“Not disclosing the DUI on my terms may have been the single costliest political mistake I ever made … I may have just cost myself the presidency.” – President George W. Bush

“We should have brought it (DUI arrest) up at a time and place of our choosing. I should have made a more convincing case for doing so. Instead I helped George W. Bush keep a secret that almost cost him the White House.” – Karl Rove, Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush

How could a Maine drunk-driving arrest in America’s bicentennial year lead to the infamous hanging-chads election debacle in Florida 24 years later?DUI

As virtually all of us know, George W. Bush used to drink. And with the consumption of alcohol, sometimes more than one or two beers too many,  the probability of a drunk driving arrest increases. That’s exactly what happened to Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine on Labor Day weekend in 1976.

Serving as Governor of Texas two decades later, Bush was asked by reporters if he was ever arrested for DUI. He didn’t tell a fib, but he also did not tell the whole truth about his 0.10 blood-alcohol level DUI misdemeanor, paying a fine and having his license suspended for 30 days.

Instead, he confided that he did not have a perfect record; he engaged in foolish activities as a youth; and he urged fellow Texans to not drink and drive. Having the vantage point of history, we know now this response while technically correct was an opportunity lost.

Reflecting back on his evasive answer, Bush realized that he could have held an event with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – and use this backdrop to disclose his own DUI – putting out the negative news at a time and place of his own choosing … and over time making the 1976 Kennebunkport arrest ancient history.

A specifically timed disclosure was exactly the advice of his aides, Rove and Karen Hughes, and conceivably others on the governor’s staff, but Bush stubbornly would not agree to get the DUI out in the public and on the record. Instead, this DUI magically came into the public consciousness exactly four days before the closest-ever 2000 election.

Rove contended that even if this DUI revelation moved 2 percent of the electorate to shift from Bush to Al Gore or from Bush to not voting that would have cost the then-Texas Governor 2.1 million votes. Translated: Instead of razor-thin wins in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa and Oregon – all four of these states ended up in the Al Gore column – Florida’s electoral votes may not have been necessary and history would have been different.

Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell It Fast, Move On

I’ve oftentimes said that years ago I made some mistakes. I drank too much, and I did on that night … I regret that it happened, but it did. I learned my lesson.” – Governor George W. Bush to reporters four days before election-day in 2000bushdui

The mantra in effective crisis communications is first-and-foremost to tell the truth. Tell the complete story, tell it as fast as possible (not four days before a national election). Move on quickly, hopefully preventing the story from having “legs.”

Let’s face reality here. Almost DailyBrett has seen cases where personal pride and human nature cause good people to sweep unwanted remembrances underneath the rug, hoping they will never be heard from again. Darn it, these stories have a habit of slithering out just when you least expect them.

We watched in amused horror as former presidential candidate John Edwards denied repeatedly that he had an affair and a love child (e.g., Frances Quinn) with videographer Rielle Hunter while his wife Elizabeth, was fighting a losing battle against cancer.

After days of kicking and screaming, Edwards came clean about the affair with Hunter, but still denied the love child, but even this revelation was not the whole truth. Eventually, the National Enquirer got a story right, complete with photos of Edwards, Hunter and their lovely offspring.edwards1

Did someone say something about Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast and Move On?

Does anyone give a rat’s derriere about John Edwards anymore?

Manage or Be Managed

“The news of the arrest came out at the worst possible time, with only four days to go in the campaign. Many have suggested that I would have served my candidate better had I insisted he disclose it earlier; maybe so.” – Karen Hughes, Counselor to President George W. Bush

When it comes to the most important public relations and brand/reputation management of all, our own personal PR and our own brand and reputation, we all have a choice: manage or be managed.

The campaign apparatus of George W. Bush conducted opposition research on their own candidate, which is standard practice as one knows the other side of the aisle will be digging into the weeds looking for “good dirt.” The Bush campaign oppo research did not discover the DUI, even though it was buried in the public records in scenic Kennebunkport. The erroneous conclusion: The coast was clear.

Instead, the storm clouds with no coincidence came pouring in at the worst time possible for the Bush campaign and with it a sudden break of momentum and the potential loss of more than 2 million votes

We could have been spared the one-month legal spectacle of hanging chads in Florida.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/06/AR2010110602835.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030502249.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Hughes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Edwards_extramarital_affair

 

 

 

 

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