before giving the answer by not letting the questioner answer the question with his or her question. The process is akin to “leading the witness” in the courtroom, which is subject to objection. We lawyers are not allowed to assume facts not in evidence when questioning a witness on the stand, and rightly so.

Examples today include questions such as “Why do you hate black people?” (or white people, as the case may be)? The question assumes facts not in evidence and strongly suggests that you answer the question without proof of its premise, i.e., that you hate. . . . (fill in the blank). Lakoff would recommend that you re-frame the question and he is right. Guilt by association via words proves nothing but the intent of the questioner to elicit a given response and we must not let such questioners get away with it.

Trump has been wrong on virtually all of the initiatives he has proposed to date, but he is good at framing, though as he will find, overused framing can eventually fail as it gains definition as a “card.” Thus Trump’s use of the national security card to cover anything and everything he wants to do or not do (though even here he may change his mind in the next hour or so) is a good example of framing. I know of no one, present company included, who thinks that national security is something to be ignored; all consider this the most important duty of government, i.e., the physical protection of its citizenry.

Trump takes this card and goes with it on every issue where it could even remotely be connected. He insults federal judges by tweeting that the judge in Seattle who granted a temporary halt to his order that no one from seven Muslim-majority countries (excluding, notably, Muslim-majority countries where he has business interests) could come into the country is destroying national security. Wrong. The judge is instead saving the Constitution, without which there is no national security.

Trump is busy framing the issue of national security in defense of his order that no one from these seven countries can come into our country even though there has never been a single act of terrorism in our country due to any act or conspiracy to act within these seven countries. All have arisen from other Muslim-majority countries, some of which have his business housed within their borders. Coincidence? You be the judge, speaking of judges, and someone tell me how not excluding those countries who have killed Americans escaped his order, speaking of national security. What were his criteria in selection – his bottom line or our protection as citizens? Again, you be the judge.

He is overusing his card which will result (as in the adage of The Boy Who Cried Wolf) in our finally ignoring his constant entreaties and be less prepared when an actual threat to our national security comes to the fore. He should save his framing of national security for real and honest security threats to the nation’s safety, not some courtroom case. Given such, it strikes me that his constant use of his national security card is itself a threat to national security when overused and unrelated.

One has to wonder why he plays his ace on virtually every remotely connected issue with which he is dealing. There are, after all, more cogent criteria to be employed with matters such as the environment, climate change, tax and budget matters, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t attempt to somehow have his national security framing in place in debates on such matters, as in “Why do you hate America with your insistence on regulation of Wall Street and coal mining activities?” which should be counter-framed with the question “Why do you want to ruin our economy and our environment by not regulating them?”

I have a theory, though yours is as good as mine. I think he can’t get over the glory of his electoral college victory (to which he constantly alludes during talks with foreign leaders and at the prayer breakfast) and is continuing to play his base, even though millions more voted against what he promised during the campaign than voted for them. He is not representing the will of the majority; not by any means when you consider that he lost by more than the some 2.8 million who voted against him for Hillary and when added to the millions of votes against him for Third Party candidates. He is the biggest loser ever to occupy the Oval Office and was elected by geography, not voters.  If he is to be president of all the people, he had better start acting like it. We who did not vote for him are the great majority and we live here along with his minority base, too.      GERALD       E








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