Framing the debate

Tomorrow in class, I’ll be talking to my students about framing the debate — how to control your reader’s reaction by selecting words, choosing which pieces of evidence to present, etc. I was looking this evening at the website for the Greater Houston Partnership, which is sponsoring presidential debates before the Texas primaries on March 4, and I couldn’t help noticing how they’ve chosen to frame their presentations of the Democratic candidates.

On their Meet the Candidates page, they have short blurbs about each of the contenders still in the primaries on both sides. The difference between the way Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are presented, however, is rather glaring:

Hillary R. Clinton is a Democratic Senator representing New York, and is the former First Lady of the United States of America.

Barack Obama has served for eight years on the Illinois State Senate and is a member of the Democratic Party.

So, Clinton is noted for her time in the U.S. Senate as well as in the White House — the points she tries to emphasize in her talk of “35 years of experience.” Obama, by contrast, for all someone could tell just from reading this page, is presented as no more than a state legislator. While their “More” links go to the candidates’ profiles of themselves on their own campaign websites, I have a hard time believing that these blurbs were submitted to the GHP by the candidates’ campaigns. I can only assume that the organizers at the GHP are Clinton supporters, hoping to undercut Obama.

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