Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Agriprop Guide to Cluck and Awe

The New York Times
An Agriprop Guide to Cluck and Awe

A furious collective heehaw is surely the only proper response to the news that ranking bureaucrats and other occasional speechmakers at the Department of Agriculture have been instructed to include "talking points" of praise for President Bush's handling of the Iraq war in their routine rhetorical fodder.

Detailed instructions on how to segue from, say, domestic soybean production to Mesopotamian nation-building were e-mailed to scores of department workers. Included was a caution that speechmakers should keep a record of their compliance, and turn in point-scoring summaries to be tallied for weekly reports to the White House.

The news of this latest exercise in Orwellian cravenness was broken by Al Kamen, the Washington Post columnist long trusted by the capital's career bureaucracy as an outlet for leaking the slings and arrows of political appointees pitching spin.

The suggested talking points for agency workers to use before farm and agribusiness audiences include the poultry angle: pointing out that Iraqi farmers use U.S. aid to buy American feed and are working to "update 25-year-old chicken houses" as national stability takes hold. A barnyard stemwinder could deal with the ticklish subject of civil rights by noting that Iraq "has been evolving for 230 years" and is "still working to become a more perfect union" with the administration's help.

And there's nothing like a fresh back story in the war on terror. "Iraq is part of the 'fertile crescent' of Mesopotamia," where mankind first domesticated wheat thousands of years ago, this suggestion begins. Then it moves to the clincher: "In recent years, however, the birthplace of farming has been in trouble."