Heldman Caroline Bush Media Frames Paper


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Heldman Caroline Bush Media Frames Paper

  1. 1. “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”: Media Frames of Bush Administration Policy Issues Caroline Heldman Occidental College cheldman@oxy.edu Abstract This paper examines the Bush Administration’s framing of major policy initiatives, and print media coverage of these issues, to determine what role the press played in conveying White House messages to the public. First, I analyze Iraq War coverage and find that reporters generally regurgitated White House messages as a result of the “rally around the flag” effect, described as complicit coverage. Next, I assess media coverage of the Bush Administration’s policy agenda prior to 9/11 and do not find complicit coverage. Lastly, media coverage of domestic policies post-9/11 is assessed to determine if the “rally around the flag” effect extended to issues beyond the Iraq War. Post-9/11 coverage was not complicit, suggesting that heightened presidential power through media coverage only occurs with military actions that are directly linked (at least rhetorically) to the national crisis or threat at hand. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Erinn Carter for her tireless research assistance on this project. I would also like to thank Tony Barnstone, David Adler, James Pfiffner, Todd Belt, Nancy Kassenbaum, Tom Tripp, and Lori Han Cox for comments on earlier drafts of this project. Prepared for delivery at the conference on Evaluating the George W. Bush Presidency, University of Hawaii at Hilo, July 29th – 31st, 2009.
  2. 2. Table of Contents Introduction 2 The Presidential-Press Relationship 3 Print Media Coverage of the Iraq War 7 Print Media Coverage of the Policy Agenda Pre-9/11 23 Print Media Coverage of the Policy Agenda Post-9/11 40 Discussion and Conclusion 58 Bibliography 60 _______________ Appendix A: Inter-Coder Reliability Analysis for Iraq War Datasets 65 Appendix B: Codebooks and Coding Frames for Iraq War Datasets 67 Appendix C: Inter-Coder Reliability Analysis for Pre-9/11 Policy Datasets 75 Appendix D: Codebooks and Coding Frames for Pre-9/11 Policy Datasets 81 Appendix E: Inter-Coder Reliability Analysis for Post-9/11 Policy Datasets 122 Appendix F: Codebooks and Coding Frames for Post-9/11 Policy Datasets 127 1
  3. 3. Introduction The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001, left an indelible scar on the American landscape, and ushered in a new era of presidential politics. In the wake of this tragedy, President George W. Bush vastly expanded the power of the presidency, mostly in the name of national security. His Administration’s artful use of Executive Orders, signing statements, “secret” programs such as wiretapping, and skirting of the Geneva Convention are but a few examples of this seemingly systematic expansion. Since Clinton Rossiter (1956) first claimed that presidential power lay in formal powers granted this office through the Constitution, political scientists have actively examined presidential power and its evolution over time. Richard Neustadt (1960) argues that the power of the presidency lies in his/her power to persuade Washington insiders, “beltway” insiders, and the public. This model highlights the dependency of the presidential office on the persuasive charisma of its occupant. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s (1974) theory of the imperial presidency is that presidential power has reached a dangerous level for democracy because entities that are meant to check presidential power – congress, “watchdog” interest groups, an active citizenry, and media – have atrophied. Both of these classic theories are apropos to the primary question of this paper: what role did media play in expanding presidential power during the George W. Bush presidency? Did they serve their textbook democratic watchdog function? Serve as a mouthpiece for the Administration, thereby enabling constitutionally questionable growth of presidential power? Both? I approach these questions by analyzing White House “marketing” of its major policies, and compare this marketing to media coverage of the same policies. This rather long paper is divided into five sections. The first section of the paper provides a brief description of the contemporary presidential-press relationship. The second section analyzes print media coverage of the Second Gulf War to determine its level of journalistic objectivity. I find that complicit coverage prevailed. The third section investigates media coverage of President Bush’s policies pre-9/11 to see whether biased Iraq War coverage was unique. The fourth section examines coverage of policy post-9/11 to uncover whether the White House enjoyed complicit coverage for other policy initiatives during the “rally around the flag” period post-9/11. The fifth and final section discusses implications of the findings for presidential power. 2
  4. 4. The Presidential-Press Relationship The contemporary presidential-press relationship is marked by presidents “going public,” increasing inter-dependence, and the “rally around the flag effect.” Each of these is summarized in turn. Presidents “going public” with their image and policies started with John F. Kennedy (Kernell 1986), and those since have controlled their image as tightly as possible by spinning stories and limiting information. Presidential reliance on public appeals to control their image and pass major policy initiatives has led to a streamlining and tightening of information released to the press. “The mass media is the principal vehicle through which [the White House] influences public opinion” (Grossman and Kumar 1981:4). According to Rick Shenkman (2001), press conferences no longer hold the importance of past years because the White House uses them to “advance their own agendas, frustrating reporters who [want] to find out what the administration’s position [is] on various issues” (1). The pressure for George W. Bush’s Administration to control the terms of high-profile policy debates was evident in steps they have taken to do so. The Administration attempted to “spin” media coverage of Iraq by adopting new rules for press briefings on March 6, 2003. Reporters were assigned seats, called upon in a pre-determined order, and not allowed to ask follow-up questions. Helen Thomas, a United Press International reporter who frequently asked tough questions about Iraq, was not called upon during this press conference. Reporters from Time, USA Today, Newsweek, and The Washington Post were also overlooked (Johnson, 2003). Additionally, the Department of Education paid news columnist Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote Bush’s education initiative, No Child Left Behind, and syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher received $21,500 to promote the “Healthy Marriage” initiative (Kurtz, 2005). In addition to paying reporters to promote policies, the Bush Administration produced newspaper articles and prepackaged “news” stories that were disseminated to newspapers and television stations throughout the nation without identifying their source. These stories commended the Administration’s promotion of science education, praised President Bush’s tutoring program, and promoted Medicare drug policies (Pear 2005). The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan arm of Congress, investigated these attempts by the White House to control the terms of debates. The GAO ruled that the Bush Administration’s “covert propaganda” was illegal, and that “the failure of an agency to identity itself as the source 3
  5. 5. of a prepackaged news story misleads the viewing public by encouraging the audience to believe that the broadcasting news organization developed the information” (Poling 2005: 2). These actions on the part of the Bush Administration illustrate the pressure presidents are under to control media messages because they influence public dialogue, and ultimately, the passage of policy initiatives. President Clinton learned about the power of public/media dialogue to sabotage policy passage with his failure to enact health care reform in 1993, despite high levels of public support for reform (Jacobs and Shapiro, 1995). The Bush White House also sought to control media messages through their selection of press corps members. One press corps member, Jim Guckert (a.k.a. Jeff Gannon), was issued daily press corps credentials even though he was using an alias and working for Talon News whose parent organization is a known Republican activist group (GOPUSA) (Froomkin 2005). Furthermore, Guckert/Gannon attended press briefings four days before his employer was registered as a news organization with the White House, and had previously been denied a Congressional press pass due to his lack of proper credentials. Given the tight security after September 11th, it seems implausible that the White House could be unaware of Guckert/Gannon’s background. As he sat in close proximity to the President, Guckert/Gannon posed some obviously biased questions, including one about how the President could work with the Senate Democrats “who seem to have divorced themselves from reality” (Kurtz 2005). The details of how and why Guckert/Gannon became a member of the White House press corps are not known, but given the high stakes of controlling the message, the benefits of his presence are obvious. The modern presidential-press relationship is also marked by increasing inter- dependence. People born in the 1970s and later take the omnipresent existence of mass media in their lives for granted, but the contemporary environment in which ideas and images can spread through the social consciousness of the culture like wildfire is a recent phenomenon. This new media environment has changed politics in many ways. Citizens have greater access to information about their political leaders, campaigns revolve around candidates instead of the political parties, and candidates appeal directly to citizens to gain office and support for their policies. The media-intensive, candidate-centered nature of contemporary politics has brought with it an increased interdependency in the presidential-press relationship. 4
  6. 6. Presidents have greater resources for conveying their message to the public than in the past, and more reason to control the images since “going public,” so they leverage reporter coverage with access (Grossman and Kumar 1981). The White House is dependent upon the press to convey messages to the public, and the press must establish a favorable relationship with the administration in order to maintain access to White House stories. Not so hidden agendas underlie this mutually dependent relationship. It is within the best interest of presidents and their staff to “spin” messages to the press, given that reporters from even reputable news establishments are motivated to “dig up dirt” to advance in their profession. On the other hand, reporters face a counteracting pressure from the White House. According to Washington Post editor and one time reporter Meg Greenfield, reporters have to engage in a quid pro quo relationship or face being frozen out of “inside stories” and favorable press room treatment (Greenfield, 2001). This tension creates a tug-of-war for control of how specific policies are talked about. At certain points in recent history, the president has dominated, while at other times, the press has enjoyed an advantage in this on-going struggle. Members of the press are also motivated to serve the public good by providing information to citizens. This sometimes involves exposing government wrong doing or secret internal deliberations. This was the case during the later years of the Vietnam War, when many reporters were openly critical of the Administration. The New York Times and the Washington Post published portions of the Pentagon Papers, documents leaked by Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg that detailed the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam. The press was also critical of the Bush Administration’s delayed response to Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast in 2005. Even reporters from traditionally conservative news outlets vocally criticized the President for belated national government response to the crisis. For example, Fox News correspondents Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera were among many journalists who were openly disparaging of the Bush Administration’s response to this natural disaster. Rivera, holding a child in his arms, broke down into tears when describing the conditions at the Superdome shelter and the lack of assistance provided to those still trapped in the city of New Orleans. These examples illustrate the intense pressure faced by the White House in an age when mass media enables rapid communication of news that can make or break a presidency in the eyes of the public. Another notable aspect of the presidential-press relationship is the “rally around the flag” effect occurs during times of crisis and uncertainty, describes a high level of public support for 5
  7. 7. the president and the media. John Mueller (1973) notes that the rally effect occurs with “an event which is international, and involves the United States and particularly the president directly . . . [I]t must be specific, dramatic, and sharply focused” (208). During times of crisis, the President acts as a type of “living flag” in which the public looks to in order to bring stability back to the country (Hetherington and Nelson 2003). “The irony of these events is that the rally effect of a jump in approval of the president can occur whether of not the president has acted successfully in an international crisis” (Pfiffner 1998, 42). The rally effect has previously occurred with the Bay of Pigs invasion, U.S. military intervention in Korea, the Truman Doctrine, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. What was so unusual about the 9/11 rally effect, however, was its lengthy duration. Instead of the typical three to four months, the 9/11 rally effect persisted for over two years when finally, in April of 2004, presidential approval ratings ceased to be tied to the terrorist attacks (Davis and Silver, 2005). I expect to find that this historical expression of support for the president altered the delicate balance of power in the presidential-press relationship, thus giving President Bush the ability to shape public opinion through favorably biased coverage of war in Iraq. The rally around the flag effect makes it difficult for reporters to ask the hard questions, since public opinion is so strongly leaning in one direction. ABC anchor Sam Donaldson stated it well when he pointed out that it is tough for reporters during wartime “to press very hard when they know that a large segment of the population doesn’t want to see a president, whom they have anointed, having to squirm.” (Johnson 2003, 4). Dana Priest, national security reporter for The Washington Post, reports that stories that questioned the basis for the war in Iraq prompted reader letters "questioning your patriotism and suggesting that you somehow be delivered into the hands of the terrorists" (Kurtz 2005). The rally effect put pressure on reporters to rely on messages coming from the White House regarding the war in Iraq as opposed to producing more objective analysis of the situation. The question is how much did this affect coverage? In the presidential-press tug-of-war contest, the rally around the flag effect can decisively tilt the balance of power toward the Commander-in-Chief. Evolutions in the presidential-press relationship imply coziness between the White House and media that runs counter to the modern advent of objective journalism.1 In theory, elite 1 Objective or professional journalism emerged in the 1930s. Prior to that time, presses engaged in outright partisan advocacy, and at one time were predominately operated by the major political parties (McChesney, 2004). 6
  8. 8. attempts to convince the public of certain policy positions are “checked” by reporters who cover topics with a more objective lens. But media objectivity is compromised when coverage is less than critical of elite messages, or coverage reflects its own biases. The next section highlights elite use of agenda setting, priming, and framing to influence public opinion and policy support, and examines each in terms of Iraq War framing and coverage. Print Media Coverage of the Iraq War Political elites and media coverage influence public opinion through agenda setting, priming, and framing (Terkildsen and Schnell, 1997; Krosnick and Brannon, 1993; Krosnick and Kinder, 1990; Iyengar and Kinder, 1987; McCombs, 1981). Agenda setting – putting certain topics on the agenda and not others – increases topic salience among the public (Terkildsen and Schnell, 1997; Iyengar and Kinder, 1987). Priming, or the emphasis on certain aspects of a story over others, changes the way citizens evaluate policies and politicians by placing more emphasis on certain issues or attributes than others (Terkildsen and Schnell, 1997; Krosnick, 1990; Iyengar and Kinder, 1987). Attributes that are emphasized become the yardstick for evaluating public policy and officials. The framing of political issues – the narratives or “internal story patterns” (Terkildsen and Schnell, 1997) that describe the core elements of the problem – shape voter policy evaluations. Issue frames influence causal attribution for policy problems (Terkildsen and Schnell, 1997; Gamson, 1992; Iyengar, 1987; Kinder and Sanders, 1990), policy preferences (Kellstedt, 2000; Jacoby, 2000; Iyengar, 1991), perceived deservedness of different policy recipient groups (Nelson and Kinder, 1996), and presidential performance ratings (Iyengar, 1987). Issue frames can be overtly stated or more subtly introduced through visual or verbal symbolic means (e.g., slogans), stereotypes that play upon pre-existing notions of people or events, historical analogies, and iconic visual images (Nelson and Kinder, 1996: 1057-1058). Previous scholarship finds that, for the most part, public opinion is shaped through public-elite interaction, with elites establishing the terms of the debate (Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock, 1991). Media coverage tends to reflect the frames presented by political elites; sudden shifts in policy framing occur with major events and/or elite efforts to alter existing frames (Gamson and Lasch, 1983; Gamson and Modigliani, 1987). In short, although “old media” journalists strive for neutrality and fairness in their coverage of political events, coverage is 7
  9. 9. heavily influenced by the way in which public officials talk about these events. This section assesses coverage of President Bush’s spin on the Second Gulf War in the wake of 9/11 to determine the extent to which print journalists echoed the “spin” on the war from the White House. Data and Methods Content analysis and two datasets are used for this initial stage of analysis. The White House Dataset includes communications from President Bush on the Iraq War. The Media Dataset includes articles from Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News and World Report, America’s three top-selling magazines, from September 12, 2001 to May 8, 2003.2 These dates span from the day after the September 11, 2001 attacks to seven days after President Bush declared that the war in Iraq was both successful and complete.3 The final Media Dataset includes 412 articles. Print media coverage was selected over television coverage for this analysis because it is broadly considered to be more substantive and objective. Therefore, if bias is found in this more objective medium, it was likely heightened in television coverage. The White House Dataset includes press briefings, press gaggles, radio addresses, and Presidential speeches given during the same time period. The final dataset includes 361 communications from the White House. Two trained coders worked on the project, including the author. We coded information about who was representing the administration, as well as catch phrases used, primary frames given to justify the war, the emphasis placed on the topic, and a variety of other pertinent variables. Inter-coder reliability was acceptable using both absolute agreement and Cohen’s Kappa measures. A detailed discussion of inter-coder reliability for all datasets is included in Appendix A. Codebooks and coding frames for the Iraq War datasets are found in Appendix B. 2 This research replicates the protocol used by past scholars studying media coverage (Terkildsen and Schnell, 1997; Gilens, 1996; Hunt and Rubin, 1993). These three magazine publications combined have been established as a solid source for media analysis in previous studies based on “broad circulation, readership accessibility, and the ideological range of their editorial positions (Hunt and Rubin, 1993; Davis, 1992; Gamson and Modigliani, 1987)” (in Terkildsen and Schnell, 1997: 883). Furthermore, these weeklies, with a combined circulation of over 10 million readers, are the only sources that can reach a mass audience, comparable to national television news, and still offer content similar to the major daily newspapers (Willings, 1993). Furthermore, while several major print news sources have admitted biased coverage in support of the war in Iraq (The New York Times, The Washington Post). 3 We are not proposing that the war in Iraq has come to an end, but this time period provides a window of analysis that includes the months leading up to the Iraqi war and the period of most intense fighting. 8
  10. 10. The “Selling” of the War Presidents and other elites use verbal combat to “sell” war to their constituents; “rhetoric is an essential part of ‘real war’” (Kuusisto, 1998:603). Riika Kuusisto analyzed the selling of the first Gulf War (1990-1991) and found that “besides framing the conflicts as heroic battles or tragic feuds, the Western leaders employed various metaphors to make the distant events and their politics seem significant and coherent” (1998: 603). Foreign events are particularly susceptible to framing effects because they are geographically far away, necessitating public reliance on the stories and interpretations of political leaders. The marketing campaign of Gulf War II is compared to Gulf War I in this essay to illustrate that both campaigns involved decisions made to sell their respective “products.” The Bush White House used three primary stories/frames4 to justify going to war in Iraq: (1) Hussein sponsors terrorism (hereafter referred to as the Terrorist Frame), (2) liberation of the Iraqi people from an evil dictator (the Liberation Frame), and (3) Hussein’s WMD pose an imminent threat (the WMD Frame). The coding frame was designed to pick up on multiple frames, but it soon became clear that these three themes dominated the landscape of White House communications on the war.5 Unlike the first Gulf War, which was sold to the American people as an international conflict, the second Gulf War was predominantly framed as a domestic threat. The Terrorist Frame typically mentioned or implied links between Hussein and al-Qaeda (and by association or explicit link, September 11th), whereas the Liberation Frame often mentioned bringing democracy and freedom to a long oppressed people. The WMD Frame frequently referenced Hussein’s past use of WMD and his apparent inability to tell the truth. The Terrorist and WMD frames painted the war as a response to a domestic threat by tying Iraq into the events of September 11th, and suggesting that American soil is in danger from WMD that can strike from afar. The Liberation Frame conjured emotions of patriotism and altruism for people on the other side of the world, similar to the stories used to sell the first Gulf War. Even the naming of the 4 Primary frames versus other frames were fairly easy to identify because they were almost always mentioned first and emphasized in White House communications and media coverage by more extensive coverage than secondary frames. 5 We analyzed the primary frame of each communication as well as up to two secondary frames. The secondary frame patterns mirrored those of the primary frames, so for purposes of clarity, only primary frame figures are reported. 9
  11. 11. war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was an effort to persuade the American public to think in terms of the Liberation Frame. Chart 1 shows the percentage of White House communications (speeches, press conferences, etc.) that employed each of the three major frames. Nearly half of the communications coming from the White House mentioned the WMD Frame as the primary reason for going to war with Iraq, clearly the most popular frame of the three. Chart 1 Percentage of White House Communications Using Each Frame (n=320) 60% 49.1% 50% 40% 33.8% 30% 17.2% 20% 10% 0% Terrorism Liberation WMD Frame Frame Frame One-third of White House communications conveyed the Liberation Frame, while two-thirds framed the war as a domestic threat (the Terrorist and WMD frames combined). The selling of the war represented a tightly controlled marketing plan that was highly successful in conveying certain messages to the American public.6 6 In fact, the Bush Administration continued to sell the war using all three of these primary frames for another two years. Condoleezza Rice appeared on Tim Russert on August 9, 2004, and stated that, “the president has been steadfast in his belief that Saddam Hussein was a threat and that he was a threat that had to be dealt with. This president had to make a difficult decision in a post-9/11 environment in which you do not let threats materialize and then hurt you. . . . And the American people will have a good democratic partner in Iraq that will be stable and that will not be threat to this region. Because after all, to have Saddam Hussein, this terrible tyrant who used weapons of 10
  12. 12. Significant differences were found in terms of the primary frame of each communication pre- war (September 11, 2001 to March 20, 2003) versus after the start of the war (March 21, 2003 to May 8, 2003). Use of the domestic threat frames fell precipitously, while the Liberation Frame shot up pre- to post- (Chart 2). Nineteen percent of pre-war communications presented the Terror Frame, while only 5% of wartime communications mentioned this frame (p=.000). Similarly, the use of the WMD Frame dropped to less than half its pre-war level (53.6% down to 20.5%) (p=.000). The Liberation Frame jumped from a pre-war level of 27.2% to 75% of communications at the start of the war (p=.000). Chart 2 Percentage of White House Communications Using Primary Frame after Start of War (n=320) 75.0% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20.5% 20% 4.5% 10% 0% Terrorism Liberation WMD Frame Frame Frame The Bush Administration’s strategy for selling the war clearly shifted after troops were engaged in heavy combat in Iraq, from a domestic threat focus to emphasis on America’s role as liberator for the Iraqi people. mass destruction, cavorted with terrorists, we’d gone to war against him before, that was a threat that you could not leave; the most dangerous man in the middle of the world’s most dangerous region.” 11
  13. 13. The existence of WMD was discussed in 75% of communications coming from the White House, whether or not it was the primary frame of the communication (Chart 3).7 Chart 3 Percentage of White House Communications Mentioning WMD (n=361) No Mention of WMD 24.9% Iraq/Hussein Mixed Message has WMD about WMD 74.0% 1.1% WMD were an important point in selling the Iraqi war, as evidenced by its mention in three- fourths of White House communications. Among the communications that made mention of WMD, 98.5% stated, without reservation, that Iraq/Hussein possessed them. The crucial elements of the White House campaign to sell the war – Hussein being a terrorist threat who possesses WMD – resonated with the American public. According to an October, 2003 PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll, many Americans internalized messages from the administration that ran counter to available evidence.8 Despite the lack of evidence for a connection between Iraq and 9/11, 22% of the American public believed that “Iraq was directly 7 Two measures of WMD were included in the coding frame: whether this was the primary or secondary frame of the communication/article, and whether WMD were mentioned at all. Chart 3 displays the second measure, whether the communication/article made mention of WMD. 8 Steven Kull, “Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War.” The PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll, October 2, 2003. 12
  14. 14. involved in carrying out the September 11th attacks,” while 35% thought that Iraq gave substantial support to al-Qaeda. A Washington Post poll of August, 2003, found that 69% of Americans thought it somewhat or very likely that “Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th terrorist attacks.”9 When it comes to WMD, the CIA’s chief weapons inspector, David Kay, reported on October 2, 2003 that no WMD had been found in Iraq. He also reported that inspectors had discovered no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program. However, 22% of Americans continued to believe that the U.S. had located WMD in Iraq, and 20% thought that Iraq had used chemical or biological weapons during Operation Iraqi Freedom. President George W. Bush’s selling of the Iraq war was effective, despite the lack of evidence of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda and the existence of WMD. The summer 2002 Downing Street Memo, (reporting on meetings between British and U.S. officials in Washington) indicated that even America’s staunch ally was aware that the reasoning for the war was questionable: Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN [United Nations] route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action… It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.10 (Emphasis added.) As this memo excerpt indicates, the Bush Administration’s two chief frames used to sell the war – the Terrorist and WMD frames – were not seen by the British as supported by available intelligence. But despite this, a majority of people believed these claims, which, in all probability, inflated levels of public support for the war in Iraq. A majority of Americans supported the war in Iraq when the White House proposed the idea in 2002 until February, 2005, when for the first time, over 50% of the American public reported that the United States “should 9 Washington Post Poll, “Questions on War in Iraq.” August 12, 2003. 10 Actual language from the Downing Street Memo, quoted in David Manning, “The Secret Downing Street Memo.” The Sunday Times – Britain, May 1, 2005. 13
  15. 15. have stayed out” of Iraq.11 By October of 2005, only 41% of Americans reported that going to war with Iraq was the “right thing to do.”12 Several conclusions can be drawn here. First, the White House waged a campaign to sell the war in Iraq well before the Administration acknowledged this. Secondly, this campaign was effective: the major theme of domestic threat used to market the war continued to resonate with the American public for over two years after the start of the war. The role that print media coverage played in this successful White House public relations campaign is examined next. Research Questions Three research questions are of interest in this first of three stages of analysis: R1: Did print media coverage of the second Iraq War reflect agenda-setting from the White House? R2: Did a majority of print media coverage of the second Iraq War reflect the frames used by the White House? R3: Did a majority of print media coverage of the second Iraq War reflect the priming of the White House? Framing Effects In order to test whether White House framing of the war was reflected in media coverage during the period examined, I identified a fairly complete set of stories being told about reasons for going to war in addition to the three primary frames presented by the administration, including: spreading democracy, American imperialism/colonialism, oil resources, President Bush’s political gain, revenge/finishing George H.W. Bush’s work, and defense industry build- 11 CBS News Poll, “Poll: Fading Support for the Iraq War.” October 10, 2005. 12 Ibid. CBS News Poll 14
  16. 16. up.13 As Chart 4 shows, 75% of print media articles used the primary frames presented by the White House to sell the war. Chart 4 Primary Frames Used by the White House (light bars) and Media (dark bars) 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Terrorism Liberation WMD Frame Imperialism Democracy Political Gain Defense Oil Frame Revenge Frame Frame Frame Frame Frame Industry Frame Frame The three frames presented by the White House were by far the most popular frames in media coverage of the war. Nearly half of the articles offered domestic threat (Terrorist and WMD frames) as the primary reason for the war. 13 Of the 412 media articles analyzed, only 64 percent actually mentioned a reason for the war. More than one-third of the articles failed to analyze why we were or soon would be in Iraq. The lack of “meaty” articles on the subject was a thorn in our side. About half way through the coding process it became necessary to go back and add a code for articles that mentioned Iraq extensively but did not really pertain to the war, e.g., stories about the French illegally shipping goods to Iraq, troop entertainment, rebuilding contracts, Bill Maher getting fired, the sexual proclivities of Hussein’s eldest son, tacky art found in Hussein’s palaces, the pillaging of the museums, the coverage of the war in prime time comedy, and Queen Noor, to name a few. Our first finding then, not related to any specific hypothesis, is that media coverage of the war was often slim on substantive. 15
  17. 17. Agenda Setting Effects Agenda-setting effects are tested by looking at when the major themes of the war were put on the agenda, and by whom. The first and most obvious measure of agenda setting is when the idea of going into Iraq first emerged. The connection between the events of 9/11 and war in Iraq is not organic. This connection was skillfully drawn by the Bush Administration, selected from many different strategies available to the White House. While the war in Iraq is now commonly thought of in terms of the larger war on terrorism, this is a reflection of the success of the selling of the war and not an inevitable state. Average Americans were not turning their sights towards Iraq on September 12, 2001. The first official mention of the Iraqi war came from the White House on September 17, 2001 in a briefing in which President Bush, referring to Iraq, stated that “anybody who harbors terrorists needs to fear the United States and the rest of the free world. Anybody who houses terrorists, encourages terrorism will be held accountable.” When asked about possible Iraqi involvement in 9-11 during this same briefing, he replied “We are gathering all evidence on this particular crime and other crimes against freedom-loving people.” It is notable that all three centerpieces of the selling of the war were presented again on the one-month anniversary of 9/11. After alluding to an al-Qaeda/Iraq connection, President Bush stated that, “There’s no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know he’s been developing weapons of mass destruction. . . We’re watching him very carefully.” The story being told here is that Saddam Hussein is a domestic threat because of his links to al-Qaeda and 9/11, and his WMD. Furthermore, the Iraqi people are victims of his nefarious dictatorship in this statement – the core of the Liberation Frame. The timeline below shows that the White House put Iraq on the public agenda before reporters, shortly after 9-11, first by aligning Hussein with al-Qaeda, and a few weeks later, by presenting all three primary frames in a major speech by the President on the war on terrorism. Media coverage of Iraq lagged about a month behind and reflected the Administration’s selling points early on. Figure 114 14 This media dataset only includes three sources and is not necessarily representative of all print or other media for that matter. The topic of war in Iraq and the three primary frames of the war could have emerged earlier in media coverage. 16
  18. 18. Emergence of Major War Frames by the White House and Media WH 1st Mention of Iraq WH 1st Mention of (Post 9-11) & Terror Frame Liberation & WMD Frames | | 9/17/01 10/11/01 10/29/01 12/26/01 | | Media 1st Mention of Iraq Media 1st Mention of (post-9-11), Terror Frame, Liberation Frame & WMD Frame The analysis up to this point suggests that the Bush Administration had a clear plan to sell the war in Iraq shortly after 9-11, given the early presentation and unification of the three primary frames in White House communications of various sorts. Given their content, these frames were not calibrated to garner support for United Nations weapons inspections; the selling of the war began early and ran often. Priming Effects Priming effects were tested by comparing the importance placed on different aspects of Iraq by the White House and print media. I compared the popularity of the three primary frames at different times using a new variable that breaks the White House dataset into quadrants of 90 units each to provide enough cases for comparison between the datasets.15 Chart 5 shows the percentage of communications/articles using the Terrorist Frame as the primary frame in each quadrant. 15 We attempted this analysis by month, but many months had too few cases in both datasets for comparison. We also tried to analyze this question by quadrants based on time, but both datasets had too few cases to analyze in the first two quadrants. Our quadrants based on the White House dataset are categorized as follows: Quadrant 1 – 9/17/01 to 9/19/02 Quadrant 2 – 9/20/02 to 11/18/02 Quadrant 3 – 11/19/02 to 2/10/03 Quadrant 4 – 2/11/03 to 5/8/03 17
  19. 19. Chart 5 Percent of Communications/ Articles Using Primary Terrorist Frame by Quadrant White House Media 60% Percent of Communications/Articles with 50% Terrorist as Primary Frame 40% 35.7% 30% 22.2% 20% 15.7% 12.5% 11.1% 12.5% 10% 8.0% 5.9% 0% Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4 The use of the Terrorist Frame by the news media appears to be dependent upon White House priming of this frame in the first three quadrants, but as media use accelerates in the fourth quadrant, White House use of the frame continues to decline. Further analysis shows that this media bump can be explained by one event sponsored by the White House: Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003 speech to the United Nations in which he presented evidence of a link between al-Qaeda, Iraq, and WMD. The percentage of articles using the Terrorist Frame following Powell’s speech skyrocketed to 29% until the end of February, when they return to pre-speech levels of about 10%.16 This indicates that this one action on the part of the Bush Administration had an unusually potent priming effect. Chart 6 shows the relationship between White House communications and media articles that include the Liberation Frame. 16 The start of the war in Iraq does not account for the difference in the fourth quadrant. Nineteen percent of White House communications used the Terrorist Frame as the primary frame prior to the start of war, while 16 percent of media articles did the same. White House use of this frame dropped to 5 percent after the war began, and media use dropped to 4 percent. This uncanny similarity is further evidence of a priming effect. 18
  20. 20. Chart 6 Percent of Communications/ Articles Using Primary Liberation Frame by Quadrant White House Media 70% Percent of Communications/Articles with 67.5% 60% Liberation as Primary Frame 52.9% 50% 44.4% 40% 37.1% 28.9% 30% 25.9% 20% 20.6% 15.0% 10% 0% Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4 Chart 6 indicates a fairly close relationship between White House emphasis on the Liberation Frame and media articles that use this frame. This frame is initially more popular with the White House but declines steadily until it quadruples in the fourth quadrant. Media use of this frame is much higher in quadrant 2, but it then drops in line with the White House and skyrockets in quadrant 4. Early use of the Liberation Frame does not seem to be primed by the Bush Administration, but the subsequent drop and then dramatic rise in use suggests a major priming effect in the third and fourth quadrants. As Charts 6 and 7 indicate, White House priming effects with the media are not as tight in the time prior to the one-year anniversary of September 11, 2001, than after. This is no surprise given that the Administration first overtly set out a plan for war with Iraq on this anniversary occasion. Chart 7 shows the relationship between White House and media use of the WMD Frame. Chart 7 19
  21. 21. Percent of Communications/ Articles Using Primary WMD Frame by Quadrant White House Media 80% Percent of Communications/Articles with 72.5% 73.5% 70% WMD as Primary Frame 60% 55.4% 51.9% 50% 44.4% 40% 39.1% 30% 27.1% 20% 20.0% 10% 0% Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4 This chart provides visibly compelling evidence of a priming effect with the WMD Frame. This frame is more popular with print media than the White House in the first quadrant, but the latter three quadrants show the two moving together. It appears that once the Bush Administration presented the idea that Iraq possessed WMD in September, 2001, media coverage ran with the idea while the White House remained more tentative. Another interesting point to note is that while both the Bush Administration and media used WMD as the primary frame in nearly three- quarters of communications/articles in the third quadrant (November 19, 2002 to February 10, 2003), media use of this frame declined more steeply than that of the White House to the benefit of the Liberation Frame. Chart 8 shows the overall picture of media shifting gears in tandem with the White House in terms of what aspects of the war were emphasized. Chart 8 20
  22. 22. Use of Primary Frames Pre-war versus During War White House Media 78.7% 80.0% 75.0% 70.0% 60.0% 53.6% 48.8% 50.0% 40.0% 35.5% 27.2% 30.0% 19.2% 20.5% 17.0% 20.0% 15.7% 10.0% 4.5% 4.3% 0.0% Terrorist Terrorist in Liberation Liberation WMD Pre- WMD in Pre-War War Pre-War in War War War Primary Frames Pre-War and After Start This chart indicates that when the Bush Administration shifted focus from one primary frame to another, media coverage followed suit. All of these shifts are statistically significant from pre- to post- (p=.000 for all six shifts). In summary, print media articles reflected the three pillars of the Bush Administration’s marketing plan in their explanations for the war. Critics might point out that reporters were simply doing their job and reporting on information coming from the White House, but this is not the case because their coverage reflected active choices. The “primary frame” code was assigned to articles that explained the impending/current war in Iraq using a particular frame, and reporters by and large made the choice to adopt the frames of the Bush Administration despite knowledge of and access to other frames. Sometimes reporters would tell their story of the war without citing sources, and at other times they would endorse a certain frame by citing someone else, but either way, the ultimate responsibility for framing fell on the reporter’s shoulders. It is evident that reporter choice was involved, especially in retrospect, as frames were used without compelling evidence and in light of contradictory voices among political elites. With this said, 21
  23. 23. it’s not surprising that reporters relied so heavily on White House “spin” considering the interdependent presidential-press relationship, unusual Bush White House tactics to control their message, and the stakes involved in selling the idea of an expensive military operation. Complicit Coverage The analysis above shows that print media coverage of the Second Gulf War uncannily reflected White House attempts to set the agenda, prime, and frame coverage. Additionally, print media articles generally reflected positive slant towards war in Iraq, rarely mentioned opposition to or critiques of the war, and overwhelmingly reported that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) without questioning this claim. In short, print media coverage was complicit coverage, defined as defined as media reporting that conveys the White House position, typically using White House language and frames, without counter arguments, discussion of alternative frames, or noting opposition to the policy at hand. Several major news organizations admitted as much with mea culpas. On May 26, 2004, The New York Times published an historic admittance of biased coverage. After noting “an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of,” the editors stated, “we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not rigorous as it should have been.” This apology describes problems with reporting unsupported “facts” and priming certain aspects of coverage more than others: “Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were buried.” Soon after The New York Times apology was published, The Washington Post issued their mea culpa. The article notes the pressure that writers and editors felt, not only to report on the many different facets of the war, but to also present work that their audience was comfortable with. Reporters noted that “skeptical stories [about the war in Iraq] usually triggered hate mail ‘questioning your patriotism and suggesting that you somehow be delivered into the hands of the terrorists’” (Kurtz, 2004). The “rally around the flag” effect played a key role in pressuring print media outlets to engage in complicity coverage of the Iraq War during the first two years. 22
  24. 24. Print Media Coverage of the Policy Agenda Pre-9/11 The analysis in this section focuses on press coverage of President Bush’s policy agenda prior to 9/11 for comparative purposes. Was coverage complicit from the start of his first term, or did this type of coverage come about after 9/11? President Bush was only in office nine months when the terrorist attacks occurred, so one would expect that he was relatively popular among the general public during this time. Most presidents enjoy a “honeymoon” period, or what Pfiffner (1998) calls the “halo effect”: The first part of their term when public opinion is high, regardless of presidential action. “From Eisenhower through Clinton (with the exceptions of Reagan and Bush [senior]), every newly inaugurated president’s approval rating was ten percentage points or more greater than his election margin” (40). Public opinion polls during the first nine months of the Bush presidency, however, indicate that his halo was a bit rusty. He had just survived a nail-biter election which left some people questioning his legitimacy in the Oval Office. As Chart 9 shows, President Bush’s approval ratings were on the lower end of the spectrum relative to other media-age presidents, starting with Kennedy, at least for the first eight months.17 In September, Bush’s approval rating jumped from 55 percent to 90 percent. 17 Presidents Johnson and Ford are not included in this analysis because they were not elected to office and therefore did not experience a comparable halo effect period. 23
  25. 25. Presidential Job Approval of Media-Age Presidents, First Nine Months Source: Gallup Polls President Job Approval Ratings 100 90 80 Percent of Public Job Approval 70 President Kennedy 60 President Nixon President Carter 50 President Reagan President George H. W. Bush 40 President Clinton President George W. Bush 30 20 10 0 ry ay ly ril st ne er ch r be Ju gu Ap ua ob M ar Ju em Au br M ct O Fe pt Se First Nine Months of the Administration In addition to relatively low approval ratings leading up to September 11th, President Bush was second only to Bill Clinton in terms of negative job approval ratings during his first nine months in office. Chart 10 shows negative approval ratings for media-age presidents since Kennedy. 24
  26. 26. Chart 10 Negative Job Approval of Media-Age Presidents, First Nine Months Source: Gallup Polls President Job Approval Ratings 60 50 Percent of Public Job Disapproval 40 President Kennedy President Nixon President Carter 30 President Reagan President George H. W. Bush President Clinton President George W. Bush 20 10 0 ry ay ly ril st ne er ch r be Ju gu Ap ua ob M ar Ju em Au br M ct O Fe pt Se First Nine Months of the Administration It is safe to say that before September 11th, President Bush was a relatively unpopular, polarizing president compared to other media-age presidents. Therefore, I anticipate finding that coverage of the White House during this time was rather negative, despite an active six-point policy agenda with issues close to the hearts and minds of Americans. Media coverage of Bush’s policy agenda is analyzed to determine whether coverage was complicit pre-September 11th. Data and Methods As with the previous analysis of the Second Gulf War, both White House and media datasets were generated for the analysis of press coverage during President Bush’s first nine months in office. The White House Dataset is comprised of press briefings, press gaggles, radio addresses, and Presidential speeches that mention items on Bush’s policy agenda. President Bush clearly articulated his six-point policy agenda in his inaugural address on January 20, 2001, the “big six” as it would later be called by White House officials: Tax reform, education reform, faith-based initiatives, rebuilding the military, reforming Social Security, and reforming 25
  27. 27. Medicare. The White House Dataset contains 124 cases. A detailed discussion of inter-coder reliability for this datasets is included in Appendix C, and the codebooks and coding frames used for this second stage of the project are located in Appendix D. Six different media datasets were compiled, one for each policy topic put on the agenda by the Bush Administration during the first nine months of his presidency. Each dataset includes all articles mentioning the topic that appeared in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report from January 20, 2001 – the day of Bush’s inauguration – to September 11, 2001. Articles that were editorial in nature or only mentioned the topic in passing were dropped, leaving the following number of articles on each topic: Tax reform (92), education reform (24), faith-based initiatives (11), rebuilding the military (33), reforming Social Security (18), and reforming Medicare (10). The Bush Policy Agenda Pre-9/11 As with the Second Gulf War, the White House carefully crafted a marketing plan to “sell” each of these initiatives to the American people. We identified the frames for each policy topic by reading through all of the White House communications on the topic. Messages from the White House reflected six different frames crafted to generate support for the President’s tax cut plan: • Government Spending Frame: “Washington was built to spend,” and “the surplus isn’t the government’s money; it’s the people’s money.” • Working Class Frame: This tax cut is going to benefit the working class. Bush would often use an example of a waitress or other working class person. • Class Warfare Frame: Wealthy people pay an unfair share of taxes, and they should get a break like everyone else. • Small Business Frame: Small business owners will benefit from this tax cut that will keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive. Bush often introduced a “tax family” who would benefit from his plan. • Marriage Penalty Frame: The current tax structure penalizes marriage. Reducing the marriage penalty will build community. • Economic Stimulus Frame: Tax cut plan will “strengthen the economy” 26
  28. 28. President Bush crafted three different frames to generate support for his education reform plan: • Local Control Frame: We should have “deep faith in the ability of local people” to run their own schools. Control should be at the local level. • High Standards Frame: Higher standards should be established so that kids who get shuffled through, e.g., inner city children and those who don’t speak English, will get the same education as other kids. The goal is to “close the inexcusable achievement gap that exists among students attending public schools across this country – primarily among minority students and economically disadvantaged students.” • Accountability Frame: Increased accountability is needed for schools. More federal money should be spent to promote greater accountability. It’s notable that there are seemingly contradictory frames for this policy – control at the local level but enforcement of accountability at the federal level. Similarly, the Working Class and Class Warfare frames above seem contradictory in that one is selling the idea that the tax cut will help the working class while the other says it will benefit the wealthy. Frames are often used to appeal to specific constituencies, and are thus used at different times and in front of different audiences. The seeming contradictions are consistent with the purpose of framing, which is to influence support. Political marketing campaigns are tailored to audience and may shift over time, depending upon public sentiment. For example, when President Bush did a whirlwind tour to promote Social Security reforms in March, 2005, he started the tour with “Save Social Security” banners. However, after realizing that he need to appeal more to Americans over 55 who are more politically active than their younger counterparts for whom Social Security would be “saved,” his banners were changed to “Protecting Seniors.” The Bush Administration crafted six frames to market their plan for faith-based initiatives, a policy designed to give money to local churches and synagogues for social service provision: • Compassionate Frame: “On the side of caring and compassionate people, there’s a Compassionate Capital Fund.” Funding should be given to local religious organizations because “they have a compassionate mission of help and aid.” • Community Building Frame: Giving money to local churches, synagogues, and mosques will build community solidarity. 27
  29. 29. • Family Frame: Broken families can be mended through faith-based initiatives. • Needy People Frame: Faith-based initiatives will help the poor and needy. • Love Frame: Legislation can’t achieve love, but people can through faith-based initiatives. • Secular Frame: The government should fund both secular and religious programs. Government should not reject religious programs as long as there are secular alternatives. Despite the obvious religious bent of faith-based initiatives, the White House carefully packaged its proposals without overtly religious frames. Instead, it was marketed as a community initiative to help people help themselves without trying to proselytize. The warm themes of “love” and “compassion” were strong selling points. As soon as President Bush took office, he proposed several major reforms to rebuild the military. Four frames were introduced to promote increased military spending. • Post- Cold War Frame: The Cold War is no longer the most imperative paradigm. We have a new environment when it comes to war, and we need to be better-equipped. Thus, new missile initiatives are necessary. • Strong Military Frame: A strong, well-equipped military prevents war and defends American ideals. Increased military spending will strengthen military. • Clear Mission Frame: We need a clear mission and a clear statement of purpose for our military. • Legitimacy Frame: Military careers have lost legitimacy that can be improved by raising salaries and providing better health care and housing for military personnel. Good treatment of military personnel will boost morale and pride. The Administration used three primary frames when talking about reforming Social Security, clearly aimed at different audiences: • Honoring Commitment Frame: Reforming Social Security is about “honoring the commitment of American seniors.” We need to maintain the system for the deserved (i.e., those who paid into it). • Preservation Frame: The surplus should be used to protect and preserve Social Security. Keep Social Security money in the Social Security system. • Young People Frame: Social Security should be preserved for younger generations. 28
  30. 30. Note that the preservation frame is as much about tax reform and how the surplus is spent as it is about Social Security. The last of the “big six” policy proposals, reforming Medicare, was also marketed using three primary frames: • Dignity Frame: Seniors should be able to retire with dignity (and not have to eat cat food!). Seniors should not have to choose between food and prescription drugs. • Choice Frame: Medicare reform will provide greater health care choices for senior citizens. • Cost Frame: The cost of Medicare is out of control. Modernizing Medicare (e.g., implementing Medical Savings Accounts) will cut down on Medicare costs. The use of these frames by the White House and media is analyzed after presentation of the research questions. Research Questions Three research questions are of interest in this second phase of the project: R4: Did a majority of print media coverage of President Bush’s policy agenda reflect the framing presented by the White House pre-September 11, 2001? R5: Did a majority of print media coverage of President Bush’s policy agenda reflect the priming presented by the White House pre-September 11, 2001? R6: Did a majority of print media coverage of President Bush’s public policy agenda reflect complicit coverage prior to September 11, 2001? Analysis Tax reform was the most popular policy topic discussed by the White House in the first nine months of Bush’s presidency. Out of the 124 White House communications mentioning at least one of the six topics, 69% discussed Bush’s tax cut proposal. About one-in-four White House communications brought up rebuilding the military (27%), education reform (25%), and 29
  31. 31. Medicare reform (22%). Fewer communications mentioned Social Security reform and faith- based initiatives (Chart 11). Chart 11 Percentage of White House Communications Mentioning Policy Topic (n=124) 80% 69% 70% 60% 50% 40% 25% 27% 30% 20% 22% 20% 12% 10% 0% Tax Cuts Education Faith-Based Rebuilding Social Medicare Military Security The use of White House Frames by reporters for each policy topic is examined to test our first research question. Tax Frames Among the six tax frames used by the Administration – Government Spending, Working Class, Class Warfare, Small Business, Marriage Penalty, and Economic Stimulus – the Economic Stimulus and Working Class frames were the most popular. About half of White House communications used each of these two frames (Chart 12). 30
  32. 32. Chart 12 Percentage of White House Communications on Taxes that Use Each Frame (n=85) 80% 70% 60% 51.8% 47.1% 50% 38.8% 40% 27.1% 30% 23.5% 21.2% 20% 10% 0% Economic Working Govt. Class Small Marriage Stimulus Class Spending Warfare Business Penalty Although President Bush made appeals to small business owners, married couples, and wealthy people to sell his tax cut proposal, his tax reform was mostly framed as a boon for the working class that would stimulate the economy and keep money out of the hands of irresponsible politicians. The question is, did print media package Bush’s tax package in the same way? Chart 13 shows the use of White House frames among articles written about Bush’s tax reform plan. 31
  33. 33. Chart 13 Percentage of Print Media Articles about Taxes that Use Each Frame (n=92) 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 15.2% 13.0% 9.8% 10% 5.4% 5.4% 2.2% 0% Economic Working Marriage Govt. Class Small Stimulus Class Penalty Spending Warfare Business As with presidential communications, the Economic Stimulus and Working Class frames were the most popular. However, very few articles used these or any other White House frames when discussing Bush’s tax policy. In fact, only 30 percent of articles on taxes mentioned any White House frame. This lends support for our first hypothesis that print media coverage did not reflect Bush policy frames pre-9/11. Education Reform As Chart 14 shows, nearly sixty percent of communications from the White House used the Local Control frame, and over half used the Accountability frame. A sizable number also presented the High Standards frame (45%). 32
  34. 34. Chart 14 Percentage of White House Communications on Education that Use Each Frame (n=31) 80% 70% 58.1% 54.8% 60% 45.2% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Local Control Accountability High Standards Turning now to our media analysis, only 24 articles on education were available: too few to analyze.18 The fact that so few articles were written on this subject is a finding in itself. The Bush Administration attempted to put all six items of its policy agenda on the public radar, but they were less successful with some of the “big six.” Faith-Based Initiatives Chart 15 shows that the most popular frames used by the White House to garner support for faith-based initiatives were the Community Building and Needy People frames. However, these percentages are based on only 15 cases. 18 Although too few articles were written on education to properly analyze, it is notable that even these articles did not often include White House frames. Out of the 24 articles written, 11 used the High Standards frame, followed by 8 that used the Accountability frame, and 7 that reflected the Local Control frame. It is also important to point out that media articles written on Bush’s education reform clearly did not follow the Administration’s priming of these different frames. 33
  35. 35. Chart 15 Percentage of White House Communications on Faith-Based that Use Each Frame (n=15) 80% 70% 60% 46.7% 46.7% 50% 40.0% 40.0% 40% 33.3% 26.7% 30% 20% 10% 0% Community Needy People Family Compassionate Love Secular Building Chart 15 indicates that while only a small number of White House communications mention faith-based initiatives, the Administration used multiple frames in each briefing. When it comes to analyzing media use of faith-based initiatives, scant media attention is again a problem. Only eleven articles were written on this topic over the nine month period examined – not enough to analyze.19 19 Of the 11 articles written about faith-based initiatives, 3 used the Compassion frame, 2 used the Community Building, Needy People and Love frames, while only 1 article used the Family and Secular frames each. Print media coverage did not generally use frames from the White House. 34
  36. 36. Rebuilding the Military The Bush Administration’s program to market proposals to rebuild the military relied primarily on the Strong Military and Legitimacy frames, as indicated in Chart 16. The Clear Mission and Post-Cold War frames were used far less often by President Bush and his staff to frame this issue. Chart 16 Percentage of White House Communications on Rebuilding the Military that Use Each Frame (n=33) 80% 66.7% 66.7% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 21.2% 15.2% 20% 10% 0% Strong Military Legitimacy Clear Mission Post-Cold War A comparison of Charts 16 and 17 illustrates that print media use of the military rebuilding frames do not match up. The Post- Cold War frame is the most used by reporters, but only mentioned in a handful of White House communications. This frame is the most used of any White House frame by reporters, but it still fails to achieve use in a majority of articles on the subject. 35
  37. 37. Chart 17 Percentage of Print Media Articles about Rebuilding the Military that Use Each Frame (n=33) 80% 70% 60% 45.5% 50% 40% 27.3% 30% 20% 12.1% 10% 3.0% 0% Post-Cold War Strong Military Legitimacy Clear Mission Social Security The Preservation frame was used in almost three-quarters of White House communications pertaining to Social Security, making it by far the most popular frame for this topic. One-third of presidential communications used the Young People frame to garner support for this policy. 36
  38. 38. Chart 18 Percentage of White House Communications on Social Security that Use Each Frame (n=25) 80% 72.0% 70% 60% 50% 40% 32.0% 30% 20% 12.0% 10% 0% Preservation Young People Honoring Commitment As with previous media coverage on Bush’s policies, too few articles were written on Social Security to analyze. Only 18 substantive articles were written on the issue during the nine months examined.20 Medicare The Bush Administration primarily used the Cost frame in its selling of Medicare. The Choice and Dignity frames were used far less frequently in White House communications on the subject, as noted in Chart 19. 20 Of the 18 articles written, 7 articles mentioned the Preservation frame. Only two articles used the Honoring Commitment or Young People frames each. 37
  39. 39. Chart 19 Percentage of White House Communications on Medicare that Use Each Frame (n=27) 80% 70% 60% 51.9% 50% 40% 30% 22.2% 20% 11.1% 10% 0% Cost Choice Dignity Only 10 media articles discussed Medicare in a substantive way during the first nine months of Bush’s presidency; too few to analyze.21 This analysis of each of President “big six” policy issues shows that White House frames were not particularly popular in print media articles pre-9/11. With all policies combined, fewer than 40% of articles used any White House frame. Thus, reporters did not generally use White House policy frames prior to 9/11. The next research question of whether media coverage reflected the priming presented by the White House is tested by examining whether media emphasis on different aspects of policies reflected White House emphasis on these same policies. In terms of priming the policy agenda overall, the Bush Administration mentioned all but one topic – faith-based initiatives – in at least 20% of White House communications. Granted, tax policy was emphasized much more than the others at 70%, but if Bush is priming the agenda beyond just setting it, I would expect all of the topics except for faith-based policy to receive a moderate amount of media attention. The overall paucity of articles on the subjects of faith-based initiatives, Social Security, and Medicare 21 Of the 10 articles written on the subject of Medicare, two used the Cost frame and one used the Dignity frame. 38
  40. 40. offers evidence that the White House was not able to prime the media agenda. In fact, so few articles were written on these topics over a nine-month period that a more in-depth analysis of priming is not even possible. Furthermore, the percentage of articles on tax reform that used White House frames is so low (the most used frame is mentioned only 15% of the time) that framing analysis is also not possible for this topic. In other words, White House frames were simply not used to a significant enough degree to analyze whether the White House influenced which frames were used (the priming measure used here). Education reform and military rebuilding are examined further to see if the White House primed these policy topics. When it comes to priming education policy, as noted previously, a pattern of presidential influence in the media is not found. The Bush Administration emphasized Local Control, Accountability, and High Standards frames in that order, whereas print media articles on this topic emphasized the opposite framing order. In terms of military rebuilding, the Bush Administration relied heavily on the Strong Military and Legitimacy frames to sell this policy proposal, whereas print media used Post-Cold War frame the most, and the Military Rebuilding frame at a much lower rate. It is worth noting that only 15% of White House communications mentioned the Post-Cold War frame – the least popular frame presented – while 45% of print media articles used this frame, making it the most popular of the four. Again, while media coverage did reflect White House frames to a greater extent with this policy than any other of the “big six,” the framing use does not reflect presidential priming. In summary, print media coverage of President Bush’s policy agenda pre-9/11 did not generally reflect the priming of the White House. R6, the question of whether media coverage complicit prior to 9/11, is tested with a simple univariate analysis of a question included in the media coding frame asking whether the particular article at hand reflected complicit coverage of the policy. Complicit coverage required that the article presented the White House’s position on the topic using the Administration’s language and frames, without presenting counter arguments, discussion of alternative frames, or noting opposition to the policy. Chart 20 shows that few print media articles pre-9/11 were complicit. Only 16 percent of articles reflected such coverage. 39
  41. 41. Chart 20 Percentage of Policy Complicit Print Media Articles (n=188) Complicit Coverage, 16.4% Non-Complicit Coverage, 84.6% The policy with the highest level of complicit coverage was Social Security with 28% of articles falling under this category. Military rebuilding had the lowest level of complicit coverage at 9%. Given the low level of complicit coverage overall and by policy, particularly compared to coverage of the Second Gulf War, the finding for R6 is that print media coverage of President Bush’s policy agenda was not generally complicit prior to September 11, 2001 Print Media Coverage of the Policy Agenda Post-9/11 The third and last phase of this project seeks to better define the conditions that induce complicit coverage. Did the rally effect influence other Bush Administration policies post-9/11? This analysis replicates the methodology used in the two previous phases of the project to test agenda setting, priming, and framing effects through April, 2004 when the rally effect reached its conclusion. 40
  42. 42. The Bush Policy Agenda Post-9/11 The number of policy issues on the Bush Administration’s plate post-9/11 mushroomed after September 11, 2001 as a result of the terrorist attacks. Four general types of policies were identified: 1. reactionary policies (e.g., the airline bailout, the USA PATRIOT Act, and creation of the Department of Homeland Security); 2. crises or events President Bush chose to take a position on (e.g., conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, the SARS outbreak, and nuclear testing in North Korea); 3. policies initiated in the other branches of government that required some action on the part of the Administration (e.g., campaign finance reform, late-term abortions, and Affirmative Action); and 4. policies initiated by the White House (e.g., education reform, media deregulation, and the Clear Skies Initiative). These four categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, while the late-term abortion policy was put on the agenda and passed by Congress, President Bush’s vow to approve the legislation no doubt got the policy ball rolling. Furthermore, some may argue that the USA PATRIOT Act is not a necessary reaction to the events of September 11th, but rather, a political move to concentrate power in the executive branch. Given these complications and our primary questions, our analysis includes only policy topics that originated with the Bush Administration and are not reactions to pressing events or crisis. Policies were selected that fit the following criteria: (1) the policy reflects a new position/ new direction; (2) the policy came primarily come from the Administration; and (3) the policy was non-reactionary, meaning that the content was primarily determined by the Administration. The following policies were initially picked for analysis based upon frequency of mention in White House communications: 1. Clear Skies Initiative 2. economic stimulus package 3. energy policy 4. estate “death” tax 5. Faith-based initiatives 6. Healthy Forest Initiative 41
  43. 43. 7. Medicare reform 8. missile defense 9. tort reform 10. trade promotion authority 11. Social Security reform Some policies appeared to be on the President’s agenda, but upon closer inspection, they were not active policy components during the time period analyzed, including stem cell research, media deregulation, bankruptcy reform, and education. The Bush Administration took a complicated stance on stem cell research, approving the use of existing embryos in research, but prohibiting the harvesting of additional embryos for this endeavor in August of 2001. The Administration also took a clear stance against human cloning. After 9/11, this policy topic was not a key component of the President’s agenda. The Administration did issue a statement of support for HR 2520, an act of Congress approving stem cell research using umbilical cord blood (and thus not involving embryos) in May of 2005, but stem cell was not actively championed by the President post-9/11. Likewise, the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to deregulate some aspects of media ownership in June of 2003 received a lot of press attention, but it was not actively promoted by the Bush Administration as a policy priority. In fact, the FCC held only one public forum on the issue. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention, Consumer Protection Act was signed into law on April 20, 2005, and while the White House did support this legislation early on, it was primarily a congressional initiative. (Similar legislation was presented in congress several under the Clinton Administration.) President Bush’s education reform package, No Child Left Behind, passed on January 8, 2002. It was actively promoted by the Bush Administration prior to 9/11, but then disappeared from the radar screen after the terrorist attacks. In fact, the President was selling this policy using an appearance in an elementary school in Jacksonville, Florida, when two planes hit the Twin Towers, but after this appearance, he spoke of education reform only twice more before it passed in January of 2002. Neither of these appearances involved direct promotion of what would become No Child Left Behind, rather, they concentrated on schoolchildren learning more about American history and connecting with Muslim children. It is safe to say that the high- profile marketing campaign for education reform ceased after September 11, 2001, even though this policy item was active. 42
  44. 44. Data and Methods The methodology used in the third phase of this project replicates the model used in the first two phases: a content analysis of messages from the White House pertaining to each policy, and a content analysis of print media coverage of each policy. The White House Dataset is comprised of press briefings, press gaggles, radio addresses, and Presidential speeches that mention items on Bush’s policy agenda from September 11, 2001 through April, 30, 2004 – the end of the “rally around the flag” effect. The White House Dataset contains 480 cases. Inter- coder reliability was acceptable using both absolute agreement and Cohen’s Kappa measures, as reported for this dataset in Appendix E. Codebooks and coding frames for this dataset are located in Appendix F. Eleven media datasets were originally compiled, one for each policy topic put on the agenda by the Bush Administration post-9/11. Each dataset includes all articles mentioning the topic that appeared in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. Chart 13 shows the percentage of White House communications pertaining to each of the eleven policies initiated by the Administration. The reader should note that each White House communication could feasibly contain more than one policy topic. 43