Alternet has an excerpt from a chapter of Professor Lakoff's new book (you can get the book for free with a $25 donation to Alternet). Rorty says all words are metaphors, and Lakoff seems to take that fundamental idea into the nature of political rhetoric. It's good stuff:
When I teach the study of framing at Berkeley, in Cognitive Science 101, the first thing I do is I give my students an exercise. The exercise is: Don't think of an elephant! Whatever you do, do not think of an elephant. I've never found a student who is able to do this. Every word, like elephant, evokes a frame, which can be an image or other kinds of knowledge: Elephants are large, have floppy ears and a trunk, are associated with circuses, and so on. The word is defined relative to that frame. When we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.Read the whole thing (or maybe make a donation and get the whole book!)
Richard Nixon found that out the hard way. While under pressure to resign during the Watergate scandal, Nixon addressed the nation on TV. He stood before the nation and said, "I am not a crook." And everybody thought about him as a crook. This gives us a basic principle of framing, for when you are arguing against the other side: Do not use their language. Their language picks out a frame — and it won't be the frame you want. Let me give you an example. On the day that George W. Bush arrived in the White House, the phrase “tax relief” started coming out of the White House. It still is: It was used a number of times in this year's State of the Union address, and is showing up more and more in preelection speeches four years later. Think of the framing for relief. For there to be relief there must be an affliction, an afflicted party, and a reliever who removes the affliction and is therefore a hero. And if people try to stop the hero, those people are villains for trying to prevent relief.
When the word tax is added to relief, the result is a metaphor: Taxation is an affliction. And the person who takes it away is a hero, and anyone who tries to stop him is a bad guy. This is a frame. It is made up of ideas, like affliction and hero. The language that evokes the frame comes out of the White House, and it goes into press releases, goes to every radio station, every TV station, every newspaper. And soon the New York Times is using tax relief. And it is not only on Fox; it is on CNN, it is on NBC, it is on every station because it is "the president's tax-relief plan." And soon the Democrats are using tax relief — and shooting themselves in the foot.