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If The Black Hat Fits…

cowboyhatcentral.jpgYesterday, when the news of letters and subpoenas was flying fast and furious, Tommy Yum made a point that I want to amplify:

My lawyer friends know this better than I: any investigation or litigation is really a contest between competing narratives. It’s important to be wearing the white hat, and perhaps more important to be perceived to be doing so.

By forcing the administration to be overt in its contempt for our institutions of government, Congress is making them commit to an easily-understood black hat narrative.  (emphasis mine)

This is key. As Jane said in her wonderful “On Image” series way back in our blogspot days (On Image Part I and Part II):

The GOP really seized its current high ground after 9/11 when they were able to take advantage of national outrage and capitalize on the fact that most Americans felt that their country was under attack. Painting themselves as the Party of Men, George Bush preened in his flight suit and cod piece, called himself a “war president,” and used simple, aggressive language to convince the country he was the man to preserve our security. His popularity soared.

When the village is under attack you send in the men; tales of Boadicea and Ripley notwithstanding, this is a fundamental construct of our dramatic culture that appeals to the reptilian brain and causes people to put aside rational thought that might lead them to other conclusions….

Basically, the Republicans got caught in a PR trap when there turned out to be no weapons of mass destruction. They had to shift into talk about Sadaam’s torture chambers, but that was quite dangerous because the American public doesn’t really give a shit about stuff like that when it happens in countries like Rwanda or Sierra Leone. What they were being offered at that point was an excuse for having supported the war, because nobody in the public wants to admit that they were wrong, either. But excuses last only so long, and that’s why Dick Cheney will continue to talk about ties between Al Quaeda and Sadaam every time he opens his mouth. No, he’s not stupid. True or not, it offers a powerful morality play to people who want to buy into it. And he knows the other side has nothing better. Even though Katrina and other recent events offered the Democrats the perfect opportunity to say “the village is on fire,” it’s still hard to put that across in a way that will not be countered by the message machine of the right as sounding negative and down on America. But the fact is the village is on fire, and people are awakening to that fact. It’s time to seize the “Republicans are crooks and bullies” meme, invest in some long term strategies and become a meaningful opposition party.  (emphasis mine)

The last couple of weeks, it looks like the Democratic leadership has begun to do just that.  They are at least trying to throw off the shackles of ineffective Beltway insiderism and consultant timidity and finally stand up and say, “I call your bluff. And I raise you.” 

Never has a group of political cronies deserved the label of “dangerous failure” more than the Bushies — and by beginning to pull together a strategy which puts them squarely on the defensive, time and time again, and doing so by using the Bush Administration’s own bad acts as the foundation for this, the Democrats in the last couple of weeks have at last thrown them off message — instead of doing it to themselves.  And I like that a lot.

By publicly taking the honesty and integrity issues to the Bush Administration — on multiple fronts at once — and by undercutting the non-fact-based arguments they have used time and time again with their snake oils sales of the failed occupation in Iraq and so many other illegal and illicit activities, the Democratic party has put the GOP on the defensive on solid, factual ground.  By taking these arguments directly to the public unfiltered through live hearings and interviews — rather than relying on a media machine which won’t carry their message without inserting caveats and provisos on behalf of the GOP Wurlitzer at every paragraph break — the Democrats are breaking through the information logjam.  And the fact that the GOP has been bluffing all of us with no real hand at all has finally begun to sink in for the public.  

Honestly, I wasn’t certain that Presidential polling numbers would ever get much below 29 percent-ish he’s been for a while…but they are: President Bush is two percentage points away from being the most unpopular president in all of American history.  Earlier this year, Chris Bowers did a post on the need for Democrats to stop apologizing for all of the ills in this country — and instead start demanding that the Republican party take responsibility for its own failures and mendacity.  It is as true today as it was then. 

Go on the offensive, never ever play defense…attack, attack, atttttttaaaaack.

It is well past time that we all started saying it out loud:  the Bush Administration and their lackeys in the Republican Party have been conning the American public for far too long.  They are liars and cheats.  And we have damn well had enough.  Hey GOP:  if the black hat fits…

(Great b&w shot of a hat rack via Ironic Tonic.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com