Obama’s “I Am Not a Crook” Moment


Washington’s Blog
September 21, 2013

America’s top liberal communications expert is George Lakoff.  Professor Lakoff (who we’ve previously interviewed) points out that when a politician says “Not X”, people usually think of X:

I wrote a book called, Don’t Think of an Elephant! The title made a basic point: Negating a frame activates that frame. If you activate the other side’s frame, you just help the other side, as Nixon found out when he said, “I am not a crook,” which made people think of him as a crook.

President Obama just said:

This is the United States of America — we’re not some banana republic, this is not a deadbeat nation, we don’t run out on our tab.

***

We can’t just not pay our bills.”

What Lakoff and other political psychologists explain is that what most Americans – and people all over the world – will hear is:

America is a banana republic, a deadbeat nation, which can’t pay its bills.

Of course, there is some basis for accusing the U.S. of becoming a banana republic … a deadbeat which can’t pay its bills.

But the focus of this post is on Obama’s Nixon moment … invoking the exact image which he is trying to avoid.

Obama has failed to learn the most basic concept from the psychology of politics.


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