Lawyers know that cases often are won or lost before the opening arguments.
Decisions made in pretrial hearings over what evidence will be allowed and what witnesses may be questioned shape the story the jury will hear. Even the sharpest orators admit the "frame" that has been created for the case is where it is won or lost.
Propagandists, politicians and pundits, also know the importance of "frames."
And on the premiere issue facing America right now - this costly, dangerous and immoral war in Iraq - the warmongers are winning the battle of the frame with the help of many in the mainstream media.
Answer this. Was the congressional vote this week on a war appropriation with deadlines (or benchmarks or a timeline or whatever jargon they finally agreed to) a vote:
1. to bring the war closer to its end and bring the troops home, or
2. to cut off funding for the troops?
We all know the answer is A, but the warmongers and the corporate media are fiercely pushing B, and it is sticking as the frame for this issue.
Saying this vote is about "cutting off funding for the troops" is absurd. It sounds like a bunch of unpatriotic, ungrateful "liberals" want to strand idealistic young people who have been fighting for our freedom in an Asian country without the means to defend themselves or get home.
Abandon comes to the mind's eye.
And that's bullshit. But it's the frame that brings a sigh of relief to the Bush Administration every time they hear it from Chris Matthews and Tim Russert and everyone else the administration browbeats with the threat of calling l-i-b-e-r-a-l if they don't toe the administration line.
There is not one single American who wants to abandon our fighting men and women, but a lot of us want to bring them home.
I say it's time to call anyone who uses the phrase "cut off funding for the troops" to describe that vote what they are: a liar.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why the Democratic leadership doesn't go ballistic every time someone talks about "cutting off funding for the troops."
If our elected leaders don't do it, we have to. When you hear it, stop the discussion. Get mad. Don't continue talking or listening to anyone who frames the discussion any way except when will we "bring the troops home."
When Rahm Emanuel, whom I've liked over the years, says the vote this week was the beginning of the end of the Bush War, I can't believe he and I are on the same planet. To me, it was the escalation of the Bush War.
Was I imagining the stories about a "second surge"? Or was I just having a Vietnam flashback? (We call it a "surge," by the way, because the word "escalate" reminds us too much of Vietnam, sort of like the way we use "sectarian violence" instead of "civil war" and try and avoid the use of the word "quagmire." All of those are frames.)
The cold hard truth is our elected representatives - afraid to be tarred as an unpatriotic, ungrateful liberal by Rush Limbaugh, Matthews and every other media type who uses the phrase "cut off funding for the troops" - decided to wait until more of those idealistic young people who have been fighting for our freedom in Asia are killed over the summer to force the president to sign a bill that brings them home and ends this war that is making us less safe every day it continues.
The disgusting reality is that we know eventually Congress will vote to bring them home - the body count and the pictures of the carnage on television just haven't become horrific enough for our leaders to do what they were elected last November to do: end this war.
Maybe by September, that will have changed.
There should be a special memorial with the names of the soldiers who die between this week, when Congress backed down, and the time, hopefully this fall, when it stands tall and starts talking about this appropriation for what it is - money to bring the troops home.