Tag Archive: “60 Minutes”

Where I think we’ve got a little sideways as a culture is that people take it personally, if you have a different perspective, a different point of view. I would say, we just need to lighten up.” – Portland Mayor Ken Wheeler on “60 Minutes.”

Can we all learn to eventually let go? Yes, let it go.

And what about the “lighten up” suggestion made by Portland Mayor Ken Wheeler?

In this tumultuous Age of Trump, have we crossed the threshold that anyone who does not agree with our pre-ordained philosophy and Weltanschauung is our mortal enemy, never to emerge from the Pit of Misery?

As the author of Almost DailyBrett prepares to exit the professional world stage in four blessed months, one reflects back to the battles of life, and asks:

How many of these conflicts were truly worth fighting? Were their Pyrrhic victories in which battles were won, and wars were lost? If so, what was the point?

More to today’s discussion: How many issues in life are really worth going to the mat?

Very few in reality, when you for example look back over the course of a four-decade career.

Allegedly Margaret Thatcher as played by Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady” upon receiving a marriage proposal from Denis, romantically replied that “Life must have purpose.”

Agreed. That does not mean that each-and-every topic of life must have purpose. Reading Howard Kurtz’ Media Madness, Donald Trump , The Press And The War Over The Truth leaves the reader absolutely exhausted after only 200 pages.

Is there a remote control for life? Can we change the channel (bad metaphor, the networks are part of the problem)? Can we simply turn down the sound, if not mute the noise?

Now before you insinuate that Almost DailyBrett is changing the tune about being up to date on what is happening in the world, please understand that the Polish proverb, Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys, simply applies to the notion of carefully picking our battles.

Going To The Mat

Gary Oldman playing the role of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour spars valiantly against those in England’s War Cabinet, who advocate negotiating mit dem Führer upon the Fall of France and the Low Countries in 1940. He resists the pressure, goes to the mat, fights and wins the battle of his life.

On the worst modern era day of our lives – September 11 – my company was contemplating proceeding with the layoff of 600 workers, shuttering two factories, about 8 percent of our total workforce … the following day.

Yours truly was shocked that a serious discussion to proceed was occurring in the board room as the smoke was rising from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There is no way that Almost DailyBrett wanted to be associated with this exercise.

Even though my salary (not including benefits, options and the Employee Stock Purchase Program – ESPP) reached northward toward $200,000 per annum, there was no question about severing and refusing to allow my personal brand and reputation to be tied to this wrong action.

The Nürnberg defense about “just following orders,” did not and would not apply.

Fortunately even though the rocket scientists in HR were upset for weeks, we collectively made the decision to postpone the restructuring until America returned to some semblance of normalcy: The planes were flying, the markets were open, the ball games were being played.

Yes, this postponement was a cause worth fighting and winning.

The Rear View Mirror

“The reason that university politics is so vicious is because stakes are so small” – Former Harvard Professor Henry Kissinger

The graying temples and follicly challenged appearance may be signals about growing wisdom, if not moving toward the sunset of one’s life.

Looking around, one can see battles to fight and dragons to slay. Maybe someone else can engage in these wars and get en fuego with fiery reptiles?

When one contemplates Kissinger’s quote one sees the linkage between the words, “vicious” and “small.”  If one concludes a matter is small and does even come close to warranting going to the mat, then why risk rising one’s blood pressure if only viciousness is the result?

There is a sense of liberation that comes from letting go and lightening up. One can assert that the need to NOT be so “tightly wound,” is a legitimate criticism.

Being Type A has resulted in many victories and achievements, but at what price in terms of health and happiness?

Sometimes we need to learn to allow others to have the “opportunity” to pay the price.

Let the latest fight/cause be their circus and their monkeys.












“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.” – Walter Cronkite, CBS anchor from 1962-1981

When asked what sports historians would take away from his record (e.g., five home runs) performance in the 1977 World Series, Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson paused and humbly proclaimed: “The magnitude of me.”

What about the “magnitude” of former CBS anchor Dan Rather?

The question is particularly relevant today as former CBS anchor Dan Rather is attempting a relevancy comeback at 86-years-old.

With his new book, “What Unites Us, Reflections on Patriotism,” Rather appears to be trying to escape the embarrassing details of his bitter 2005 termination … err resignation.

More to Almost DailyBrett’s point: Should Rather be seen as The Father of Affirmational Journalism?

Affirmational Journalism? Do these two words constitute an oxymoron?

Affirmational Journalism (e.g., Rather) is the mirror opposite of Informational Journalism (e.g., Cronkite).

Under the tenets of Informational Journalism, a news outlet will sift through the relevant facts and information – including both sides of every story — and deduce a logical conclusion for readers or viewers to decide.

Is there any wonder that Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America in 1972?

The esteem for American Journalism peaked in 1976 at 72 percent (e.g., Gallup survey), shortly after Woodward and Bernstein’s Pulitzer Prize reporting and the demise of the Nixon administration. The same poll revealed that public trust for the media plummeted for four decades to 32 percent in 2016.

What happened to the days when the vital First Amendment mission of the media was to inform and enlighten?

Enter Rather as the successor to Cronkite in the CBS anchor chair in 1981. Shortly thereafter, the seeds of today’s Affirmational Journalism were planted.

Certainly, there were outlets in 1972 and beyond that editorially represented the left (e.g., New York Times) and the right (e.g., Wall Street Journal), but the news pages of these publications were essentially straight.

Rather: Keynoting the GOP National Convention?

“(Rather) stepped on his own dick.” – Ronald Reagan, 1988

Two celebrated incidents involving Republican presidents (not Democratic) clearly demonstrated how Rather’s aim was to “affirm” preset narratives, not to totally “inform:”

  1. His rudeness against then Vice President George H.W. Bush in a cataclysmic 1988 live interview, which included Bush reminding the world that Rather stormed off his set one year before, when a U.S. Open tennis match ran too long.
  2. Rather’s ill-fated 2004 60 Minutes piece (e.g., Rathergate), confusing the fonts of an IBM Selectric with those offered by Microsoft. The forged 1972 document reportedly proved that President George W. Bush received special treatment as a member of the National Guard. Alas for Rather, the letter was written with a Microsoft font.

Microsoft was not founded until 1975 – three years later. Oops.

Dan Rather was exposed for his eagerness and glee to accept any “fact” that fit a preordained narrative about George W. Bush and his National Guard service. More importantly, he and his producer, Mary Mapes, were terminated at CBS for practicing Affirmational Journalism, which sought out tidbits (e.g., the forged letter) that affirmed and fit the story and excluding those (e.g., Microsoft font) that did not.

Rather’s mission was to “affirm” through selective reporting the predisposed reigning political philosophy of elites residing east of the Hudson and within the confines of the Beltway:

Democrat John Kerry was good; Republican George W. Bush needed to be excused from office.

Today, the list of affirmational elite media on the left is long: New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC. The list of affirmational media on the right is shorter: Fox News.

Whether these major media outlets reside on the left or the right, their mission is to affirm, sustain and enhance entrenched narratives that advance a chosen political philosophy.

Is Dan Rather solely responsible for this movement toward affirming, whether through interpretation or presenting, preordained narratives? No. There are others.

Is he the poster child for affirmational journalism and with it a record 32 percent low in national esteem for the media? Almost DailyBrett is making that assertion.

Affirmational Journalism Schools?

As a college assistant professor in a school of communication, the author of Almost DailyBrett worries that future journalists will be trained to seek facts and figures that fit a preconceived narrative, and ignore those inconvenient points that potentially contradict the “story.”

Are the ends of supporting an adopted political philosophy more important than the means of not presenting both sides of a story? If that is indeed the case and we are no longer informing the public about the positions of both sides, can we call this behavior Journalism?

There are some of us who yearn for the better days of a free-and-fair media.  The Fourth Estate can potentially come back; just the same way Rather is trying to revive his tarnished reputation.

Can the media return to the days of Informational Journalism? Or is Affirmational Journalism here to stay, contributing to and hardening our divided society for years to come?

Maybe if the media moves to adopt the model of Walter Cronkite — not Dan Rather — we will all be better off as an American society.

We can only hope.







I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.” – Nike founder Phil Knight

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” – President Teddy Roosevelt

There are no statues devoted to critics.

Our increasingly complex data-driven society is overloaded with analysts, reviewers, chroniclers, interpreters – creating nothing of meaningful value – but they are always quick to cast stones at those who try to make the world a better place.

As Phil Knight said in his New York Times best seller Shoe Dog, “Entrepreneurs have always been outgunned, outnumbered.”

A perfect example – not the first one and certainly not the last – is the use of a series of infographics to depict an engineering/entrepreneur who tried and tried and succeeded brilliantly, but is portrayed by his failures.

A May 26 MarketWatch piece by Sally French includes a five-part infographic, which catalogs a litany of failures by Tesla co-founder, SpaceX founder, SolarCity co-founder and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.

When asked to describe himself by Steve Croft of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Musk responded that he regarded himself simply as an engineer. Almost DailyBrett has worked with engineers for years, attempting to transform their anal exactitude, never-ending acronyms and nomenclature into plain English.

What characterizes engineers is their willingness, their compulsion to throw ideas at the wall. Some will stick, and others … oh well.

Elon Musk is not afraid to fail. He is more scared by the prospect of not even trying.

Alas, Musk is human. Five of his SpaceX rockets blew up. He was ousted from PayPal on his honeymoon. He made $180 million from his stake in PayPal. He invested this money and presumably much more in SpaceX and Tesla, both were hemorrhaging cash. He was not only broke, but in way-over-his-head debt in 2008.

Today, Musk is Forbes’ #80 wealthiest individual on the planet with an estimated worth of $13.9 billion. His Tesla is the pure-play leader in energy-efficient electric cars, ion-Lithium batteries and solar. Is Tesla an electric car company that helps combat climate change? An energy company that shuns fossil fuels? Or is it, Elon Musk’s company?

How about all of the above? To most investors, the answer would be third … Tesla is Elon Musk’s company … and there may lie the reason for the MarketWatch infographics, illustrating Musk’s failures. Schadenfreude has never felt so good or gut.

A similar set of questions can be asked about Musk’s SpaceX, which is transporting materials to the International Space Station and may someday put humans on Mars. Think of it this way, four entities have successfully fired rockets into space: The United States of America, Russia, China and Elon Musk’s privately held, SpaceX.

The Importance of Failure

“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it, I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse.” — Walt Disney

Would you rather be Steve Jobs, who was terminated by the company he created, Apple?

Or would you rather be John Sculley, who will go down in history as the man who fired Steve Jobs?



Sculley recently tried to blame the termination of Jobs on the Apple Board of Directors at the time, but the die has already been cast. Sculley will follow Jobs to the grave as the man who sent packing the modern-day equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci.

Nike founder Phil Knight recounted in his memoir how he started his company with a $50 loan from his dad. Today, Nike is the planet’s No. 1 athletic apparel and shoe provider with $33.92 billion in revenues, $86.8 billion in market capitalization and 70,000 employees.

Uncle Phil is the 28th wealthiest homo sapien in the world at $26.2 billion. Keep in mind, this company was literally days, if not hours, away from bankruptcy too many times to count between 1962 and going public in 1980.

For Musk, his tale is a South Africa-to-America story. Today, Tesla is a $8.55 billion company, employing 17,782 with investors pouring $53.4 billion into its market cap.

Almost DailyBrett has been consistent in hailing the risk takers, the entrepreneurs, those who stare failure right in the face and sneer. The results are great companies that employ 10s of thousands and produce the products we want and need.

There will always be those who rage at the “billionaire class” to score political points.

And some with too-much-time-on-their-hands develop infographics to illustrate how the great have fallen here and there.

Wonder if any of these critics, analysts, reviewers etc. would have fired Steve Jobs?

Almost DailyBrett radical transparency: Your author happily owns shares in both Nike (NYSE: NKE) and Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA). The above epistle does not constitute investment advice for either company other than to generically say, Buy Low, Sell High.
















“Apple is not above the laws of the United States, nor should anyone or any company be above the laws. To have a court warrant granted, and Apple say they are still not going to cooperate is really wrong.” – California Senator Dianne Feinstein

It (Apple iPhone) is a deeply personal device. It is an extension of ourselves.” — Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple desperately needs an attitude adjustment.

It’s past time to cooperate, Tim Cook.

How about right NOW?timcook

And yet the Fortune 500 CEO walked off stage yesterday to the lyrics of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”

The terrorists who struck Brussels this morning, killing at least 30 and injuring 100 more, won’t back down either.

As an Apple shareholder (the stock is up this morning) and most importantly a strong proponent for safety, the author of Almost DailyBrett is joining the bi-partisan chorus calling for the company to fully comply with federal magistrate court order and unlock the secrets contained in a terrorist’s stolen cell phone.

What is particularly galling is the arrogant notion that a device is an extension of ourselves, and defines who we are.


Your author lived for almost six decades and managed to get by just fine without an Apple iPhone.

Public Relations Disaster

Did we have to get to this point?

Why did the relationship between Apple with the strongest brand in the world and the legendary Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have to degenerate into a public battle of wills with privacy being claimed on one side and safety being championed on the other?

The issue comes down to a County of San Bernardino owned iPhone 5 being used by a terrorist couple to kill 14 people and injure 22 more last December. What are the secrets contained in the encrypted smart phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook?terrorists

How can the FBI and by extension the people of this nation unlock this cell phone without permanently erasing the data contained in this device (10 unsuccessful tries triggers the elimination of all content)?

Why couldn’t über-secret Apple quietly and confidentially, particularly in the face of a legitimate court warrant,  write the code allowing the FBI to unlock this particular phone?

Couldn’t Apple have complied on a sub-rosa basis and keep those who think Edward Snowden is a swell guy happy at the same time? Why the public spectacle on CBS’ 60 Minutes and elsewhere that grows more intense and intransigent on a daily basis?

Just this week, the Department of Justice announced it may have a fix that allows the FBI to hack into the phone without inadvertently erasing the data. Is the FBI bluffing, trying to force Apple’s hand?

And will the spectre being played out on TV and mobile device screens from Brussels this morning, prompt a little soul-searching at Apple?

According to former Fortune technology columnist (and Apple apologist), David Kirkpatrick, the ISIS-coordinated attacks on the EU’s capital airport and central rail station, will have zero impact on the board room stance at Apple.

Alas, he is probably correct. A quick glance at the company’s news releases this morning offers plenty of details about the Apple iPhone SE and a new and improved iPad.

If you are expecting reflection, contemplation and refreshing change from Apple’s defiant attitude as a result of today’s deadly terrorist attacks, you are sadly mistaken.

The needless Apple public relations disaster continues.
















Quick question: To benefit society is it better to donate $1,000 to the United Way or buy about five shares in Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) for the same amount of money?

Earns Tesla MotorsUnitedWay

Before you answer, please be reminded this question is not about pure, unmitigated, unadulterated altruism of the giver or investor.

Those who contribute to non-profits (e.g., United Way is one of literally thousands) in many cases are doing so to generate a personal tax deduction, which not inconsequentially adds to the federal deficit approaching $18 trillion.

Conversely, those who invest in corporate shares are doing so in hopes that the stock increases in value, something along the lines of buy low, sell high. This action does not sound charitable in the least … but in some cases it may be just that.

To top it off, a successful buy-low, sell high-action triggers a profit and with it tax liability (either capital gains or personal income tax depending on the timing of the transaction). These transactions lead to greater tax revenues for the feds, states, counties and municipalities.

Back to the basic question: Is it for the betterment of society to donate to a non-profit rather than to invest in visionary companies?

The answer may be surprising.

Non-Profit vs. For-Profit

Certainly, the United Way is not the only non-profit doing good on Planet Earth.

And just as certain, Elon Musk’s battery-powered automobile innovator/manufacturer, Tesla, is not the only global company with a spiffy idea or two.

The Alexandria, VA-based United Way with 1,200 local offices with a reported $103.2 million in assets and $94.2 million in net income provides essential support services to the less fortunate nationwide…and that is as Martha would say, “A good thing.”

Keep in mind when these big numbers are being thrown around, some in power may try to dip into the till. That is exactly what happened in the 1990s when United Way CEO William Aramory defrauded the charity according to a 53-count federal indictment to the tune of $1.2 million. He spent six years in the slam.

The United Way appears to have fully recovered from the PR debacle, and has partnered with the National Football League and others to assist those who need help the most.

Many multi-national corporations have earned near universal disdain for excessive CEO compensation, selling sinful products (e.g., NYSE: MO or Philip Morris), practicing “Green-Washing,” “Pink Washing” or “Astroturfing.” No wonder there were protests/reactions from “Occupy Wall Street,” to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and many, many others.

And yet, there are companies that are sincere about maintaining both their fiduciary responsibility for shareholders and employees, and corporate social responsibility for workers, communities, regions and yes, the planet.

Companies on a Mission

“If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.” — Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie in her novel, Mrs. Dymond (1885)

University of Oregon business professor Michael V. Russo wrote Companies on a Mission about more than a handful of enlightened corporations that have demonstrated they can be good citizens, while pursuing a profit as mandated by fiduciary responsibility.


In writing his book, he said these companies doing good for communities and the planet were drawing interest from at least a portion of the LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) consumer market segment, estimated at 43 million Americans in the economic downturn year of 2009. Conceivably that number has grown as the economy continues its stubbornly slow recovery.

Are we daring to think differently in suggesting that investing in shares and/or buying the products of these forward-looking companies is the equivalent of teaching a man how to catch a fish?

And are we merely giving a man a fish, if we donate in a well-meaning non-profit. That’s exactly what Almost DailyBrett is pondering in writing this epistle.

Please send the slings and arrows my way.

NUMMI Comes Back to Life

In a recent 60 Minutes piece on Musk’s battery car builder, Tesla, and privately held rocket-ship innovator, SpaceX, CBS included footage of the once-shuddered/2010 reopened NUMMI plant in industrial Fremont, California. There are now than 1,000 workers building non-polluting Tesla battery-operated cars at NUMMI.



Palo Alto-based Tesla employs nearly 6,000 (and this figure does not include in-direct jobs in the form of suppliers, partners, distributors, resellers, butchers, bakers and candle stick makers).

The $2 billion top-line and $456 million bottom-line company has attracted more than $26.7 billion in market capitalization or market value (based on the present stock price).

The key to building more of these vehicles, which do NOT contribute to climate change, are the availability of ion-batteries with acceptable ranges and reasonable price points. Tesla will soon announce the location(s) for its ion-battery “Gigafactory.” We can rest assured the Gigafactory or Gigafactories will directly employ hundreds and indirectly employ thousands more, using the tried-true indirect-to-direct employee ratios.

Bill O’Reilly once called Tesla a “game-changer” as the way we think of automobiles is changing. And naturally, Tesla is attracting competitors into this space (z.B. Bayerische Motoren Werke oder BMW).

Back to the basic premise of this exercise: Are there instances in which the purchase of stock shares in (gasp) a corporation do more for the economy and the planet than making the traditional charitable contribution?

That seems to be the case in at least one instance, if we dare think out of the proverbial box.

Almost DailyBrett Note: The author of this blog owns slightly more than 100 shares of Tesla. Readers considering investing in Tesla would be well advised to review Tesla’s financials, stock performance, analyst reports and maybe even consult a financial advisor. My knowledge of Tesla is based upon published reports, publicly available information/data and of course, the 60 Minutes piece.















“Only in America”

The old joke: “When has it been a bad day?”

“When Mike Wallace (in particular) and the 60 Minutes crew is waiting in the lobby.”

Sometimes having 60 Minutes coming for an extended visit can be great news for a company, and maybe for a nation that could use a kick in the collective pants.


The Scott Pelley story this past Sunday focused on a 42-years young immigrant “engineer” from South Africa, Elon R. Musk, who is playing a huge role in reviving American heavy manufacturing in both automobiles (Tesla) and rockets (SpaceX).

Almost DailyBrett wants to hear, tell and relay more of these stories.

Driving repeatedly up the 880 (e.g.. The Nasty Nimitz) past industrial Fremont, one would cast a sad glance at the shuttered NUMMI plant. At various times, GM and Toyota cars and trucks would be made there until they weren’t any longer.

The negative narrative was that Silicon Valley with its unparalleled collection of gear heads would always be a center of innovation, but manufacturing was just too bloody expensive.

Oh, ya?

Tesla’s 1,000 employees at the recharged NUMMI plant can’t build the fully battery-powered (up to 250 miles on one charge with zero climate change emissions) $100,000 Model S cars fast enough to meet the demand. Overall Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) employs nearly 6,000 directly and indirectly results in the hiring of thousands of others in supplier roles, and quite well could be the first successful U.S. automobile start-up in 90 years. And the company is working to developing the technology to build $30,000 non-polluting all-electric cars with acceptable travel ranges.

Heck, Bill O’Reilly called Tesla a global “game changer” that will force all rival automakers to respond.

Earns Tesla Motors

But the story does not start-and-stop there; In fact it goes into the stratosphere and beyond.

Musk also pioneered privately held SpaceX with its 3,000 employees, which received a $1.5 billion NASA influx to deliver cargos via rockets to the agency’s orbiting space stations. SpaceX is developing the first rocket that can be landed right back on the launch pad, and may play the leading role in taking humans to Mars for the first time.

Don’t bet against Musk, Tesla and SpaceX.

We seemingly live in a culture in which no good deed goes unpunished, one in which we despise the 1 percent who have much more than the rest of us, and yet we don’t know them.

For example, Musk came to America … “Only in America” … because of its software prowess, particularly the Silicon Valley. After attaining degrees in physics and business from the University of Pennsylvania, he devised the software that provided on-board navigation for drivers, and made $22 million. He developed the online banking system, called PayPal, which he sold to eBay for $1.5 billion (Musk’s share, $180 million). Modestly, he said that was a “good outcome.”

And then he bet the ranch and his earned nest eggs on both Tesla and SpaceX, and was close to bankruptcy and a nervous breakdown. He had hundreds of electric cars that did not work and three failed rocket launches in succession…a fourth would have been game, set and match.


With tears in his eyes, he told the story of how Number Four was the charm, and the NASA and further VC investments saved the day. His reaction was very human, very open-kimono. Maybe there are good people who happen to earn a lot of money?

The rest is history. Entrepreneurs by their very nature have to be prepared to fail. Caca happens more times than not. Musk stared failure and permanent debt right in the eyes…and the other guy just blinked.

As mentioned more than once in Almost DailyBrett, my former boss Wilf Corrigan came to America from Liverpool, England with his new Norwegian bride circa 1960. The initial destination was the wrong side of the tracks in blast-furnace hot, Phoenix, Arizona with barely two shekels to rub together.

In time, he rose to the top spot at Fairchild, lost the company in a hostile takeover bid, formed his own company, LSI Logic, which is now being driven into oblivion by his successor. Wilf succeeded, failed and succeeded again.

Failure is an option in Silicon Valley and America, but so is success…including new businesses, jobs and maybe heavy manufacturing (e.g., electric cars and rockets).


Mounting the proverbial soap box, there are a record 47 million on food stamps and another record 8.9 million on disability, most legit…some not. We need to provide a safety net for those who are in real need…

We also need to not hate, but celebrate, the doers, the achievers, the entrepreneurs. The days of jealousy should be behind us, but you know they are not.

For the public relations industry, we should be unabashed and undaunted in telling the stories of those who dare to fail and ultimately succeed, providing us with great products and the best anti-poverty program on the planet: A good paying private sector job with full benefits.

Thank you Elon Musk and all the others who dare to follow in your footsteps. We can hardly wait to hear and tell the stories about you.













There comes a time in every political administration when directing blame at previous incumbent, so-in-so, comes across as weak finger-pointing rather than a strong proclamation of historical fact.

Reflecting back to my days as former California Governor George Deukmejian’s second press secretary, I distinctly recall a meeting of the entire senior staff chaired by the governor. The message was clear: No more blaming Jerry Brown… (His first tenure of Jerry Brown as governor of California).

George Deukmejian Campaigning

The reason: This was not our first rodeo. The stewardship of the state was our responsibility. From this point forward, there would be no more public denunciation of the administration of the state by our predecessor. This point was particular relevant to me as I was duly serving as the governor’s chief spokesman, historian and message developer.

Making this rhetorical pivot was not as easy as it seems. We had literally spent months heading into years reminding anybody and everybody who would listen that Brown left us a $1.5 billion deficit (almost seems quaint by today’s standards). We fought against a myriad of tax increases proposed by the opposition, even to the point of forcing the governor to live in Sacramento’s best hotel at the time, the Holiday Inn (a long story for another time). When the smoke settled, the state retired the deficit without raising taxes and we established a $1 billion reserve for emergencies.

Those were the days my friends, I thought they would never end…

And yet with any administration, there were fires to put out and FUBARs to fix. Our toxics program was a mess, requiring the program to be run out of the chief of staff’s office. There was a massive delay in the doling out of restitution to victims of violent crime, prompting Mike Wallace to call me demanding a “60 Minutes” interview with the governor.

And let’s not forget that Mother Nature can be very unkind. There were fires. There were floods. There was the drought. There were states of emergency. And there was the Loma Prieta Earthquake, resulting in me being told that the “Bay Bridge is in the Water!”


One would think that an administration would be given a Mulligan for a natural catastrophe. One would be thinking incorrectly. When the top deck of the Cypress Structure of the 880 came crashing down on the motorists of the lower deck, the ladies and gentlemen of the Capitol Press Corps wanted to immediately assign blame to us. We were at the top and a permanent bull’s eye was affixed to our collective backsides. It’s totally unfair, but nothing is totally fair in politics and government. As Mary Matalin has said repeatedly: “Politics is a contact sport.”

Obviously, it would have been ridiculous to bring up the name of Jerry Brown in the context of the toxics mess, the failure of the victims of violent crime compensation program and of course, the Earthquake. Believe it or not, Mother Nature can be equally cruel to Democrats and Republicans alike.

Surveying the present day landscape, the Obama administration is well beyond its infancy, honeymoon period, and the much ballyhooed “First 100 days.” The administration of George W. Bush matters less with every passing day. Election Day is four months away. It is no longer early; in fact it is way past early.

Pointing fingers at the most famous denizen of Crawford, Texas and proclaiming, “It could have been worse” does not harken back to the bold statements of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Harry Truman, JFK or the Gipper. Even Bill Clinton’s, “I didn’t have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky…” comes across more decisive.

Friday’s poor jobs report with only 80,000 created and the unemployment rate remaining stuck at 8.2 percent for June (while there were 85,000 first-time applications for disability in the same month) calls for an all-hands on deck crisis communications exercise.

Instead of blaming the predecessor the hard and fast rules for crisis communication should come into play in the face of inevitable adversity: Tell the truth; Tell it All; Tell it Fast and Move On (Isn’t there an organization by that name?).

Repeating the playbook of former President George H.W. Bush in combating both Clinton and a lousy economy by telling everyone that conditions are getting better, when they are clearly heading south, is a time-proven loser. The best approach is to look at the crummy economy right in the proverbial eye and sneer.

What is the administration going to do about it? After three-point-five years, what course correction needs to be undertaken? The escalating entitlements (e.g., Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) consume about 60 percent of the federal budget. How about reforming these programs? Frau Merkel raised Germany’s retirement age from 65-to-67, reflecting that we are living longer, and at the same time cutting costs. Even with this monumental change, she is still in office, more popular than ever. They are still serving Helles und Dünkles in the Augustiner Keller in München. Imagine that?

Some would warn against spooking seniors and getting Harry’s bowels in an uproar and Nancy’s knickers in a twist. The alternative would be to convince the more than 20 million unemployed and underemployed people, and the 16 million underwater mortgage holders that everything is getting better…when they know that is not the case.

We faced FUBARs in the Deukmejian years. We admitted them, took responsibility and most importantly said what we were going to do about them. Fast forwarding to the present, the days of pointing fingers to sun-scorched Texas are over. The real question is whether the days of accepting responsibility and proposing change that we can trust are already behind us.










When has it been a bad day?

When your secretary calls and tells you that Mike Wallace and the “60 Minutes” crew are waiting in the lobby.


In my case, Mike Wallace was on the phone.

I was the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian in the late 1980s. The State of California had a well documented problem with its Victims of Violent Crime Program, administered by the state Department of General Services.

The idea behind the program was simple enough. After the courts came down with guilty verdicts, the perpetrators of violent crimes (i.e., rape, assault, robbery at gunpoint) were compelled forfeit assets to help pay restitution to their victims. The only problem was that these assets were getting tied up in miles of red tape for more than a year, adding to the anguish of those suffering the aftermath of these horrific crimes.

The embarrassing nature of this underperforming program was fodder for our political opponents, who openly questioned how a law-and-order Republican administration headed by the former Attorney General could have a Victims of Violent Crime program that simply wasn’t working. The controversy became the subject of statewide headlines.

Fortunately, the state Department of General Services under increased oversight of the Office of the Governor quickly reduced the case backlog and the average time period for payment to crime victims dropped from one year to six months. Further steps were being taken to reduce the waiting time to only 90 days. The criticism eventually started to subside as reporters moved on to other “good dirt” stories.

One of the justifiable criticisms of CBS’ “60 Minutes” news magazine is that it typically jumps into stories too late. The Victims of Violent Crime Story had already turned the corner, righted the ship…or whatever metaphor applies.

That is when Mr. Wallace gave me a call. I was listening to that famous voice that I heard since I was a teenager. I can still hear that resonance in my sleep. Mike Wallace was demanding an interview with the governor. I was thinking, “No way Miguel,” but my voice was telling Wallace that I will work on it. I even asked about his time schedule for the interview. I was so helpful.

The 60 Minutes interview was unavoidable. If you do not cooperate, the network will simply set up an ambush interview and my boss would be the target. We offered General Services director Tony Anthony to face the music. Wallace and his team accepted Tony for the interview.

It was my job to conduct preparatory “hot box” mock interviews with Tony to prepare him for Mike Wallace. The first thing I did was apologize to Tony. My technique was borrowed from then-Indiana head basketball coach Robert Montgomery Knight: Make practice so horrible, the game was relatively easy in comparison.

I played the role of Mike Wallace. Tony played Tony. Our strategy was simple. The Victims of Violent Crime Program is not what we wanted it to be. Yes, you are right Mr. Wallace. We are upset with the program’s performance, and we have already brought the backlog down to six months…but that isn’t good enough. We need to do more. And this is what we are doing. We will not be satisfied until we bring the backlog to a reasonable 90 days from application to delivery of restitution funds.


The modus operandi of Mike Wallace was to start a fight on camera. Our response was to avoid the punches, agree on camera and shift the focus to the future. The strategy worked. The “60 Minutes” piece included predictable interviews with victims of violent crime, who were justifiably frustrated and disappointed with the state’s administration of the program. We agreed with them, and state ex-cathedra that we were already seeing results to make this program better.

The Mike Wallace story ran. Tony did well in his unenviable task of facing Mike Wallace and the “60 Minutes” cameras. It really helped that Tony was a good guy and came across that way on camera. The damage could have been worse. We cooperated. We prepared through “hot box” mock interviews. We had a message. We had a plan. We delivered that message.

Upon Mike Wallace’s passing last night, one can safely conclude that he is a CBS legend in the same arena with Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid. Alas, I cannot say the same for Dan Rather(gate).






Should we even be asking this question?

Deep down I wish we weren’t even discussing the personal opinions of reporters and editors, no matter how valid or repugnant; they should be irrelevant to the beats and the stories they are covering.

Isn’t it the duty of the media to report the news, not be the news?

If reporters or editors want to be news makers then they should run for public office, sing for a touring rock-and-roll band, dance on Broadway, play big-league ball…do things that warrant coverage…by someone else.


This may sound naïve, but I yearn for the notion of covering the news and not interpreting the news, and certainly not expressing personal opinions. Reporters interviewing reporters still has the same effect on me as someone taking their fingernails to a chalk board.

Helen Thomas of Hearst News Service has long been regarded as the dean of the Capitol Press Corps, and close to a legend to those who follow the Fourth Estate. She was always given the privilege of asking the first news conference question to the President of the United States.

However, her earlier question to the Leader of the Free World about “so-called terrorists” may have been one of the first clues about her true feelings (a daughter of Lebanese immigrants) about the Arab vs. Israeli conflict. Her most recent comments about getting the Jews “the hell out of Palestine” and sending them “home” to Germany and Poland ended her half-century-long career. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/07/AR2010060701493.html?wpisrc=nl_pmheadline

My purpose here is not to blast Thomas for un-arguably anti-Semitic remarks (there are plenty who will do just that), but to express concern about reporters and editors not being satisfied in just merely reporting the news.

Dan Rather is now an (largely) unemployed former anchor because he and his “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes embarked upon a 2004 campaign to discredit George W. Bush and remove him from office. Whether W. was a good president or not, worthy of re-election, was for the people to decide…I know this sounds quaint, but it is not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents_controversy

The trend has been toward “setting the agenda” for the nation to follow. Huh? I thought that was the president’s job and the leadership in Congress and the governor’s mansions…not the paper of record or the major networks.

Today is a sad day for American journalism. It is a day in which the White House ripped the comments of a reporter as “offensive and reprehensible.” Wonder how many reporters harbor similar views?

I hope we never find out.

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