Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Staying on message

One of the explanations we've given for CDC's long silence about bird flu until recently is that Director Gerberding, ever the pliant Bushie, refused to go "off message." The message was bioterrorism, not pandemic disease of natural origin. Hence no signal to state and local health departments that getting ready was a priority, no demand that vaccine makers start exploring new technologies, no imploring Congress to shore up public health infrastructure instead of pushing Big Pharma giveaways for phantom bioterrorist threats.

Now post-Katrina, bird flu is on the agenda, but the message machine keeps grinding on. The following has been widely reported elsewhere, but we just can't help doing so, too. It's just too typical of this administration.
Career appointees at the Department of Agriculture were stunned last week to receive e-mailed instructions that include Bush administration "talking points" -- saying things such as "President Bush has a clear strategy for victory in Iraq" -- in every speech they give for the department.
"The President has requested that all members of his cabinet and sub-cabinet incorporate message points on the Global War on Terror into speeches, including specific examples of what each agency is doing to aid the reconstruction of Iraq," the May 2 e-mail from USDA speechwriter Heather Vaughn began. (Al Kamen, WaPo)
Here are some talking points, taken from the actual administration memo, which you can see here (.pdf):
  • Several topics I'd like to talk about today -- Farm Bill, trade with Japan, WTO, avian flu, animal ID -- but before I do, let me touch on a subject people always ask about . . . progress in Iraq.

The President's Strategy
  • But revitalization is underway. President Bush has a clear strategy for victory in Iraq structured along three tracks -- political, economic and security -- to assist Iraqis in establishing a government that provides for and is accountable to its people.

  • As he said, this strategy "incorporates every aspect of American power, with assistance from agencies across the federal government."

  • USDA is one of those agencies -- we've had a continuous presence in Iraq since the first USDA advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture arrived in Baghdad in 2003.
Etc., etc., complete with three examples of how to make the transition from what your audience thought you were going to talk about to what the Bushies want you to talk about: how the obvious Iraq screw-up is really a Grand Plan.

Forget about the " Farm Bill, trade with Japan, WTO, avian flu, animal ID." In other words, "Enough about you. Let's talk about me."