Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain
Posted on Wednesday, August 18 @ 09:29:23 EDT
by Thom Hartmann, Common Dreams
"I am not unaware of the effect of the ridicule cast on this instrument of defence by those who wished for engines of offence." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison referencing damage done to morale by jokes about the US Navy, May 21, 1813

It's Willie Horton all over again. The Bush family is subjecting Americans to psychological operations, only the level of sophistication and deception is an order of magnitude higher than it was in 1988. And it could turn the election, if not used effectively in rebuttal.

Here's how it works, and how Dick Cheney just used it masterfully:

We humans, being the product of a long evolutionary process, really have three brains. And, as the Bush psy-ops folks know, politicians who win campaigns do so because they speak to all three of those brains.

First there's the most primitive of our brains, sometimes referred to as the "reptilian brain" because we share it in common with reptiles like alligators and komodo dragons. The reptile brain has a singular focus: survival. It doesn't think in abstract terms, and doesn't feel complex emotions. Instead, it's responsible for fight-or-flight, hunger and fear, attack or run. It's also non-verbal - you can stimulate it with the right words, but it operates purely at the level of visceral stimulus-response.

The second brain is one we share with the animals that came along after reptiles - mammals. The mammalian brain - sometimes referred to as the Limbic Brain because it extends around and off of the reptilian brain in a dog-leg shape that resembles a limb - handles complex emotions like love, indignation, compassion, envy, and hope. Anybody who's worked with animals or had a pet knows that mammals share these emotions with humans, because we share this brain. While a snake can't feel shame or enthusiasm, it's completely natural for a dog or cat. And, like the reptile brain, the mammalian brain can also be stimulated indirectly by words, and is also non-verbal. It expresses itself exclusively in the form of feelings, although these are more often felt in the heart than the gut.

The third brain - the neocortex ("new" cortex) - is something we share with the higher apes, although ours is a bit more sophisticated. Resting over the limbic brain (which is, in turn, atop the reptilian brain), our neocortex is where we process abstract thought, words and symbols, logic and time.

When Dick Cheney recently took John Kerry's comment about sensitivity in the war on terror out of context and spun it for his audiences, he was performing a psychologically masterful bit manipulation of all three brains.

Only ridicule with a subtext of fear has this power.

"America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive," Cheney said, firing first the thinking brain ("too many wars") and then the limbic brain ("for our wishes[/hopes/ideals]"). And then he went for the reptile brain: "...but not one of them was won by being sensitive."

The comment brought an instant response of laughter - an emotional and involuntary response, as Freud pointed out, that's the result of the neocortex thinking it's moving logically along in one direction (a discussion of too many wars) and then suddenly getting derailed ("but not one of them was won by being sensitive") from that thought. This sudden derailment - known among comedians as the "punch line" - causes the thinking brain to be momentarily confused and triggers a response known as laughter that comes involuntarily from the limbic mammalian brain. (This is why comedy almost always involves misdirection, like in the old Red Skelton classic, "I just flew in from Chicago...and, boy, are my arms tired!")

But then, in a brilliant coup de grāce, Cheney spoke directly to his listener's reptilian brain, the part that most powerfully controls our behaviors because it constantly is vigilant to maintain our survival. "Those that threaten us and kill innocents around the world," he said, arousing the reptilian awareness of threat, "do not need to be treated more sensitively, they need to be destroyed."

To reinforce this message to his listener's most primitive instincts, Cheney continued to invoke the word "sensitive" a half-dozen more times, always wrapping it in surprise and survival.

Not only is this among the most sophisticated of psychological warfare operations, in this case it was also one of the most immoral, since Cheney was quoting Kerry out of context and, thus, basing his entire premise upon what was essentially a lie.

But the deed was done, because all three brains had been touched.

No matter how much the Kerry campaign tried to argue to the thinking neocortex that his words meant we should be sensitive to the needs and values of our allies and not sensitive to our enemies, his response never reached the limbic or reptilian brains of his or Cheney's listeners. Kerry's response - "It's sad they can only be negative" - was one that only reached the thinking neocortex. It didn't provoke a laugh, driving it into the limbic brain, and it didn't address Bush/Cheney failures to keep Americans safe, the main issue of the reptilian brain.

The simple reality is that issues framed in intellect will never trump issues framed in emotions. And to have maximum power, those emotions must include the limbic brain feelings of hope and idealism as well as the reptilian brain instincts for survival and safety.

Of course, issues must make sense to the thinking brain, but if presented in a way that misses the other two of our brains, they will never motivate people to walk into a polling place and pull a lever or mark a ballot.

Interestingly, the most powerful tool to hit all three brains simultaneously is good-natured ridicule, because there is no possible way to respond to it. Ridicule touches the thinking neocortex by referencing an issue, but also touches the limbic and reptilian brains, where our most lasting impressions are stored and feelings are anchored.

The only possible response to ridicule is logic, which only touches a third of our brains and thus always fails to undo the ridicule's emotional impact.

Even God is not immune, as Mark Twain wrote: "No God and no religion can survive ridicule. No political church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field, and live." History demonstrates well the truth Czech author Milan Kundera wrote: "Mockery is a rust that corrodes all it touches."

In 1948, one of the most well-publicized moments of the campaign between Truman and Dewey was just after Dewey had given a speech calling for "national unity" and Truman supporter and superstar Tallulah Bankhead went on national radio to ask, "Will all the candidates who are for disunity please stand?" She then dug the knife in deeper (all the way to the reptilian brain), implying Dewey wasn't really up to handling the post-WWII survival issues America faced, by adding, "The next thing we know he'll be endorsing matrimony, the metal zipper, and the dial telephone."

More recently, Reagan's famous, "There you go again," even though inaccurate, blasted through all three minds of the national audience watching his debate with Jimmy Carter, reducing Carter to a caricature of himself. Michael Dukakis was defeated by the Bush campaign portraying him as Rocky the Flying Squirrel in a tank, and by images of a black murderer Dukakis had never even heard of shown in Bush campaign commercials. Four years later, Dana Carvey's parodies of George H.W. Bush helped diminish Bush the Elder to an ineffectual buffoon in viewer's minds. And Dubya is doing it again with the "intelligence" ad when, after a clip of Kerry saying he wants to revamp our national intelligence systems, the voiceover announcer sarcastically intones, "Oh, really?"

Hitting all three brains with put-down humor is both relatively easy and can be devastating. When mixed with positive "vision" messages, it can be unstoppable.

John Edwards, for example, has crafted a message that speaks simultaneously to a voter's intellect (neocortex), heart (limbic brain), and survival needs (reptilian brain) with his "two Americas" frame. If his ticket is to win, John Kerry must do the same with every single issue in this campaign, while at the same time using "light hearted humor" (dripping sarcasm, like Teresa's "they want four more years of hell," is dangerous) to highlight Bush's failures and incompetence.

And if ever there was a candidate whose flip-flopping, fear-mongering, military desertion, and incompetence was ripe for ridicule it's George W. Bush. (A reality not lost by websites like www.whitehouse.org.) Handled correctly, an advertising campaign that lightly ridicules Bush while clearly and accurately pointing out his failings could be devastating.

The Bush campaign makes extensive use - as conservatives have for decades (remember Newt's "word list") - of NLP, framing, and other sophisticated psychological techniques to take control of issues and influence the electorate. They've been known and used in advertising for a half century, and were first used in a big way in politics in the campaigns of Reagan and Bush the Elder.

If the Kerry campaign doesn't quickly figure out how to use ridicule to make these sorts of essential framing and piercing issues work properly, we may be in for a replay of the Bush/Dukakis meltdown. Which would terrify our reptilian brains, sadden our limbic brains, and short-circuit our neocortexes.

Copyright © 2004 Common Dreams.

Reprinted from the Common Dreams:
http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0817-13.htm

 

Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by superyumancrew on Wednesday, August 18 @ 09:52:22 EDT
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Damn straight, this is what they are doing. Great article. Cheney continutes to do this, in his staged "town meetings", with audiences who probably had to sign loyalty oaths to get into the "town meeting".

The underlying message to our reptile brain in Cheney's town meeting was fear. Fear the stranger, the arab, the other. Others are out there, terrorists who want to destroy our way of life.

Damn straight these guys are using ridicule, in the same way gossipy women use it in office politics.

The genesis of the events of 9/11 remains murky, but the way that it was portrayed in the media, as an event that "changed everything" has always been highly suspicious. We were being subjected to some sort of trauma based mind control, in my opinion, after 9/11. Filmy, active, transparent backgrounds appeared on the news shows, full of images of stars, stripes, WTC wreakage, and Osama. These subliminal messages struck directly at our reptile brain, at a level below logic.

Great article. CIA mind control techniques- what else should we expect from the Bush clan?

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by yellowdawg on Wednesday, August 18 @ 11:27:01 EDT
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Seems to me that part of the problem of 'getting into' the mind of their 'supporters' is that for repig partisans to react to the 'ridicule' of geedubya the way we want them to would mean that they accept ridicule of themselves. Same thing with the media. These folks absolutely will not accept, or at the least acknowledge, the fact they could have been, and remain, so goddamn wrong. We'll just have to work over the next few years to try and 'rehabilitate' them...after 'he's' out of office of course.

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by Chronic on Wednesday, August 18 @ 11:30:00 EDT
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Here's a great commercial and its FACTUAL too!

Dick Cheney voted in the extreme right minority:

# In His First 6 Years As A U.S. Congressman, Cheney Found Only 3 Supporters For His Legislative Proposals. In Cheney's first 6 years as Wyoming's congressman, he only managed to garner a total of 3 co-sponsors for all of his legislative proposals. [thomas.loc.gov]

# Cheney's 11 Years In Congress Yielded Very Few Legislative Achievements. In Cheney's 6 terms in the House of Representatives, he proposed and passed only 2 bills, neither of which could be considered a signature piece of legislation. [thomas.loc.gov]

# In 1979, Cheney Voted Against the Legal Observance of MLK's Birthday as a Federal Holiday. Cheney voted against the legal observance of Martin Luther King Jr's birthday twice, and rejected a compromise.

# In 1981, Cheney Was One of Only 20 Members to Vote Against Restoring Minimum Social Security Benefits.

# In 1982, Cheney Was One of Only 38 Members to Vote Against Veterans Administration Funding.

# In 1985, Cheney Was One of Only 48 to Vote Against the Anti-Apartheid Act.

# In 1986, Cheney Was One of Only 28 Members Who Voted Against Federal Fire Protection under FEMA.

# In 1987, Cheney Was One of Only 8 Who Voted Against Clean Water Act.

# In 1988, Cheney Was One of Only 4 House Members to Vote Against Banning Terrorist Guns.

# In 1988, Cheney Was One of Only 29 House Members to Oppose Collection of Hate Crime Data.

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by Chronic on Wednesday, August 18 @ 11:37:37 EDT
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Can the Democrats boot up enough brain power and guts to show a clip of jr stating he wants to be more sensitive fighting the war on terrah

/slash screen/

dICK Cheney ridiculing John Kerry for using the word sensitive discribing how the war on terror should be fought?

IF THIS ISN'T A MAJOR FLIP FLOPPIN DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CO-PRESIDENCY OF JR AND CHENEY THEN WHAT THE F*CK IS????


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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by libertymax (instutionalgreen@taycheda) on Wednesday, August 18 @ 11:37:44 EDT
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I truly wish the Kerry/Edwards campaign would take the venom right out of some of these Repug issues like the national security, the war in Iraq, the federal deficit, America' s future, to name a few, and instead of engaging the argument on what I would do differently, taking the misadministration criticism and turning it on its head and right back at the liars spreading their dirty lies. Unless that happens and soon, the Repugs have the upper hand and that could be spell defeat in November.

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by BajanMan on Wednesday, August 18 @ 11:56:56 EDT
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Interestingly, the most powerful tool to hit all three brains simultaneously is good-natured ridicule, because there is no possible way to respond to it. Ridicule touches the thinking neocortex by referencing an issue, but also touches the limbic and reptilian brains, where our most lasting impressions are stored and feelings are anchored.

-snip--

If his ticket is to win, John Kerry must do the same with every single issue in this campaign, while at the same time using "light hearted humor" (dripping sarcasm, like Teresa's "they want four more years of hell," is dangerous) to highlight Bush's failures and incompetence.


This is an important point to underscore. Let's look at the dynamic:

Bush has a folksy, down-home way about him. He talks simply, and he talks in moralistic black and white, binary terms. He talks in a kind of way that instantly appeals to folks with latent bigotry inside them, who are also simple-minded or at least dramatically under-educated. And probably only semi-literate. (I doubt you will find many academic researchers, or professors that are "sucker punched" in the manner described here. They have to have cultivated critical thinking to be successful in what they do).

In other words, Bush's speech is deliberately designed to resonate with the reptilian instincts in the paleo-cortex.

These folksy worshipping repitilian Babbits look at Bush, and they see one of their own: an incurious lug, doesn't read papers, and bullies weaker folks with impunity. He is one of them. He is the reptile par excellence. (As a recent poll showed here in CO Springs, many adore him just for a willingness to spit in the eyes of effete Europeans and their global 'sensitivities')

Appreciation of vengeful or vindictive people is the hallmark of the latent reptilian.

Technically, as Robert Ornstein has noted (New World, New Mind) the dynamic is one of appealing to the latent reptilian brain (the paleo -cortex) within us all. In this case, an old-brained reptialian leader is playing to the ancient brains of the populace - a dangerous proposition in the best of times.

Humor and ridicule succeed because the deflate the faux gravitas to which the reptilian brain is drawn. It's like that gravitas is suddenly punctured, and for a shining moment - the neocortex can see through and trump the reptilian dominance.

Talking in somber, purely rational tones - therefore- is the worst thing one can do to bypass the reptilian "guard" in everyone's brain. All that will happen is that "guard" will be made instantly more suspicious. It is trained to be that way by the Bushies' reptilian pandering, Neuro-linguistic programming manipulating, 'Gruen-transfer' eliciting former admen and strategists.

Thus, for Kerry to make an end run around million of reptilian "guards" - say planted in the minds of swing voter ninnies- he needs to do some things differently. Something along the lines of Reagan's infamous "There you go again" retort, but apropos to the stimulus.


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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by regular_joe3_0 (mad@monkey_boy) on Wednesday, August 18 @ 13:46:47 EDT
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Remember to old anti-drug PSA's, where the guy shows you some eggs and says "This is your brain," then he crack's open the eggs and tosses them into a frying pan and says "This is your brain on drugs?"

I think we should use the same approach to save our democracy.

This time, he guy shows you some eggs and says "This is your democracy," then he crack's open the eggs and tosses them into a frying pan and says "This is your democracy when your public discourse is tainted by the distortions and lies of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the GOP."

Both Bush and Cheney are so factually challenged, so divorced from reality, that a casual observer would think that they were talking about life on and a different planet.

We've got leaders who can not acknowledge reality. Is it any wonder that they don't seem to be able to do anything right? What's amazing is that they haven't fucked up a whole lot worse and that we're still here to talk about it.

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by QXXIX on Wednesday, August 18 @ 14:09:38 EDT
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Cheney tells a fellow member of Congress to "go fuck himself" on the floor of the Senate, but what do we hear about, ad nauseum, in the "liberal" media?
Theresa H. Kerry tells a reporter to "shove it."

No more soft-pedaling and playing nice with these slimeballs. It just won't work.

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Stop the nonsense about the "Reptile Brain"! (Score: 1)
by Dave_the_Golden on Wednesday, August 18 @ 16:13:00 EDT
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- "Three brains"? All three are part of the cerebral hemispheres.
- They are not lying in layers above each other. This was just a schematic figure that someone took for real. The limbic system, for example, consists of several discontinuous patches that are distributed all over the cerebral hemispheres.
- How could anyone get the idea that "limbic system" came from "limb"? Neither is it limb-shaped, nor is "limb" a Latin or Greek word!!!
- The guy who invented those expressions had no idea of zoology. Do you know what an amphioxus (actually Branchiostoma in Scientific) is? Fine, because it has a limbic system. Which means that all vertebrates have a limbic system, not just mammals. That explains why crocodiles care for their eggs and young as they do, as you've certainly seen on TV. Likewise, a neocortex is something rather normal, found at least in "reptiles", mammals and birds.
- This, in turn, means that Cheney isn't appealing to the Dimetrodon in us. He's appealing to the sea squirt in us, at most.

Keep making fun of the MORONARCHY. Distribute speeches from www.whitehouse.org. Turn such stuff into TV ads.

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by cjxian on Wednesday, August 18 @ 16:25:24 EDT
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How about combinations of previous republican smirks: There the lying coward goes again (Cheney). Is he going to start drafting again?
He's lying again (Bush et al). What is this going to cost us--money, lives, freedom. . . ?
He's destroying the Constitution (Ashcroft). Is he going to have my door kicked and throw me away forever? Etc. etc.

Or one that I started using today about Bush: He's got the moderate Republicans hoodwinked; they don't even know their Party has been hijacked to the extreme right. Do you really believe your money, your freedom, and security are safe. How do you know that you won't be Bush/Cheny/Ashcroft's next target? I'll tell you there were zero glib comebacks; I'm a smart person and I abhor mindgames, but they are horrifically effective.

We should start compiling a list of these things for others to read, post them and start using them at our locales--Kerry/Edwards isn't going to do it negatively, if at all. Let's take'em downtown and make it hurt.
cjxian

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by opeluboy on Wednesday, August 18 @ 17:49:15 EDT
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The Kerry campaign should hire Al Franken or Jon Stewart to write some lines for them as they seem incapable of rebutting anything. And if someone in the Kerry campaign cannot find something to mock and deride about Bush they should fire the whole worthless bunch and start over.

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by MakeThePieHigher on Wednesday, August 18 @ 18:38:02 EDT
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Scumhead Cheney used Daniel Pearle's name at a Republican fundraiser, and mentioned his beheading. The Pearle family has asked Cheney to go fuck himself and not use Daniel's name to raise money for war mongering douche bags.

Notice Cheney will invoke the name of one man unjustly beheaded for Cheney's own political purposes, but will never mention the tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children he and Bush slaughtered by invading Iraq - country with no WMDs to even fight back.

And his Dumbya Flunky still calls the American torture chamber "Abu Giraffe".

DICK CHENEY, GO FUCK YOURSELF!

*****
"What luck for rulers that men do not think." - Adolf Hitler

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by Kebo on Wednesday, August 18 @ 20:11:02 EDT
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"It's Willie Horton all over again". I see some DLC influences showing their ugly "unconfrontational" head since the convention, and, unless something gives, we will have Al Gore with better hair.
Why did Howard Dean make such a blaze through the winter? Because he STOOD UP and said FOUL! LIAR! Like Al Gore has since done, 3 years too late.
WHY DID KERRY AGREE TO THE "touch football" debate rules? Dammit, when are we going to stop worrying about playing "fair", and realize these street thugs will stop at nothing.
The repubs share a similar trait with the Nazis and the Stalinists, do something and blame the victim. "Liberal Media" comes to mind. So does Stalin's 1940 invasion of Finland, to "ward off an invasion"...
The people of America are just too dumbed down for your visceral approach, Senator Kerry. Put on the gloves, man, SMACK DOWN, THAT they understand...

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by binomial_cat on Wednesday, August 18 @ 21:28:14 EDT
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***Interestingly, the most powerful tool to hit all three brains simultaneously is good-natured ridicule, because there is no possible way to respond to it.***

How about seven minutes of Bush sitting in the classroom on 9/11 like a simpleton? That's pretty powerful.

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by Crazymonkeylady on Thursday, August 19 @ 00:58:10 EDT
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Cheney's stump speech is a direct result of the Late Lee Atwater's Book of Low Down and Dirty Tricks By Low Down Dirty Dicks. May he (Atwater) rest in Heck! If the truth won't work- Lie you're ass off. It works for the Chimpster and his Evil Flying Monkeys!!!

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Re: Thom Hartmann: Cheney Speaks to the Reptile Brain (Score: 1)
by EXrePig on Thursday, August 19 @ 02:41:02 EDT
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Kerry really doesn't have to look very far for reptilian brain ads, since Smirky Boy has provided so many fine objects of ridicule. For example:

(1) "Bring 'em on." I list this first because I believe it to be the most striking, and most revealing of Monkey Puss' true character (or lack of it). It is also very powerful. Not long ago, the clip of this seemingly now obscure utterance was played on Crossfire. Immediately afterward, there was a very noticeable pregnant pause -- silence -- followed by a very tepid "It was a mistake" from the representative conservative shill (some congressman whom I now can't specifically recall). I thought it was a really stunning moment, and I can't believe that it's not being played and replayed as our soldiers continue to die in Iraq.

(2) The "16 word" palpable lie in the SOTUS.

(3) "The source of the leak may never be known," with reference to the V. Plame affair.

(4) "We had to invade Iraq because Sadam Hussein would not let the inspectors in."

(5) "We now know there was no connection between Hussein and 9/11."

(Roughly paraphrasing all quotes, of course.)

Etc., etc., etc.

So far, to the extent I can tell, in this campaign Smirky Pants is being allowed to skate on these and all the other silly, pernicious, erroneous, and dishonest things which he and members of his team have stated as matters of public record.

I believe that such statments can be presented in such a way as to effectively evoke an emotional, "reptilian" response in the electorate, and Kerry is not taking advantage. Worse, he continues to allow himself to be set up as a target for further lies and distortions, rather than taking the offensive and fighting these scum the way he has to in order to avoid being swept away by the ever increasing tide of their malodorous propaganda.