Tag Archive: Jody Powell


“ … The past two years have radicalized me. I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness out of a conviction that they must save the country from Trump.” – Fox, Daily Beast, CNN, Washington Post media commentator/columnist/author Howard Kurtz, “Media Madness”

“The media have been harder on Trump than any other president” and they “feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged.” – Former President Jimmy Carter

Almost DailyBrett doesn’t remember being trained to be an amateur psychologist during his years in Journalism school at the University of Southern California.

Back in the Brady Bunch years, your author was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting journalism — not psychology — hoping to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Remember being taught “Reporting Public Affairs” by Joel Kotkin of the Washington Post. My assignment: Cover the 1977 Los Angeles Mayoral race campaign of California State Senator Alan Robbins, maintain a healthy dose of skepticism, and deliver a balanced, accurate report under deadline pressure.

Were those were the good days of American Journalism?

The media held Richard Nixon accountable for Watergate, obstruction of justice and his paranoia (did not attempt to diagnose his condition).

The rubbing elbows days with the Kennedys as played by Tom Hanks (e.g., Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (Katharine Graham) in The Post were gone with the end of Camelot, and the “New Nixon.” The clubhouse door was closed.

The media was now separate and distinct from those they covered, even though both maintained a symbiotic adversarial relationship. One needed the other for reader/viewer access, and the other thrived on a steady stream of news and information.

Certainly, the media has always tilted to the left as any Republican press secretary will tell you. And that conclusion makes sense to this day. For the most part, reporters take a vow of poverty in the form of lower pay scales and less job security than their cousins in the largely well-paid public relations industry (e.g., “The Dark Side”).

These partisan journalists (oxymoron yes, but true nonetheless) have a natural affinity to the institutions of government. Any thrusts that bring into question the value and purpose of always expanding government (e.g., Reagan, “Government is the problem”) and Trump (e.g., Firing FBI chief James Comey) will trigger a vitriolic reaction from the Fourth Estate.

What is different now is that any and all vestiges of ostensible objectivity by the media to both sides of the great American political divide is gone, long gone. Reporters, editors and correspondents don’t even pretend to be fair anymore.

The media war – yes war — against Trump as a person and his ideas, policies, programs is exposed for what it is and what it has become.

The media is practicing unvarnished and unmitigated oppositional journalism.

America Has Only A Two-Party System

“Trump is right. It is the opposition party. Indeed, furiously so, often indulging in appalling overkill. It’s sometimes embarrassing to read the front pages of major newspapers, festooned as they are with anti-Trump editorializing masquerading of news.” — Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer

“A common refrain among Trump antagonists in the press is that they must resist normalizing his presidency. But in the process, they have abnormalized journalism.” – Howard Kurtz

The media is not one of America’s two political parties.

During the course of the life of your Almost DailyBrett author, the Republicans have controlled the White House for 35 years and the Democrats for 28 years. Political tides have roared back and forth (i.e., Goldwater debacle, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Hostage Crisis, Fall of Communism, Monica, September 11, Big Short, Trump Upset …).

Carter Press Secretary Jody Powell complained in his book “The Other Side Of The Story” about how reporters prided themselves in being “fair to Reagan.”

Oh … for the good ole days.

The real question: Is Oppositional Journalism, actually Journalism?

If stories that favor Trump are irrelevant and tales that discredit Trump are championed, then what’s the point of the former when the media closes its collective ears and eyes?

In some respects — not all — the elite media types have threatened to give arrogance a bad name. And just as many are celebrating the journalism as depicted by Hanks and Streep, keep in mind those were the days of somewhat objective journalism.

Is there a chance that some in the Journalism community will take a moment and reflect about how oppositional journalism emerged from the primordial ooze, grew and mutated?

Is there a chance to turn back the clock in a good way? Let’s hope so.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/sympathy-for-sarah-huckabee-sanders/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/from-affirming-back-to-informing/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/has-the-media-reached-the-point-that-it-can-never-cover-trump-fairly/

 

“One hundred and forty characters are suitable to expressing an impulse, but not an argument. It is the rhetorical equivalent of a groan, a shriek, a sneer or a burp. If reason and persuasion are what our politics lacks and needs, Twitter is not the answer.” — Nationally Syndicated Columnist Michael Gerson

At 71-years young, Donald John Trump is the oldest to take the presidential oath of office.

One would suspect a man of his age would be next-to-clueless about social media/digital technology — (remember out-of-touch George H.W. Bush and his amazement about the supermarket scanner?) — but one would be wrong.trump-twitter

Just as FDR used the radio-and-its-widespread-network for his fireside chats; Ronald Reagan five decades later repeatedly went before the cameras to go directly to the people and bypass Congress. Why should we be surprised that Trump is using Twitter to go around the media?

Agenda Setting Theory means that elite media (i.e., NYT, WAPO, ABC, CBS, NBC) pose the topics for the grateful masses to think about. Trump’s Twitter posts are usurping this cherished interpretive media role, and the ladies and gents of the Fourth Estate are not amused.

Have the Nixon days of the “nattering nabobs of negativism” returned with a daily war being waged between the elite media and the White House? Is the media appalled or secretly thrilled to have such an adversary to bring crashing to the earth?spicer

Sean Spicer is the present press secretary for the 45th chief executive. How long will he hold this job? Obama had three press secretaries (i.e., Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney, Josh Earnest) during the span of eight years. Almost DailyBrett will take the over on the question of whether this president will have three-or-more press secretaries.

One of the daily problems facing Spicer is pleasing his insatiable boss, while at the same time not getting eaten alive by the piranha covering the White House. Serving as press secretary may ultimately be rewarding in the form of a best-selling, tell-all book, but for now it is most likely the supreme thankless job on the planet.

Digital Is Eternal

“Are you insinuating that I am a purveyor of terminological inexactitudes?” – Winston Churchill

As California Governor George Deukmejian’s press secretary (1987-1989), the author of Almost DailyBrett never worried about whereabouts his my boss (e.g., the governor went home to Gloria, the kids and the beagles). Your author was never concerned about what he was going to say in response to media questions (e.g., The Duke’s political judgment was superb/his message consistency was outstanding), and what he did at night … presumably he slept soundly.

Spicer and the Trump communication team always need to worry about political judgment/discipline, and particularly what the energizer-bunny president is doing at 3 am … namely his love affair with Twitter’s 140-characters.trumptwitterhillary

Are the Trump communicators tempted to program their smart phones to send S-O-S signals every time the boss fires off another tweet? Heck, sleep is way overrated anyway. Think of it this way, when a POTUS tweet is sent from God’s time zone (EST), it is already 8 am in London, 9 am in Berlin and 11 am in Moscow.

For the media on presidential “death watch” (those who must stay up in the White House briefing room as the president ostensibly sleeps), they now have something to do: Monitor the POTUS Twitter account.

Is there any way to mitigate and moderate what The Donald decides to tweet, save being in the president’s living quarters at 3 am (EST)? Would he listen to his communication pros anyway? The hardest part of the job for Trump’s  press secretary may be responding to wire service calls at all hours of the morning to add color to a tweet that he saw at the same time as the reporters.

Some of the 140-missives may make perfect sense and will be consistent with the policies and the programs of the administration. Others … well, they could be about almost anything including inaugural crowd sizes or “alternative facts.”

Considering the government’s record of telling the truth has been less than stellar over the decades (e.g., LBJ’s “Credibility Gap” during Vietnam, Nixon’s “I am not a crook,” and Jody Powell’s “Right to Lie” during the Iran hostage crisis), are we surprised an administration is resorting to terminological inexactitudes?

What is breathtaking is the number in the first week alone, but more noticeable is the speed, namely through 140-characters or less Twitter.

How many tweets will POTUS fire off its cyberspace in four years or maybe eight years? Will there be any political-and-editorial discipline imposed?

Don’t count on it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-a-tweeting-president-is-so-bad-for-our-politics/2017/01/26/9a6892a8-e3f0-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?utm_term=.06b7a51ec1ce&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://uspolitics.about.com/od/presidenc1/tp/List-Of-Obama-Press-Secretaries.htm

http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/33875.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-right-to-lie/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/the-other-side-of-the-story/

 

 

 

 

“With best wishes to Kevin who understands what this is all about” – Jody Powell

“When the news seemed to me then and now, to be wrong, unsupportable, and unfair.” – President Jimmy Carter’s press secretary Jody Powellpowellsignature

One of my most cherished possessions is a personally signed copy of Jody Powell’s 1984 book about presidential public relations and the media, “The Other Side of the Story.”

Powell passed way-too-young (65) of an apparent heart attack seven years ago, making my copy of this hardbound book irreplaceable.

Today, the author of Almost DailyBrett assigns new PR students Powell’s remembrances of his brain-fart disclosure to the media of Jimmy Carter smacking a “the killer rabbit” with a canoe oar, “A Grave Mistake,” and more importantly do PR pros in extreme circumstances have “The Right to Lie”?powellbriefing

Powell is seen through the lens of history as one of the very best to serve as the chief spokesman and communications strategist for the leader of the free world. Without a doubt that will be Jody’s lasting legacy. Alas, he served a president who was besieged with 52 Americans held hostage in Iran, out-of-control inflation and economic malaise.

Despite Powell’s best efforts, Carter was excused from the presidency in 1980, winning only six states + DC or 49 electoral votes. Powell eventually shook off the loss, and provided wisdom to all PR pros with his “The Other Side of the Story.”

This simple title also should serve as a reminder to us all that with all issues, there is indeed another side to the story.

To my horror, your author remembers being told there is no other side of the story when it comes to a major criminal justice issue. My training as a political/business public relations professional is there are indeed two sides to every story, and you are simply not doing your job if you don’t comprehend the opposing argument.

How can you fashion a winning rebuttal?

Getting Out of Our Filter Bubbles

One of the tenets of public relations theory (don’t glaze over) is Cognitive Dissonance or the practice of re-examining a hard-felt position upon the presence of compelling new information. John F. Kennedy through his charm and conviction was able to gain support from Republicans despite setbacks (e.g., Bay of Pigs). Conversely, Ronald Reagan’s success and communication skills led to the formation of a new-at-the-time political force, The Reagan Democrats.

Does Cognitive Dissonance still apply today in our woefully divided, gridlocked society?

Looking into my crystal ball, will President Hillary Clinton be “primaried” (new verb) in 2020 by Bernie-Sanders-progressives, if she works with Speaker Paul Ryan? There is zero doubt that Clinton and Ryan see the world differently, but at the same time it is their job to work together for the benefit of the country.powellbook

 

In order to do just that, both sides need to appreciate there is indeed The Other Side of the Story. Even more germane, is this notion is at the heart of the Marketplace of Ideas.

For example, many decry the fact that an estimated 2 million are incarcerated in American jails and prisons, a disproportionate number hail from minority communities. Is that the only side of the story that matters?

As press secretary to former California Governor George Deukmejian, our administration doubled the size of the state’s prison system, which was a godsend considering the massive overcrowding issue the Golden State faces to this day.

Were we being mean, hateful and vindictive or were we responding to the public who did not want criminals in their neighborhoods and in the streets?

Are there indeed two sides (mass incarceration and public safety) to this criminal justice issue?

In a more intense sense, there is a reason why ISIS is so evil, so angry and so violent? Is there a side to their story we should try to comprehend? Yes. At the same time, we need to respond to their attacks on soft targets in the United States, Western Europe and the Middle East. We have our side of the story as well.

Almost DailyBrett knows instinctively that Donald Trump will soon and thankfully fade from the airwaves and digital screens. The ensuring period of global Schadenfreude will pass as well.

Will we reach a point in which we respect there really are two sides to virtually every story? When and if we do, we will become a much more civil society.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/us/politics/15powell.html?_r=0

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/14/AR2009091402738.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-right-to-lie/

 

 

The author of Almost DailyBrett was there in 2006, when Barry Lamar BALCO Bonds hit home run #715 to move past Babe Ruth.

By coincidence (other than being an unapologetic sports fan) he was there in 2007 when the same Barry Lamar BALCO Bonds clobbered #755 to eclipse Hank Aaron for the all-time, home-run title.

In both cases, it was a sad triumph of medical science over integrity and fair play.bonds

How come I still feel a little dirty having witnessed these epic moments from the stands of AT&T Park, but not really cheering? The reaction was similar to a Mardi Gras party without the beads. The fan response seemed as artificial as standing like cattle in a freezing pen waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve night. Pass the hand warmers and the flask.

Just as everyone, except for the hoodwinked jury, knew that O.J. took a knife to Nicole, we are all 1000 percent certain that Barry cheated by using roids — excuse me creamy and clear “flaxseed oil,” — to bulk up beyond any recognition. By the way, before anyone writes any nastygrams, Almost DailyBrett is no way equating O.J. horrific crime with Barry’s pharmaceutical disgrace other than to say, we are sure without any doubt they were both in the wrong.

We also can bet that Pete Rose bet on baseball. John Madden has repeatedly warned about the potential abusive influence of the gambling industry into professional and college sports (e.g., fixed games or fights). The NHL should tread lightly on the question of siting an expansion team in Sin City.

We also know the sordid tale of Lance Armstrong. Sorry Lance, it was not only about the bike. It was about lying, intimidating and cheating, when it came to doping and literally stealing Tour de France fortune and fame. You were a hero until you became a worldwide douchebag.

Then again, not all lying can be universally condemned as an obvious violation of Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative or what your mother always told you. As this particular blog has noted on more than one occasion, Jody Powell as Jimmy Carter’s press secretary, made the correct call in deliberately lying to protect the 1980 mission to rescue 52 hostages held in Iran. The lie protected the secrecy of the military action. Alas, the images of burning helicopters in the desert are still fresh today.

This preamble brings us to the question of Tom Brady, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, an appealed $1.8 million, four-game fine/suspension and deflated footballs. Does this caper rise to a similar level of cheating akin to Barry Lamar BALCO Bonds, Pete Rose and/or Lance Armstrong, all 10s on the Hall of Shame Richter Scale?brady

Deflategate is a 5.

“Integrity of the Game”

The NFL particularly in the aftermath of getting it wrong in the Ray Rice domestic abuse elevator incident had to aggressively respond to the next “incident.’ To compensate the league came down hard on QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to safeguard the “Integrity of the Game.”

Yes rules are rules and they are meant to be followed, but does playing with slightly deflated footballs rise to the same level as taking roids to break an iconic record, betting on your own sport or pulverizing your wife or significant other?

As Almost DailyBrett has reported, deflating footballs to make them easier to throw and/or catch, is not new when it comes to professional or college football. Former USC head coach Lame Kiffin prior to being shown the door by school AD Pat Haden blamed a rogue student football manager for being singly responsible for the Trojans playing with deflated footballs in a 2012 game against Oregon. The student manager was booted off the team. Those darn lone ranger student football managers.

Truth be known, USC was deflating footballs (at least the starting QB as far back as the 1977 Rose Bowl Game). Certainly, other teams in both the college and pro ranks are just as guilty. Maybe, the NFL should follow the practice of the NHL and freeze the footballs before games? More realistically, the NFL should consider an inflation range allowing teams to decide what pressure works best for their respective offenses.

Jan 24, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Deflated footballs with Super Bowl XLIX logo at the NFL Experience at Phoenix Convention Center in advance of the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 24, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Deflated footballs with Super Bowl XLIX logo at the NFL Experience at Phoenix Convention Center in advance of the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One thing is certain when examining Deflategate: This transgression against everything decent in civilized society had zero impact on the outcome of the game in question as Tom Brady’s Patriots clobbered the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to easily win the AFC championship. Deflategate … the latest “gate” … had zero to do with the outcome of that particular game.

The NFL responded by fining the Patriots and suspending Brady for four pre-season games, costing him $1.8 million.

Worse yet, the Patriots had to endure the hometown and national sports media for the two weeks before the Super Bowl about this molehill-into-a-mountain indiscretion.

That sounds like punishment enough.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/14/us/nfl-deflategate-brady-appeal/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/31/us/balco-fast-facts/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/a-ball-inflation-needle-in-kiffins-coffin/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-right-to-lie/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/lying-to-the-new-york-times/

http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-ray-rice-issues-statement-thanking-ravens-baltimore-apologizes-for-domesticviolence-incident-20150212-story.html#page=1

 

“When I first contacted the Clinton Foundation, they denied any such meeting ever took place. And when we told them we have already talked to the head (of Kazatomprom), who not only told us all about the meeting but actually has a picture of him and Bill at the (Chappaqua) home, that he proudly displays on his office wall, they then acknowledge the meeting had taken place.” – New York Times reporter Jo Becker clinton-giustra.jpp

Tell the truth.

Tell it fast.

Tell it all.

Move on.

The above are the four cardinal principles of crisis communication or any public relations for that matter.

What did mumsy tell you about always speaking the truth and not lying?

You would think the Clinton Foundation or any well-respected organization would not boldly outright lie to the New York Times, let alone a Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Jo Becker … and yet it happened.

Worse off, it was so tantalizingly easy to establish the truth, and out the lie.

And what really did happen in 2008 at the Clinton Chappaqua mansion, which revolved around Kazakhstan uranium, a Canadien multi-millionaire, and a subsequent $30 million donation to the Clinton Foundation?

Was it worth permanently ruining a spokesperson’s personal reputation for integrity and lowering the esteem and trust in the charitable organization with it?

Somebody or many somebodies decided it was worth the risk, particularly with Hillary Clinton running for president.Clintoncash

“Minimal Tax Adjustments”?

Back in 1988 serving as the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian, our administration proposed a series of “minimal tax adjustments” that were marketed as being more efficient and revenue neutral.

After all, we had a five year-record of not raising taxes on the people of California to maintain. Unfortunately, the media stated categorically that we had just lost our no-tax increase virginity.

The events during that period of time turned ugly. The media accused the administration, and certainly the individual serving as the chief spokesperson (that would be the author of Almost DailyBrett) of telling deliberate lies to obscure and deflect the truth.

What made this unfortunate period even worse were the attacks from our right flank, including Republican political pro Ed Rollins. The governor recognized this dog was not hunting and beat a tactical retreat, withdrawing the minimal tax adjustments.

Having made this wise move, the damage to the perceived integrity of our press office was done. Yours truly will someday (hopefully not soon) go to his final resting place in the waters of the Willamette, and will still be convinced that he never lied to reporters, editors or any other media. There may be some reflecting on those not-so-great days of 1988, who to this day take a contrary view.

“Right to Lie”

The late Carter press secretary Jody Powell admitted telling a bold face lie to protect “Operation Eagle Claw,” the failed April 1980 rescue mission to extract the 52 American diplomats held hostage in Iran.jodypowellwhitehouse

In his book, The Other Side of the Story, Powell argued that press secretaries should be told the entire truth, and nothing but the truth. And if required, Powell said chief spokesmen are obligated to lie to protect the national interest and literally to save American lives. By fully informing the press secretary, she or he can devise the most artful non-truth possible. Neither categorical imperative Immanuel Kant nor anyone’s mumsy would be pleased, but in these extreme circumstances not coming clean is understood and expected.

Does the 2008 meeting between former President Bill Clinton, Frank Giustra and a high-ranking official from the state-owned Kazakhstan uranium firm, Kazatomprom, rise to the level mandating telling a lie to the woman (Jo Becker), who won a Pulitzer for her reporting on former Vice President Dick Cheney?jobecker

Considering that Clinton later brokered the deal for Giustra’s Uranium One to be bought by Russia’s atomic energy agency, Rosatom, and with it control of up-to-half of America’s uranium supply, there may be ample reasons why the Clinton Foundation was not enamored with being on the up-and-up when it comes to “business” meetings at Chappaqua.

The non-disclosure of less-than-coincidental donations to the Clinton Foundation and related speaking fees for the Clintons reaching the $750,000 mark per address also adds to the distrust.

The public relations industry has embraced the notion of radical transparency in this eternal era of 24/7/365 instantaneous digital transmission anywhere, anytime in literally seconds. Do you really think anything that is typed into any database, photographed or videotaped is not going to be discovered and revealed?

Heck the evidence may be in analog form, hanging on the wall of some government official in Kazakhstan.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/us/cash-flowed-to-clinton-foundation-as-russians-pressed-for-control-of-uranium-company.html?_r=0

http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/23/clinton-foundation-caught-straight-up-lying-to-new-york-times-reporter-video/

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/nyt-reporter-clinton-officials-lied-about-a-meeting-taking-place-unaware-of-photo-evidence/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/30/us/politics/canadian-partnership-shielded-identities-of-donors-to-clinton-foundation.html

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

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-right-to-lie/

http://www.mrctv.org/blog/clintons-caught-another-lie-photo-evidence-bills-meeting-frank-giustra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m sorry if my message got misconstrued, but it really was in the best interest of the young men. Hindsight’s 20-20. I probably should have said it was an interview. Semantics are semantics.” – New USC Football Coach Steve Sarkisian

“Misconstrued”?

“Semantics are Semantics”?

How about, to be charitable, telling a big fib?

Sorry Sark, you will never totally restore your reputation for integrity.

sarkuw

Media types and the general public will always have an extra degree of skepticism whenever they interact with you. There is no way to change this inescapable conclusion.

Almost DailyBrett has commented before about Jody Powell’s self-proclaimed, “Right to Lie.”

Powell, former press secretary to President Jimmy Carter, was placed into a lie-or-jeopardize American lives dilemma, when he was asked point-blank in 1980 about possible rescue mission for 52 American diplomats trapped in Iran.

He knew the score. He protected the (ultimately failed) mission. He lied and deceived. He really had no choice.

Larry Speakes, former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, was told to “knock down” rumors about a 1983 American invasion of Grenada. He did. The GI’s landed the following morning. An internally misled and peeved Speakes was charged with lying.

In both cases, the press secretary must interact with the White House Press Corps on a daily basis. A “no comment” response would be interpreted as tantamount to confirmation. The press secretary does not have the authority, regardless of her or his conscience and upbringing, to jeopardize American lives.

jodypowellwhitehouse

Power lied. Speakes lied without knowing it, and was charged with…lying.

Looking back to this previous weekend, former Washington, now USC Coach Sarkisian could have easily avoided being put into a situation in which he had to tell a big white lie.

Until this past Monday, Sarkisian was the head football coach for the University of Washington. Prior to his arrival in Seattle, he was a high-profile assistant coach for Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans.

And naturally because of his relative success (e.g., never beat Oregon) during his five years with Udub and his USC pedigree, he was a natural for the short list of potential new coaches at Troy.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden flew this past Sunday to Seattle to interview Sarkisian. Trust me; he was not heading to the Northwest to bask in the freezing weather. Ultimately, the interview went well. There were still “I’s” to dot and “T’s” to cross as Haden returned to SoCal.

Sarkisian still in his Udub head coach capacity had a scheduled Monday morning interview with Seattle KJR (AM-590), the flagship station for Husky football. He knew that he was going to be asked about the swirling rumors that he had been interviewed by Haden for the SC job.

What were his personal public relations and reputation management options (Keep in mind, none of them were perfect)?

Sark’s options were to go ahead with the previously scheduled radio talk and mischaracterize his meeting with Haden as a nice chat, and not an interview. Keep in mind, the majority of the UW Athletic Department administrators and his team was presumably listening to the interview.

The other option was to postpone the interview, thus maintaining his credibility. This option requires POing the media, particularly the chaps at KJR Sports Radio, and starting rumors as to why he was not available.

As we all know now, Sark went forward with the Monday morning interview and his credibility took a huge hit just hours later when USC announced he was Troy’s new head coach.

sarkusc

“I just felt like at the time, nowhere near finalizing the deal, that it wasn’t the right thing to say,” Sarkisian said. “I didn’t either want to put (USC or UW players) in a situation of uncertainty.”

“Nowhere near finalizing the deal?”

Sark, you met with Pat Haden on Sunday, and USC announced your hiring on Monday afternoon. When you are in a hole, stop digging.

In football, there are times when it is best to punt than being stopped short of the first-down markers.

This was a time when Sark personally should have punted. Postpone the interview. Let the rumors fly. Keep your reputation intact. And later, offer an exclusive post-USC hiring interview exclusive for KJR. Do you really think the torqued-off station would decline that opportunity?

They would have jumped at it.

Presidential press secretaries have the right to lie (and this is debatable) to protect American lives. The same latitude does not apply to Semantics-are-Semantics football coaches.

http://seattletimes.com/html/huskyfootball/2022386995_sarkisian04xml.html

http://sportspressnw.com/2171412/2013/sark-the-liar-my-message-got-misconstrued

http://www.sportsradiokjr.com/main.html

http://www.latimes.com/sports/college/usc/la-sp-1203-usc-sarkisian-20131203,0,7317089,full.story#axzz2mdDVswIi

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20131202/steve-sarkisian-usc-head-coach-washington/?xid=ob_sisports

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-right-to-lie/

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.

annerichards

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.

http://www.idiomsite.com/

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

http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/

“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should be attended by a bodyguard of lies” –Winston Churchill, 1943.

churchill

(Editor’s note: As a gubernatorial press secretary, I was accused of lying by a few members of the media. I will go to my grave convinced that I was telling the truth, but in the way that I wanted to tell the truth. It is hard to conceive the high stakes involved and the pressure upon presidential press secretaries as literally hundreds of lives could be compromised by loose lips and a lack of judgment. Read on.)

Jody Powell “The Other Side of the Story” and Larry Speakes “Speaking Out” were Presidential press secretaries of sequential administrations (Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981) and (Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989). They hailed from opposite sides of the great American political divide, but their experiences working with difficult US political media, particularly the White House Press Corps, unites them based upon common experience. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jody_Powell. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Speakes

They also were both guilty of lying to the media and by extension the general public to protect the lives of American service men and women as well as civilians. Are their actions any more acceptable or deplorable today nearly two decades later?

Both Powell and Speakes were placed in remarkably similar, extremely delicate positions involving the confidentiality of imminent American military intervention: Powell, the American rescue mission of hostages taken by Iran in April, 1980; and Speakes, the American invasion of Grenada in October, 1983.

Despite the similarities, there is one key difference: Powell was briefed about the rescue mission in advance and was compelled to lie to protect its confidentiality and with it, American lives; Speakes was misled by the National Security Advisor and subsequently was accused of deliberately lying by the media.

Jack Nelson, the LA Times Washington, D.C. bureau chief, confronted Powell point-blank during the Iranian hostage crisis asking: “You aren’t thinking about doing anything drastic like launching a rescue mission, are you?”

“This was the moment of truth, or more accurately, of deception,” Powell remembered. “Now I was faced with a direct question. With a swallow that I hoped was not noticeable, I began to recite all the reasons why a rescue mission would not make any sense.”

jody-powell

Even though there were similarities about the need to protect lives and not jeopardize an American military operation, the Powell and Speakes dilemmas were not exactly the same. Speakes stated categorically: “(National Security Advisor) Rear Admiral John Poindexter hung me out to dry, and I didn’t even know it.”

Instead of Jack Anderson of the LA Times, it was Bill Plante of CBS News asking the direct question. Speakes relayed Plante’s question to Poindexter, the president’s National Security Advisor, and was told that an invasion of Grenada was “preposterous” and that he (Speakes) should “knock it down hard.”

Later Plante asked a second question of Speakes, after hearing reports of US mobilization in the Caribbean. This time, White House Chief of Staff James Baker, told Speakes to “be careful about what you say” and asked him to report to the White House mess the following morning at 5:45 am. Speakes was finally told the truth at this meeting and asked to announce the invasion to the media at 7 am.

speakes

“Not only was I furious about having been deceived, but I had been given just an hour or so to go through dozens of pages of material and prepare myself to present it to the press and to the world in some coherent fashion,” Speakes said. “That was treatment about as unfair as I had ever received. I had never been so mad in my life, but I knew there was nothing I could do except choke it down and head out there in front of the press and try to do my job.”

Powell even asked Plante what he would have done if the Reagan White House was truthful and confirmed the Grenada invasion plans: “I don’t know; we would have tried to find some way to use what we know without endangering the operation.” That answer begs the question as to exactly how CBS could air that story without alerting the Marxist rebels and compromising the US invasion and the lives of American military personnel and civilians on the island.

“That in itself would seem to confirm the wisdom of the White House judgment,” Powell said. “You cannot expect government to leave such questions in the hands of the fourth estate. The consequences for error are too severe.”

These two situations, not identical but similar, bring up another intriguing question: Is it best to keep the press secretary in the dark about highly classified national security matters, thus not putting that individual in the position of having to deliberately lie?

Or is it better to brief the lead spokesman and leaving it to her or his judgment as to when it is permissible and even wise to lie?

“I have always preached to members of the White House staff, ‘Tell me everything, so I’ll know not only what to say, but what not to say,” Speakes said. “…Ninety percent of the politicians deal with press secretaries in the same fashion. Two exceptions were Jimmy Carter, who gave extraordinary access to Jody Powell, and Dwight Eisenhower, who did the same with Jim Hagerty. It’s no accident that Hagerty and Powell were two of the best press secretaries of all time.”

Powell sympathized with Speakes predicament stating: “Mr. Speakes made it clear if a lie was required and he was sent out to tell it, he wanted to know what was at stake. And he was exactly right. Keeping the press secretary in the dark can create serious problems.”

Powell said this unfortunate practice erodes the effectiveness of the press secretary. “Putting the guy whose business is information in a position that makes him appear to be uninformed, out of touch, and not trusted makes no sense over the long haul.”

More to the point, Powell said: “…If a secret is worthy lying about to protect, it makes sense to come up with the most effective lie possible…Dealing with the press, particularly in ticklish situations, is very much an art. You cannot treat the press secretary like a robot and then expect him to perform like an artist.”

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