Tag Archive: Al Gore


“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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Considering all the consternation about the Electoral College, one must ask why it isn’t ranked in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series)?

The BCS (at least at the moment) seems to be obsessed only with Alabama, Florida, Kansas and Oregon. That’s just four mere states with a grand total of 51 electoral votes.

bcstrophy

Heck that’s nothing compared to the Electoral College, which features inordinate attention on 10 states (and maybe more): Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada or 131 electoral votes.

The BCS is predicated on a bunch of computers and two polls: The Harris Interactive College Football Poll and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.  That’s it? Some computer hardware and two lousy polls, and the BCS is labeled as a “controversy”?

Conversely, the Electoral College is absolutely overrun with polls, both nationally and state-by-state. And the Electoral College can more than match the BCS when it comes to computers chomping on statistics. Regressions anyone? How would you like your Likert Scales prepared?

The BCS is designed to provide us with two worthy contestants for college football’s national championship. Big deal. The political process has already given us the final two contestants about six months ago. Barack Obama even spent his wedding anniversary night with Mitt Romney.

The BCS was founded in 1998 to determine the national championship (and will essentially go out of business when a four-team national playoff ensues in 2014). The Electoral College is enshrined in the US Constitution, providing for the indirect election of the nation’s chief executive. It seems that our Founding Fathers did not have unlimited faith in the men of America (alas, women were disenfranchised at the time), and wanted the wise electors to make the ultimate decision. The forerunner for this system was Medieval Germany where the peasant’ votes were represented by the nobles and they in turn made the wise decision relative to a chief executive.

Every Sunday, ESPN keeps us in suspense for about 10 minutes about who will be the latest Deep South/Midwest team to leap-frog small market, West Coast Oregon in the BCS standings. Heck when it comes to getting screwed, college football has nothing on politics. One thing to say about college football is that one team must put up more points on the scoreboard in every game in order to win and (maybe) move up in the BCS standings.

Want to lose the popular vote and still win? Try out American politics. It has happened thrice in our history as Rutherford B. Hayes “won” over Samuel J. Tilden in 1876; Benjamin Harrison “defeated” Grover Cleveland in 1888; and George W. Bush “bested” Al Gore in 2000 even though the majority of voters went the other way. There are no “hanging chads” in college football.

Now some political science fiction fans are conjecturing that Romney could win the popular vote (e.g., the battle) and lose the Electoral College to Obama (e.g., the war). There is also talk of a 269-269 tie, which would throw Democratic lawyers into a tizzy and the presidential election into the Republican dominated House of Representatives.

electoralcollege

If you are an eternal optimist and have more than a modicum of faith, you can root for the BCS to get it right and invite the two best SEC teams to once again contest for the national championship. The rest of the nation can settle for the New Mexico and Idaho Famous Potatoes Bowls.

Who knows for sure, we may have an outright winner in both electoral votes and popular vote for the third election in a row.

Even with these potential happy results (at least to some), there are still big-time issues with both the BCS and the Electoral College. Fortunately for college football fans, a genuine four-team playoff is coming in two years. Will it solve all the problems and end all of the arguments? Of course not, but that is what makes college football downright mesmerizing.

For the big state fans, they will continue to call for the direct election of the president via the popular vote (concentration on New York, Florida, Texas, California) as opposed to the Electoral College (saturated coverage of New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada).

The big state folks should beware of what they wish for: A never-ending litany of attack ads cluttering their airwaves and computer screens for nearly a year at a time. Guess, the BCS is looking better and better with each passing day.

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

http://www.bcsknowhow.com/bcs-formula

http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2012/10/23/with-election-close-prospect-rises-that-electoral-college-winner-won-popular-vote-winner/nKvUAubKM1kcb6ewxshSzO/story.html

http://people.howstuffworks.com/question4721.htm

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADRA_enUS373US374&q=When+does+the+four-team+college+football+playoff+begin%3f

 

 

 

 

 

“We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.” – Joe Namath, Miami Touchdown Club, January 9, 1969

“Broadway Joe” either had stones or as reported, he was intoxicated.

namath

His New York Jets were an 18-point underdog to the then-Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.  According to conventional wisdom, an upstart AFL team could not beat the NFL champions. That perception obviously did not stop Namath from making his brash pronouncement. His coach Weeb Ewbank was less than pleased.

Three days later, Namath backed up his pronouncement with the game of his life as the Jets pulled off one of the biggest upsets, 16-7, in sports history. Namath was either lucky, good or both.

For mere public relations mortals representing sports teams, publicly traded companies and campaigning politicians, managing public expectations is a tricky inexact science. It requires the skillful and measured practice of public relations/investor relations particularly in the face of baiting reporters, editors and analysts who want to create an expectation that translates into juicy stories…particularly those on embarrassing projections that simply fail to match reality.

The day after President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention there seemed to be a letdown. For some reason the address did not meet Obamesque expectations. It was a solid speech, skillfully delivered and the audience urged him on. Many pundits were disappointed.

And yet…there was the anticipated post-convention bounce.

Is it time for President Obama to do his best Joe Namath imitation, be brash, be bold and guarantee a victory on November 6? He knows better, and his “handlers” know better. There is a political lifetime between now and then, including three presidential and one vice presidential debates.

The biggest hurdle is the management of expectations for these encounters. There is little dissent on the notion that the debates played a huge role in John F. Kennedy winning the presidency in 1960 and the one presidential encounter, “There you go again” and “Are you better off than you were four years ago?,”paved the way for the Ronald Reagan landslide 20 years later.

Twelve years ago, the political community was having a grand time making fun of George W. Bush’s “single-digit IQ.” Bush’s advisers were publicly laughing along with them, and at the same time praising the “carefully schooled and trained technique” of then-Vice President Al Gore.

George W. Bush, Al Gore

How could Bush possibly win? After all, Gore had debated 35 times during the past 12 years (e.g., Ross Perot). There was no contest, until there was a contest.

Bush’s team played down the governor’s abilities, while they lauded the vice president’s rhetorical skills. The goal in the expectations game was to lower the bar for Bush and make the same bar way too high for Gore.

If yours truly was advising Romney, I would counsel him to follow the George W. Bush “aw shucks” playbook (without saying “aw shucks”). Romney is seen as wooden and corporate. He should use this less-than-flattering perception to his advantage.

Conversely, Obama is regarded with good reason as a great orator and a superb debater. Romney is the underdog. Americans love to root for the underdog. Instead of “Rudy,” the Republicans will portray “Romney” on October 3. One trusts that Obama knows a trap when he sees one. Watch for his team to offer a modicum of respect to Romney’s presentation skills, citing the plethora of Republican debates in 2011 and earlier this year.

Playing the expectations game does not just apply to Super Bowls or presidential debates, it also manifests itself in setting the table for investors, analysts and employees. How many times have you witnessed publicly traded companies exceed Wall Street profitability expectations by just one-cent per share? For the longest time, CEO John Chambers of networking gear supplier Cisco Systems exceeded the Street for a series of one-cent bottom line victories quarter-after-quarter.

This success did not occur by magic or accident. Company public relations gurus spend twice as much time setting expectations in a company’s “business outlook” section of a 10Q quarterly earnings release as they do in preparing the actual quarterly results. Think of it this way, meeting and (better yet) exceeding the expectations of Wall Street is a “good thing” in the words of Martha Stewart. Undercutting the expectations of the sell-side analyst types is the PR equivalent of stepping on a rattlesnake: the fangs strike the body and the poison is injected in the form of an almost certain downgrade and stock sell off.

Joe Namath would have looked downright foolish, if the Colts had blown out the Jets in Super Bowl III. It all worked out for Broadway Joe. Sometimes you can win in Las Vegas by betting big. Most of the time you just lose the shirt off your back for failing at the expectations game.

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

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/248373-debates-obama-romney-face-to-face-seeking-knockout-blow

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,56496,00.html

The Time and Place for Bad News

As public relations practitioners we have all learned the following about bad news: It almost always finds a way into the public domain.

We have a choice: We can either manage it or be managed by it.

One of the biggest problems with handling bad news is that executives and their lieutenants in many cases wish for it to just simply go away or be swept under the rug. This is understandable human nature, but it is not good communications policy.

For publicly traded companies, failing to immediately disclose “material” information  only to have it surface later will most likely result in SEC fines for violation of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) and lead to a series of field days for the plaintiff’s bar. http://www.sec.gov/answers/regfd.htm

Many partisans want to shoot the messenger and skip over the important message, in this case, Karl Rove, the author of “Courage and Consequence,” www.rove.com. His book provides an important lesson about bad-news management; and in particular a missed opportunity that almost cost his boss, George W. Bush, the presidency. It pertains to Bush’s DUI arrest in Kennebunkport, Maine on Labor Day weekend in 1976.

“Over the years, Bush had told a few confidants about the arrest,” Rove recalled . . . “But Bush was adamant he didn’t want it public . . . Despite our mild encouragement to make it public, Bush said ‘no.’

“At the time, I thought most Americans would decide this was no big deal. Bush had been 30, gave up drinking entirely 10 years later, and incident was far in the past. Nevertheless, we should have brought it up at a time and place of our choosing…”

Ah, the time-and-place rule of strategic communications comes to the forefront once again. You can control the flow of information or have that information control you. The intransigence of the chief executive in this case almost cost him the White House, and conceivably resulted in him losing the popular vote against Al Gore.

The story “broke” four days before the November 2000 general election (Isn’t it amazing how negatives can surface at the most inopportune time for your clients, when through your own inaction you allow someone else manage your bad news?)

“Did this last-minute revelation of Bush’s decades-old DUI hurt?” Rove asked. “Yes, a lot. First it knocked us off message at a critical time . . . Second, we had made a big issue of Gore’s credibility and now we had a problem with Bush’s.”

Even though he admits that it is impossible to accurately quantify the impact of the DUI revelation just 96 hours before Election Day, Rove said if just 2 percent of voters changed their minds that meant that 2.1 million votes went into the other guy’s column. That figure is approximately 4x Gore’s eventual 543,895-vote lead in the popular vote and probably cost Bush four states that he lost by less than 1 percent: Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin.

“Had he won them, this would have added a total of 30 electoral votes to Bush’s column, which would have allowed him to win the White House without Florida. Receiving a majority of the popular vote and winning the Electoral College by a margin of 305 to 232 would have given Bush a much better start. Of the things I would redo in the 2000 election, making a timely announcement about Bush’s DUI would top the list.”

Engaging in a little Monday morning quarterbacking 10 years later, what should have been the strategy of the Bush campaign team?

●First, convince the principal of the inevitability of disclosure and strongly suggest a management program. Lay out very clearly the consequences and folly associated with the withholding of critical information.

●Second, look at the calendar – the 1999, not the 2000-election-year calendar – for a strategic time and place to make the announcement or to allow the news to miraculously leak. The strategy is to make the DUI arrest ancient news by the time of the 2000 general election.

●Third, figure out the means of disclosure (e.g. deliberate leak, response to a TV interviewer, Drunk-driving awareness event). The 1976 DUI arrest could be seen by the public as a “lessons learned” experience.

Granted that saying all of the above is easier than doing. However, controlling the story on your own terms and dictating the timing is far better than responding to media questions about SEC fines, attorney strike suits or even losing the presidency.

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