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Wag the dog

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 05, 2006

In Reply to: Wag the dog posted by ESC on February 05, 2006

: : what is the meaning of "wag the dog"

: There is an expression: instead of the dog wagging his tail, the tail wags the dog. (Or something like that.) Things are out of order. As in, putting the cart before the horse.

You may have seen the movie, "Wag the Dog," or seen reviews of it. I'm pretty sure it's okay for me to quote a blogger about the movie:

Wag the Dog
Crisis Scenarios for Deflecting Attention from the President's Woes
By Michael T. Klare

In the 1998 movie Wag the Dog, White House spinmeister Conrad Brean seeks to deflect public attention from a brewing scandal over an alleged sexual encounter in the White House between the president and an all-too-young Girl Scout-type by concocting an international crisis. Advised by a Hollywood producer (played with delicious perversity by Dustin Hoffman), Brean "leaks" a fraudulent report that Albania has acquired a suitcase-sized nuclear device and is seeking to smuggle it into the United States. This obviously justifies an attention-diverting military reprisal. The press falls for the false report (sound familiar?) and all discussion of the president's sex scandal disappears from view -- or, as Brean would have it, the "tail" of manufactured crisis wags the "dog" of national politics.

In further remarks Mr. Klare compares Karl Rove to Conrad Brean, and the foreign policy initatives of the Bush White House. It seems to me very odd that the media were pretty free in comparing Clinton's foreign policy initiatives to those of "Wag the Dog," partly spurred by Republican spinning, but there has been hardly any mention of "Wag the Dog" in regard to the Bush administration, where it would be much more appropriate. To see Mr. Klare's remarks go to: