So Obama is on his first Presidential trip to Israel (ok, I had to read it twice also when I saw it was his first Presidential trip to Israel, but lets not hold it against him) as many great (see Bill Clinton) and not so great (see Jimmy Carter) Presidents have also done. However, the questions that many people are asking is “what is the significance of this trip?” Why is Obama doing it now? What does the region look like as Obama pops in for a hello? What is the significance of where he is going and where he is not going on this trip? What is the big hubub about the speech he gave right on the tarmac? So yeah, that is a lot of questions, but I think we can get em’ all (like Pokemon).
Lets start with the first three questions which are tied together. What is the significance of this trip/ why is Obama doing it now/ what does the region look like? Thankfully we can answer all 3 of those questions at once (#3birds1stone). At least some of the significance for this trip comes from the fact that the Syria regime continues to wage war against its on people and may or may not have already used chemical weapons on its own people. In that same vein the rebels, partially made up by the Islamic extremist factions, are rumored to have gotten some of the chemical weapons into their possession. Jordan grows ever closer to the Arab Spring (some call the Islamic Winter) with a majority of National Palestinians and over 500,000 Syrian refugees and an out dated monarchy (hence the name The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). In the south the Sinai desert is still the “wild west.” Egypt is run by the Muslim Brotherhood who are frightening yet are still “stable” for now. Hezbollah in Lebanon is helping Asad (Syria) murder his citizens and trying to get some of the arms from the Syrian regime to get ready for their next attack on Israel. Hamas in Gaza has just started launching rockets back into Israel (yesterday a rocket hit Sderot…welcome to Israel President Obama). Now we can move past what the neighborhood looks like and talk about the significance for the relationship between Israel and America.
Obama and Netanyahu have what some would define as a “strained relationship” (though I bet you couldn’t tell from all these pictures of them bro-ing out with their jackets over their shoulders). But in Obama’s defense, any professional relationship with an Israeli can be taxing, however, that does not excuse his hot mic problems at the UN or the comment he made to Goldberg (no relation to me) last month where he said “not only is Netanyahu moving his country toward international isolation, but the Israeli public itself ‘doesn’t know what its best interests are.'” (This was taken from Rule #3 “Thou Shall Not Diss They Counterpart” in The Ten Commandments of Visiting Israel from Foreignpolicy.com writer Oren Kessler. However, I am going to assume that both leaders are adult enough to get past the personal disagreements and they are clearly making a show of their friendship so lets not get too tied up in this issue. This issue of the significance of the friendship brings me to one of the major questions, where is he visiting and why?
Based on the question in the Times of Israel post Where Obama’s visiting in Israel where he isn’t and why by Raphael Ahren the locations of where Obama’s trip hits can help define what his visit symbolizes. I am not going to restate the whole article but it is an important article to read and here I will list a couple of highlights of the visit: visiting an Iron Dome battery (the foreign aid manifestation and how US saves Israeli lives), Netanyahu’s House (can you say house party?), The Israel Museum (where he will see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the technological developments Israel is leading the world with), Ramallah (lunch and press conference and you can check out the update from that here – Meeting Abbas, Obama says 2-state deal is ‘still possible’ by NY Times writers Mark Landler and Alan Cowell). Obama will also be giving a speech to the students of Israel. In addition he is going to Yad Vashem (on right)…and you can look at all the rest of his stops in Israel. The stops indicate a look to the future of the State of Israel, its partnership with America, but acknowledging Israels past. By visiting Yad Vashem and the Dead Sea Scrolls some say that Obama is presenting the image that the Jews were here before, and they will remain here. Israel is the Jewish homeland and I could not be prouder of his itinerary.
Finally it is important to look at the speeches he gave while in Israel. I would like to look at the short but sweet speech Obama delivered on the runway at Ben Gurion Airport. The text of speech is here and you can watch the actual speech clicking here. The important aspects to think about in this speech include where he spoke and what he said.
Why did Obama speak on the runway? What is the significance of that? I would guess there could be any number of ways to interpret it. Whether it was that Obama wanted to speak as soon as he got to Israel, or the fact that he is giving a speech about the historic ties to Israel on the tarmac of the modern Israeli city. No matter how you interpret the location of the speech, it is food for thought.
Finally the actual speech. There is not much I can say about the speech other than fantastic! He touches on the Jewish roots in Israel, assures the country that he stands with them (a statement of suspect for some though not for me), he makes a point this is his FIRST foreign trip…or his second term, he articulates the reasons for why Israel and America stand together concisely and articulately. His repetitive line “we stand together” is brilliantly placed and not overly done but still emotional. It is a great speech and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Yesterday Hillary Clinton announced her unflinching support for gay marriage in this video. The video shows the ex-Secretary of State/ ex-FLOTUS calm and composed making her emotional yet logical argument for equal marriage rights and the role it plays in shaping modern America. Now, I very seriously doubt that anyone is shocked that Clinton supports equal marriage opportunity, and I am not going to write about whether gay marriage is “good” or “bad” (I am trying to remain unbiased in this blog…who knows if I will be successful). However, I do want to look at a few things within this topic: Clinton’s statement itself, this statement as a Clinton PR move, and her front running for 2016.
Hillary Clinton, who was the frontrunner for the Democratic party at one point in 2008, knows how to speak. While she may not be as good of an orator as her husband Bill, her old boss Obama, or Coach Jimmy V (he will be the feature of the next blog post), she is still an incredible speaker. In the video linked to above, Hillary uses her soft yet stern yet soothing voice to explain her reasons for supporting gay marriage. She framed the speech with the human rights campaign banner seen on the right. That carefully placed banner portrayed this issue, in Hilary’s eyes, as about something more than a disagreement in religion or politics, about basic human rights. She says in her video “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights” drawing the parallel. She then begins using her experience to show what she means.
She delves deep into the fights and “pretty tough conversations” she has had with foreign leaders who do not agree with her, but she, as the ex- Secretary of State (mentioned probably three or four times in the video…showing her credentials), knows what it means for America to be a leader in human rights and specifically gay rights. She says that the United States has to be the leader in defending gay rights, and that “America is best when we champion freedom and dignity…it’s in our DNA” (who can argue with that?). She continues showing her experience by talking about a young Tunisian who approached her after their uprising (sort of a pat on the back, “we got through that one America, you’re welcome”) who asked about gay rights which showed her that the world views America as the leader and as an example. She talks about how these experiences “deepened her pride in our country and the ideas we stand for.” She also makes a clear that she has now “left public office,” I don’t want to say hinting but she is in a way proclaiming her ability to speak freely and consider new public office roles (hint hint keep reading). Then we get to where the speech writer takes over.
The language in the second half of the address is flowery, colorful, and over all moving. Is it too much? I like to think that people should be able to be expressive so no, I would not say it is too much, but if you think so that is totally valid. She begins the emotional pull with “there is work we must do at home.” To no surprise she builds a connection between the civil rights and the fight for gay rights, but what was tactful was the way she layered the foundation for this partnership. She uses the words “march” and “perfect union” along with “full and equal citizens.” These words are emotional ones for the black civil rights movement. The word “march” reminds people of the Washington Mall, “perfect union” of the speeches given describing what America could be, and full and equal citizens showcasing that we cannot segregate or differentiate. Later she uses the example of the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movements by name, but her subtle image planting from earlier is successful, we already know she is going there. She also gives a small, possibly unintentional (I read into things) nod to immigration reform saying that gay and lesbian people “deserve the rights of citizenship… that includes marriage.”
Finally she points to her “experience, devotion and faith,” as to why she supports gay marriage and equal rights. She talks about marriage (the first time I listened to the speech I laughed a bit) saying “marriage is a building block, great joy and great responsibility” and then uses an anecdote about going to their daughter’s wedding to bring it closer to home. Finally she ends on a good note saying that we can “move closer and closer to that more perfect union promised to us all.” Overall, very good speech. (my rating would be an A-). However, moving past the speech it is important to think about the reasons for Clinton’s statement, as a public relations move. Why now? Why in this way? How is it framed by the media?
Clinton’s views were not a secret before she came out with this. To quote a Politico article written by Maggie Heberman entitled “Hillary Clinton stays in the game with gay marriage move” (when was Hillary out of the game?) she writes “Coming less than three months after she departed the State Department, Clinton’s move was about as surprising as a setting sun. Her party, not to mention her husband and daughter, was already on record as backing gay marriage.” (Check out the whole article here: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/hillary-clinton-stays-in-game-with-gay-marriage-move-89033.html#ixzz2O1Losy7p).
While Hilary never actually left the game (her name has been on the tongue of everyone talking about the 2016 election), the image that she may not be a politician right now but is still concerned with human rights, dignity for all, and can use her powers and experience to help. This is a very clever move and I applaud it, as long as she is out of office she can use it with the old “together we can reform Washington” (see Obama back in 08). In addition, she could kind of leak this video because…well she is Hillary Clinton, if she leaked where she was eating lunch Politico would pick it up and run it front page (nothing wrong with that Politico, you guys are on top of your game). As far as a PR move, there was no downside to what she just did, only up and keeping her name in the minds and hearts of so many out there. Which brings us to the last point, Hilary 2016.
I know, I know, Joe Bidden or something or other about how someone else might get the nomination. No. She can take a little time off because she just finished up a pretty major job, but you better believe she will keep her name on the top of the list. I won’t be surprised if we see videos like this coming out every 3-6 months as part of her build up strategy. Whether we recognize it or not, this was Hillary campaign speech. If you ask me, a Clinton v. Christie ticket would be the most entertaining Presidential race I have ever seen. All we can do is wait and see what happens.
Did I get your attention? The words free, sex, and Harvard are known as the most attention grabbing words in the English language. Our eyes are drawn to these words like ants to a picnic, like children to Playspace, or like middle age moms to book clubs. These words may get more views and interaction than any other singular words and so this post is a (no longer) secret experiment. I want to see if I get more hits on this post than any other because of my title that combines the power of the words (to quote Captain Planet: “with our powers combined!”). However, as long as I am discussing the power of words it is a topic that I have many thoughts about.
Words are used by marketers, writers, advertisers, and every other person who works in the world (except a few math people, who do use words when they publish). In fact, I would argue that it is impossible to live in modern society without communicating. Communication and more specifically words are used for many purposes though the most basic of them is to relay an idea from one party to another. Usually words are used to convince a person or multiple people to do something or buy something or think something. This means that words generally have an objective. This objective, however, can only be accomplished if people notice the words that you use. Hence, the often use of Harvard, sex, and free.
Words are used in a multitude of ways in different jobs. I recognize that in marketing and advertising, words are used both consciously and sub-consciously received to convince consumers to purchase their product or service. One example where advertisers and marketers use words cleverly in ad or marketing campaigns is Budweiser. Someone who drinks Budweiser is not more American than another citizen of the United States, yet Budweiser = America. To be able to make something about an idea, a word, that sparks emotion is the true beauty of their craft for all these workers. I know more about the use of words in political framing and in public relations.
In public relations, as opposed to advertising and marketing, words are used to portray a perspective. The main difference is that the words used by PR practitioners (note the word choice) are more subtle. They are not shoving anything down the throat of the consumers, rather suggesting a new perspective on an issue. The issue can be new or timeless, but a new frame can be provided by the PR practitioner.
In addition, the phrase “framing” has recently become the political hot-word (an example of the power each word can hold). “Framers,” in the political sphere, are people who know which words are the right ones to use. For example, the famous Republican Party Guru Frank Lutz (http://www.luntzglobal.com/) and counter part Democratic Party Guru George Lakoff (http://georgelakoff.com/) are framers. These men and women who frame political issues are able to create and change the public perception. It is exposed in this article by Matt Bai of the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/magazine/17DEMOCRATS.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0http://. This article pretty much says that both parties are starting to realize that what matters more than what you say, is what the public hears.
Being able to change someones perspective is unique to the use of words and communication. Words can change the way we think about abortion (pro-life vs. pro-choice), filibuster (“abuse of power”), and Presidential candidates (“outsourcer-in-cheif”).
Finally, the last thing I want to touch on is the use of framing in speeches. Speeches have the ability to change peoples’ perspectives, shape passions, and create an emotional tie to the topic. Speeches have the unique ability to give a voice to an issue and a cause. This can be seen, specifically, in Obama’s most recent State of the Union. It was the only part worth watching, where he eloquently and passionately spoke about gun control and the “one vote” (frame alert). He framed it carefully in a way which allowed him to maximize his goal – to create a vote in Congress, by using a distinct emotional voice. Speeches allow great orators (Churchill, King, and others) to frame their issues in a uber-personal way. They can frame issues using their own distinct voice with well chose words and repetition. (HINT: for those who never realized what they were doing when they repeat themselves in a speech, they are often (not always) framing a position).
If I use the word Harvard, sex and free and it gets me an incredible amount of hits on my blog then this experiment has been a success. If not, it was fun to write about.
Side point: here is a fantastic rap song by Caskey (weird video) about the power of words – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBfWapATFjk
One thing I am going to be writing about on this blog is political speeches. This is because I want to be an expert at one point in the future so I will be writing about speeches and then grading them. My parents and society have kept me in school so long that the only way I can assess something is by grading something. Below is my review of the Obama speech from last night (and some brief thoughts about the republican response).
Last night was the State of the Union (or the #SOTU if you live in the Twittersphere…which I don’t like). I want to use my first ever, excluding my practice post, blog post to talk about the speech. Granted, during the speech I nodded off at (many) points but that does not mean that it was not a great speech…the fact that it tried to cover every issue that affects every person in the entire United States may have had a hand in diminishing it though.
However, I do not blame Obama (or Rubio for that matter), I believe this is something inherently wrong with an age old tradition that could just as easily be summed up in a public letter to Congress. (Please see the wonderful article in Politico Time to Retire the STOU?) However, because the State of the Union happened, I will write about it.
At the start of the night ABC News began inundating us, the viewers, with words to have in the front of our minds as if we did not know that these words would come up in the President’s speech. Graphics popped up with the words “gridlock…divided…gun control…immigration…healthcare” and a few more. I did not pay too much attention except to note that they were “priming the audience” (not sure if that is a real thing but let’s run with it) for a speech with even debated social issues.
Everyone knew that the night would be emotional (and about guns), Gabby Giffords was shown and many members of the audience wore the green ribbons to remember the horrific Newtown shooting. The anchors on ABC talked about how Speaker Boehner called out the President saying that he did not have “the guts to make the tough decisions” which, I hope everyone can see, is just the media making problems.
Even if the Speaker said that what is the goal of telling us? There is none. The media just keep driving their wedge agenda (conflict gets ratings, so to the media the Republicans want to have an old school rumble with the Democrats…Sharks vs. Jets style) between the two parties. What was important for the public to notice (and I know I did) was how incredible it was that Obama’s head did not explode from Speaker Boehner’s stare. But that is not the topic of this post…I have got to get to the speech (excuse my ramblings #myfirstblogpost).
Amidst the grey haired people Obama emerged…equally grey haired but exuding a good amount of what the anchors on ABC called “confidence” or what I would more aptly call – swag. He got up to the podium after he did the hand shake game and kicked off his speech. He began talking about JFK, which generally is a great start. He used the words such as “progress…grit … determination… and reignite.” He spoke about the debt, bi-partisan politics, and climate changed. He touched on of course every issue he could possibly get his hands on. The camera work for the speech was very quick and clever. When he talked about the budget it would cut to people like Mitch McConnell and his standard perpetual frown. Obama preached “smart government” and love-surged (gushing from his love he can’t hold it in) for the middle class (not that there is anything wrong with that). He had a great line saying “we do not need bigger government, we need smarter government” which I thought was a well-positioned line against the opposition. Obama used, what David Meerman Scott would term as, “gobbledygook” meaning useless political jargon to explain situations in the White House and spoke AT the American people throughout the night. I would not say it was a great speech, but that is what you get when you cover the entire country.
There were two notable moments in his speech for me. One was during one of his gimmies. A gimmie is a line that is pretty much guaranteed applause and Obama knows how to work it. At each one of them his standbys (like Al Franken) shot up like a cannonball to clap as if being the first one to stand gets you a special sticker from the President… for all I know it might. After the press showed Franken usually the rest of the chamber stood and applauded. His best gimmie to me was about Israel.
I am an extremely proud Israel advocate. I love the state of Israel. I am an orthodox Jew who lived there for a year and visited the country about 7 times. His statements in defense of Israel always get me, the just do. I believe it is in the US best interest to continue its friendship with the only stable democracy in the Middle East and the fact that Israeli innovation has saved countless American lives, and the fact that Israel is a country that needs America to stay alive…ok I loved surged right there (I will save that for another post). So I enjoyed that.
When talking about his transparency it is important to remember that he left out drones…awkward.
Finally at the end of his speech he did something everyone was expecting but what I thought was a pretty smart move. He found a way to use the speech to make Congress and the Senate accountable for the gun deaths. He used the phrase “just one vote” (referencing that he wants just one vote for stricter gun laws). He said that “if the representatives have to vote no, then they vote no” which he knows is a hot button issue. Democrats in not only purple and red districts but even in light blue districts would have a problem with this vote. He also knows that voting against it would make them into complete buffoons. While Obama may be able to get the universal background checks through the House and Senate I think he knows that an assault weapons ban is going to be pretty close to impossible but he put the representatives in the hot seat anyway… kinda threw this own Democrats under the buss on this one. He put the situation a certain way saying “the families deserve one vote” and making it the focal point of his speech. He talked about the missed “birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries.” He did a great job selling it, but we will see if it sticks.
The full transcript is on Mediaite.com and below you can watch the full hour or the last ten minutes if you want. I would suggest sticking with the last 10 minutes.
At the end of the night the Republican Party stunned me once again with their sheer stupidity by having a divided response. It is not enough that everyone in the country thinks that republicans can’t get their act together but that they show it like this is absurd. Rubio was charismatic, emotional, and very impressive I thought. Who cares if he needed some water I thought his emotional appeal was solid and the Republicans need a candidate like this for the next election. I did not watch Rand Paul…the Bruins were in a shootout with the Rangers…then again I did not want to watch Rand Paul.
I think what I gathered from this State of the Union was that, as much as I love political speeches (it is something that I may want to go into when I “grow up”) I do not know how effective anyone can be when trying to speak about the entire country. Obama did do a great job at trying to engage the crowed for the full hour and had a few moments when he truly was engaging. He spoke with vigor and used his hands very well. I would say that he made the best of what he had to work with, tasked with speaking about the entire nation and everything in the world that is happening he did the best he could.
STOU Grade: B+