Tag Archive: Hamilton Jordan

“The constitutional power of a president to pardon is unique and sacred, meant to give the chief executive the ability to correct injustices.” – Hamilton Jordan, chief of staff to former President Jimmy Carter

“I think either the president (Bill Clinton) had an incredible lapse in memory or was brain-dead when he did that one (Marc Rich pardon),” – Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, February 11, 2001

An Outgoing President’s Trifecta?

Close Guantanamo.

Visit Cuba.

Pardon Edward Snowden.snowdenSXSW

If true, all Snowden has to do is keep his comrade warm for 10 or 11 more months in the Rodina (until a few days or even hours before the inauguration of the 45th president) and then return to the U.S. as a free man and a hero in many circles.

How many U.S. universities would welcome Snowden as their commencement speaker in May or June, 2017? Ring those First Amendment bells.

Two of Snowden’s biggest fans are Michael Moore and Oliver Stone. And what do these two gents have in common? They make movies. How about an Academy Award epic about Snowden capped off by footage of a presidential pardon and a grateful nation? Guess what?

A New York Times best seller?

An eight-figure Snowden bank account? All for pilfering and leaking top-secret documents in an age of global Terrorism?

Outrageous? Maybe to the majority of Americans, but do our elites really care about them? Besides how many news cycles will it take for most plain folks to forget about the Snowden pardon?

What are the Kardashians doing today?marcrich

Does anybody remember Marc Rich? The spouse of the man who pardoned Rich is ready to become the first woman president of the United States. Did the presidential pardon of Marc Rich hurt her electoral chances?

For those scoring at home, Rich was one of the world’s wealthiest men. He was wanted for more than 50 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, massive income tax evasion and trading oil with Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, Khadafy’s Libya, Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, Kim Il Sung’s North Korea and Apartheid South Africa. He even renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Rich’s former wife, Denise, provided $450,000 to the Clinton library, and another $1 million to Democratic campaigns. Rich was pardoned. And with his pardon a legal and political precedent was established.richclintons

Strange Bedfellows?

Even though Snowden is exiled in Russia his influence resonates and an ultimate irony has ensued.

The progressive Feel-the-Bern crowd castigates “corporate” interests (e.g., publicly traded companies). In turn, many conservatives have trouble believing the government does anything right.

Isn’t ironic that many in the anti-Wall Street movement are backing publicly traded Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and anti-government types are supporting the FBI in the fight over unlocking the cell phone of a deceased terrorist?

Some have suggested a “Snowden Effect” in which his theft of and subsequent disclosure of NSA files made him a “hero” with many in the political class, empowered Apple to not cooperate with the FBI.

Privacy über Safety … at least in Cupertino.

Timing Is Everything

Some will contend that pardoning Snowden is a ship that has already sailed.

The White House last year responded to a petition with more than 167,000 signers asked for the fugitive to be pardoned. The chief executive’s office suggested that Snowden should come back and face a jury of his “peers” about charges of theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person. It all adds up to at least two counts for violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

The petition’s timing was all wrong. Most of all, it was way too early.inaugurationday

Let’s see, the president’s last day in office will be Friday, January 20, 2017.

Almost DailyBrett instinctively knows the best day of the week for bad news: Friday.

What else will be happening that day? The inauguration of the new president? Why not just slip Edward Snowden’s name into a long-list of folks who are being pardoned?

There will be screams and howls mixed into stories about the oath of office, the inaugural address, the balls and the first 100 days. All of these will be presented on a wintry Friday night or Saturday morning. The outgoing president’s legacy will suffer a temporary blow, but still will be intact. Snowden will be a free hombre.

More importantly, who will own the movie and book rights? And the newly wealthy Snowden? He will Move On with his eight-figure life.












Are there really, “Dog and pony shows?”

Is he really, “All hat and no cattle?”

Is there really, “Wood in front of the house?”

And what happened to the White House chief of staff who, “Always wanted to see the pyramids?”

There are at least 12,000 English language idioms, words and phrases, which constitute figures of speech for native speakers, or at least those who understand the lingo. In Silicon Valleyese, one spoke of “Insufficient bandwidth,” “Open kimono,” “Biological breaks” and “Hard stops.” Texans are fond of stating, that someone is, “All hat and no cattle” or “That dog won’t hunt” (former Governor Anne Richards). Granted these are all in English, but without translation or inside knowledge they may not be understood in the proper context by those who claim English as their first language.


As communications choreographers should we use idioms in our discussions with internal and external stakeholders, including employees, customers, public officials, reporters, editors, bloggers and analysts? The short answer is we should first softly recite, “One Mississippi, two Mississippi (another idiom)” before letting loose with our clever colloquial use of the language. Time and place is everything, and if miscalculated an idiom may come back to bite the messenger.

For example, when the communications team for the US semiconductor industry was trying to pry open the Japanese market for our chips in the 1990s; some would make reference to an upcoming shameless Tokyo media event as a “Dog and pony show.” Native Japanese speakers wanted to know what dogs and ponies had to do with foreign access to Japan’s indigenous semiconductor market.

Never mind.

And English speakers don’t have the corner on idioms. The Germans have a phrase for a well-endowed woman, Sie hat Holz vor der Hutte. The literal translation is, she has wood in front of the house. How many non-Germans would understand that? And should men of any ethnic background go there anyway?

Former White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan (Carter administration) reportedly was admiring the wood in front of the house of the Egyptian ambassador’s wife, prompting him to reportedly comment, “I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids.” Former White House Press Secretary Jody Powell denied this item that appeared in the society section of the Washington Post. Nonetheless the damage was done and it contributed to Jordan’s fraternity boy reputation.

Last week, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said that constitutionally valid Obamacare may still be “An albatross around the neck” of the president. The White House reportedly was less than pleased with his use of an idiom from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Let’s face it, idioms are an everyday part of our language and sometimes we use them without even being overtly knowledgeable about their use. Here are some that immediately come to mind as candidates for regular use: “Life’s too short,” “Giving him the Heisman,” “All bark and no bite,” “Cross the Rubicon” and “One taco short of a combination.”

There are some idioms/metaphors that are particularly prevalent in “Inside baseball” (another idiom) discussions between and among communications choreographers: “Drinking the Kool-Aid, “ “Drinking your own bath water,” “Going postal,” “Deer in the headlights,” “Feeding frenzy,” “On the same page,” “Singing from the same hymnal,” “Off the reservation,” “Lone ranger,” “Thrown under the bus,” “Still in denial,” “Acceptance stage” and “Making chicken salad out of chicken sheet.”

Just as parables were used in Biblical times to get across points and ideas, idioms have and can be used by those in the public relations profession to position our clients and deposition the opposition. This is particularly true in public affairs and issues management in which the media is generally much more skeptical — bordering on cynicism — compared to reporters/editors/correspondents covering other topics. If you never use idioms and metaphors, you may be considered to be an uptight “space cadet” (another idiom).

Having said that be careful to avoid an inopportune use of an idiom. Rendell’s, “Albatross around the neck” of the president  sent the signal that last week’s Supreme Court Obamacare win may be an idiomatic “Pyrrhic victory” for the White House. The occupant may have thought of some idioms in reply to the former Governor of Pennsylvania.




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