GOP Impeachment Debate Speeches: Ignoring The History, The Facts And The Crime

Author’s Note: This is the 17th in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll be writing for CommPRO.biz  until Inauguration Day, January 20. Previously, I wrote 17 political columns leading up to Election Day. FYI: My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column I write on how the majority of Republican representatives still supported Trump after the storming of Congress.)

Arthur Solomon

In the 1930’s, the famous comedian Will Rogers said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

The same is true today. The Democratic Party is composed of social Democrats, liberal Democrats, left of center Democrats, center Democrats and conservative Democrats.  Despite which category a Democratic member of Congress falls into they have one thing in common: They are not afraid to criticize the president of the United States, even when the individual is the leader of their party. Ask the last Democratic president, Barack Obama, and the soon-to-be Democratic president, Joe Biden. They’ll corroborate what I write. 

Conversely, ever since Donald Trump was elected president, the Republican Party has become the Party of Trump, composed of conservative Republicans, far right conservative Republicans, conspiracy theorist Republicans and believers in anything President Trump says Republicans. Like the Democrats, the Republicans also have things in common: They are afraid of criticizing the president for fear of retribution and they are afraid to call a lie a lie. 

Even after the storming of the Capitol on January 6 by supporters of President Trump, except for 10 House members, and less than a handful of Senators, the Republicans were still in lock step with Trump. This was evident during the debate that led to the historic second impeachment of President Trump. 

The televised debate revealed what everyone who follows politics already knows. The Republican Party is still the Trump Party, despite Washington, D.C. looking like a battle zone because of Trump’s Big Lie tactics, reminiscent of the technique used by Adolph Hitler’s destroying the democratic Weimer Republic and becoming Germany’s dictator. (For doubters: Check the history,)

Republicans who spoke during the impeachment debate could not get themselves to admit that  Donald Trump’s claim that the election was stolen from him was a Big Lie, even though it was the president’s repeating that falsehood ever since Fox News called Georgia for Biden on November 3, that led to the insurrection on January 6. 

Here’s an abridged summary of what Republican speakers emphasized during the debate: 

  • Not once did a Republican speaker say that Joe Biden was fairly elected.
  • Not once during the debate did a Republican speaker say that the president had lied when he repeatedly said, “We won by a landslide. We won the election. It was stolen from us.”
  • Instead Republican speakers said “Now is the time for healing, not impeachment debates.” 
  • Instead Republican speakers accused the Democrats of using “cancel culture.”
  • Instead Republicans accused the Democrats of attempting to impeach President Trump within minutes of his swearing in 2016, when the truth is that the Democratic leadership ignored the request of one Democratic representative two times.
  • Instead Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy of California said that impeaching the president would further divide the country, even though for four years he and his caucus did nothing to help lessen the divide.
  • Instead Republican speaker Rep. Tom McClintock of California said attempting to impeach a president with only a week left in his term was “petty, vindictive and gratuitous,” but said nothing about the pettiness and vindictiveness of the president over the past four years.
  • Instead Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio accused the Democrats of not permitting a debate on the merits of an impeachment, even though he was debating when he made the remark.

Republicans also tried to equate the attacks on the Capitol to the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer, even though they were not similar. The BLM protests were against racial inequality; which occasionally turned violent. The attacks on the Capitol was an orchestrated attempt to overturn a democratic election and keep President Trump in power through a planned violent effort to stop the Electoral College votes from being counted, which would have ended the system of government we now have, the perpetrators of which are now still considered a dangerous threat to democracy and still threaten to use violent means to achieve their aims.

Not once did a speaker say that President Trump neglected to uphold his sworn oath to protect the Constitution.

Not once did a Republican speaker say that the 2020 presidential election was the cleanest one in U.S. history, as the coordinating bodies on election infrastructure and security said in a joint statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Instead the Republicans speakers, who helped the president inflame his followers for four years, and added fuel to the already fired up mob he invited to gather in Washington on June 6, blamed the Democrats for refusing to help the healing process or blamed them for the problem. 

What the Republican speakers asked the Democrats to do was let bygones be bygones and permit the last week of Trump’s presidency pass without blaming him for inciting an insurrection that caused five deaths as his undemocratic minions stormed the Capitol.

During the debate, Rep. Jordan read a statement from the president saying, “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.” But Trump deliberately left the barn door open four years ago so the horses could escape and even when they stampeded the Capitol did nothing to round them up. Instead, he watched what was happening on a television set paid for by the American citizens whose democracy he attempted to destroy.

After all the speeches were concluded, only 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump and defend democracy, putting their own political careers at risk. I don’t agree politically with any of the Courageous 10, but if they were in my district I would consider voting for them, because I believe that a candidate’s character is more important than their political stance.

The result of the debate was that Trump became the first president of the United States to be impeached twice and that the GOP House members either believe that what the president says is true, that they are afraid to speak against the most disgraced president in our history or, even worse, they would rather cling to power even if it means turning the democratic republic of the United States into a country ruled by a would be dictator.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

 




The Presidential #Debates2020 Wrap-Up

(Author’s Note: This is the12th in a series of political articles for CommPro.biz that I’ll be writing leading up to Election Day. FYI –My first job with a PR firm was at a political one, where I worked on local, state and presidential elections). 

Arthur Solomon

Instead of giving my analysis of each debate in separate columns, I decided to write one- wrap-up column, in which I would analyze each of the three presidential debates, and the single vice – presidential one. Because of the president’s Covid-19 illness, the second debate was canceled when President Trump and former Vice President Biden differed on the format of it, Trump wanting to stick to the original debate format and Biden agreeing to a virtual debate because of the president’s Covid condition.

A major problem with the way the debates are structured was evident early in the first debate, in my opinion. It was the debate organizer’s position that it is not the job of the moderator to immediately correct lies, because there will be plenty of time after the debate to do that. The problem with that scenario is that once a lie goes unchecked many viewers will believe it to be truthful. Even if the opposition candidate points out that it’s a lie, many viewers will still believe the one they support. Also, many viewers will not stick around for the after debate analysis, and many who do, believe that what Trump and Biden supporters say is nothing but untruthful spin.

Debate # 1 on September 29:

In my opinion, the most important subject of Debate # 1 was how the president’s remarks about not assuring the nation of a peaceful transfer of power would be handled by moderator Chris Wallace, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Other important issues were:

  • Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, and other health issues, and 
  • The Supreme Court vacancy, and
  • The president’s portrayal of Biden as a feeble old man with a mental problem. 

Immediately after the debate, some TV pundits said it was a disgrace, mainly because of Trump’s behavior. Nevertheless, questions were asked and questions were either answered or not. So there has to be a winner.

Now for my analysis:

Trump handed Biden two pleasant surprises prior to the debate by 1) nominating for the Supreme Court a jurist who has spoken ill (pun intended) about the Affordable Care Act and Roe v.Wade, which polls have shown the majority of voters want to keep, when he could have waited until after the election to nominate her. And 2) for many weeks portraying Biden as a dithering old man in mental decline. (In tennis vernacular, these were unforced errors by Trump.)

How did Trump, Biden and Wallace perform?

Going into the debate Biden only had to maintain his polling leads. Trump had a much more difficult route. He had to change the opinions of voters who have said they will vote for Biden. The president failed to do that. Polling revealed that there was a significant Biden bump after the debate. Biden not only deflected personal attacks by Trump, but demonstrated that he can go toe-to-toe with Trump, had the ability to trade insults and was not afraid to call the president a liar.

Trump:

Unlike many past debates, where the president is the favorite going into a debate, Trump has been trailing Biden in national and most state polls for many weeks. All of his attacks on Biden have thus far not moved the needle in his direction.

Prior to the debate, Trump said that Biden was in mental decline and shortly prior to the debate said that the former veep had to resort to injections to give him the energy to make a speech. Trump’s attacks on Biden’s mental agility have been his major strategy for many months. But, thus far, they have failed. Also failing was his defense of how he’s handling the coronavirus and the New York Times release of his tax returns that showed him paying little taxes and as an incompetent businessman. He had to convince the public that the negative stories are Fake News.

How did he do?

Trump’s strategy was obvious from the start: Try to provoke Biden into making mistakes and losing his cool. He failed in doing that. Trump also played his Fake News card and accused moderator Chris Wallace of being against him. Throughout the debate he acted like a bully, made personal attacks against Biden’s children and told lies. As he did in his almost daily sessions with White House reporters prior to becoming ill, Trump ducked specific questions about subjects he didn’t like. It was a mirror performance of his 2015 primary debates, during which he insulted his GOP rivals and his debates with Hillary Clinton in 2016, during which he lied and attempted to intimidate her. On September 29, 2020, those tactics were old hat and did not work. Perhaps the most succinct summary of the debate was one sentence in a Wall Street Journal editorial on September 30: The president interrupted the former vice-president so frequently that he wouldn’t let Biden talk long enough to make a mistake. A close runner-up was the New York Times, which said that Trump’s performance was a verbal copy of his twitter comments.

Biden:

The former vice president’s main objective was to continue to convince voters that he is mentally fit to be president and that Trump is unfit. But he also had the opportunity to gain undecided voters by showing that he could factually counter Trump’s misrepresentations and lies; that Trump is a charlatan and tax evader; that Trump has divided the country and has endangered it by antagonizing U.S. foreign allies; that Trump has continually disregarded the Constitution and has displayed totalitarian instincts; that re-electing the president would cause millions of Americans to lose their health care and Roe v. Wade protection and that the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus has thus far resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, and climbing. 

How did he do?

He did just fine. Despite not being able to complete a sentence before being interrupted by the president, Biden was able to make his points and did not get rattled by Trump’s insults, as the president had hoped. Importantly, when Biden was making his points, he spoke directly to the viewing audience by asking them, “How does this personally affect you”? A very effective strategy.

Wallace:

He had to demonstrate that he can control the candidates; make sure that they didn’t talk around his questions; that his questions were not lollypops and that he showed no favoritism.

How did he do?

As best he tried, he was unable to control Trump from not following the debate rules. Several times, Wallace had to admonish Trump for not letting Biden complete a sentence and for trashing the debate rules that were agreed to. However, by permitting Trump to lie without correcting him, he acted more like a football or basketball referee “who lets the players play,” despite rules being broken, in this case permitting outright misinformation and lies to go unchecked. I found this disappointing from television’s premier interviewer. For doing this, I give him a C-plus.

The Winner:

On both substance and decency Biden was the clear winner. Any but the most rabid Trump supporters have to admit that the president acted like a bully, made personal attacks against Biden, lied and degraded the office of the president. But what matters more than what any pundit says is what the viewers of the debate said: Biden’s campaign raised more than $21.5 million on September 30, the single best fundraising day for the campaign so far. The viewers obviously agreed with me that Biden was the clear winner.

Debate # 2 on October 15

Canceled because it was switched to a virtual debate by organizers because of coronavirus concerns and the president rejecting the change in format, even though it was his being infected with Covid-19 that was the cause of the revision.

Debate # 3 on October 22

In my opinion, because of the increasing Covid-19 cases throughout the U.S. there were many side issues, but only one main dish:

  • Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, and other health issues.
  • A side issue: Would Biden make an egregious mistake.

Now for my analysis:

Going into the debate Biden only had to maintain his polling leads. Trump had a much more difficult route. He had to change the opinions of voters who have said they will vote for Biden. The president failed to do that in their first debate. Polling revealed that there was a significant Biden bump after their first debate, with the former vice-president’s national polling lead increasing to 14 points, according to an NBC and Wall Street Journal poll. Biden leads the president, 53% to 39%, among registered voters in the poll, which was conducted in the two days following the debate. Biden held an eight point lead in a poll prior to the debate. Going into the October 22 debate, 538 said,   according to national polls, Biden leads Trump by an average of 9.9 percentage points. This was Trump’s last opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Biden before a massive TV audience before Election Day. But instead of attempting to put Biden on the defensive in the days leading up to the debate, Trump played his “woe is me, no one treats me fairly” routine, first attacking Dr. Faucci, then Leslie Stahl, who interviewed him for 60 Minutes, and Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, for several days prior to the debate.

How did Trump, Biden and Welker perform?

Trump:

Trump acted much calmer than he did in the first debate, when his performance was that of an individual in need of many tranquillizers. So instead of him appearing as an obnoxious, bullying liar, what we saw was a calmer fabulist, according to fact checkers. “From a lying perspective, Trump is even worse tonight than in the first debate, an absolute avalanche of lying,” said CNN’s fact checker Daniel Dale. Throughout the debate Trump acted as if he was running against Bernie Sanders and other Democrats instead of Joe Biden. On the most important issue of the debate – Covid-19 and health care, the president kept insisting that the country must open up, said that we are rounding the corner and faulted China and the Democratic governors for not being able to control the spread of the coronavirus. The CNN fact checker said that Trump, in this debate, and in the past, keeps attributing to Dr. Faucci statements that the doctor never made. Trump also could not give specifics of his health plan, except to say that it would be better than the Affordable Care Act, which he wants to terminate. The president also continually attacked the entire Biden family with criminal doings, even thought there is no evidence backing up his charges (except what commentators on Fox News says is evidence). On October 23, a story in the Wall Street Journal refuted the charges against Biden. When accused by Biden of trying to hide his involvement in foreign countries by not releasing his tax forms, Trump reverted to his four years old answer – I can’t because I’m under audit and am being treated very unfairly by the IRS. He also made the most ridiculous statement of the debate by saying, “I’m the least racist person in the room,” ludicrous considering that Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, is a Black woman. Importantly, the president couldn’t provide ant details of what he would do if re-elected.

How did he do?

At times during the debate the president spoke as if he was using Morse code, referring to the “AOC plus 3,” and the Hunter Biden laptop, that only devotees of conspiracy theories on Fox news would understand. The president did much better than during his first debate, but not much better, as a CNN instant poll of viewers and a panel of undecided North Carolina voters revealed. The panel of undecided voters, who said that that their decision who to vote for is still up in the air, voted Biden the winner with nine votes; two voted that the debate was a draw. No one thought Trump won the debate. The instant poll favored Biden 53 percent to 39 percent for Trump. 

Biden:

Despite making one major error by saying that he favored limiting new oil contracts (fracking), when he meant to say on federal lands, and phasing out oil, (an error because the statement will be taken out of context and used against the former vice president in states like Pennsylvania, which is a key battleground state, and other oil producing states), Biden held his own by detailing how his health plan would reduce costs and specified how his other initiatives would result in the creation of news jobs. 

How did he do?

Overall, he did just fine. Biden again not only deflected personal attacks by Trump, but demonstrated that he can go toe-to-toe with Trump. Biden was able to make his points and did not get rattled by Trump’s claims of criminality. Importantly, when Biden was making his points, he spoke directly to the viewing audience by asking them, “How does this personally affect you”? A very effective strategy.

Kristen Welker:

She had to demonstrate that she can control the candidates; make sure that they didn’t talk around her questions; that the questions were not lollypops and that she showed no favoritism. 

How did she do?

Ms. Welker did just fine and kept the debate moving much more smoothly than Chris Wallace did in the first debate. Of course the circumstances weren’t the same and that must be taken into consideration. Wallace had no mute button, as Welker did. That made both candidates more controllable. Ms. Welker also did what neither Wallace, in the first debate, or Ms. Page, in the vice presidential debate did – she asked follow-up questions instead of just moving on.

The Winner:

While not winning the debate by as big a margin in their first one, I thought Biden again was the winner by a large enough margin to, maybe, even increases his lead over Trump, by a point or so. Even though Trump was much better in this debate I don’t think he did anything to change the trajectory of the campaign. He needed a first round knockout and didn’t get it. Trump’s behavior might have changed since the first debate, but not his inability to give a vision if elected to a second term or to tell the truth. However, the winners of debates are not sworn in as president on inauguration day. With the margins in pivotal swing stages still close the turnout on November 3 can be decisive, but I’d be willing to bet a fin or sawbuck on Biden.

The Vice Presidential Debate on October 7

There’s an old political bromide, parroted by many cable news pundits, that no one votes for the vice president. It was altered this year when the pundits said because of the ages of Trump and Biden it will matter. Given the fact that the president is supposedly recovering from Covid-19, the pundits say the debate for the veep position is more important than ever. (I disagree about the Covid factor. The president has assured us that it’s nothing to be afraid of and that he is cured. And he always tells the truth. Right?) Actually, I never agreed that when people vote for the president they don’t take the vice-presidential candidate into consideration. Would voters opposed to Roe v. Wade vote for a GOP presidential candidate who chooses a pro-choice veep.I don’t think so. Or would a very liberal Democrat vote for a Democratic candidate whose views were extremely right of center. I don’t think so. Also, many analysts think that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for vice president backfired on him. And in 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dumped his vice-president Henry Wallace for Harry Truman because party leaders believed Wallace would hurt FDR’s re-election effort because Wallace was too liberal. 

This brings us to the vice-presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence, a darling of the right of center evangelical GOP crowd, and Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, a favorite of the liberal wing of the party. Pence went into the debate with a huge problem: defending the record of President Trump and his leading of the coronavirus task force. Harris had to convince voters that she and Biden put the welfare of Americans ahead of any political considerations, playing off Biden’s Gettysburg address on October 6. According to Nielsen, this debate was the second most watched TV vice-presidential one ever, with an estimated 57.9 million viewers tuning in(Now the top three most-watched vice-presidential debates have featured female candidates.)  

How did they do?

The debate actually began a day earlier than it was scheduled, when on October 6, Pence’s communications director Katie Miller told the Washington Examiner that if Harris “wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it.” This was the first blunder of the debate. All it did was bring attention to laissez-faire attitude that many in the Trump camp have expressed during the pandemic. Eventually, Pence also agreed to have a plexiglass barrier. The biggest news of the day also occurred before the debate began, when on Wednesday morning Pence said that if Trump wasn’t feeling well the next presidential debate, on October 15, should be postponed. (My translation: The president is or was sicker than he or his medical team lets on.) While both candidates were civil in their demeanor, the debate had many Trumpian moments as Vice President Pence continually refused to stop talking and continued in his filibuster mode when moderator Susan Page of USA Today said his time was up and had to ask him to play by the agreed rules. Pence continually interrupted Harris and told numerous lies, misrepresenting what Harris had just said about taxes, health care, climate change and the economy. (It was similar to what Trump does, denying what was said even though it’s on tape.) Most ludicrous was his defense of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Most alarming was that he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if Biden wins the election. Pence also resorted to scare tactics like calling the Democratic agenda radical. In what might have been a planned strategy, the morning after the debate Trump said Harris is a communist. Pence used what obviously was a planned line, saying to Harris, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts,” a phrase used by the former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) several decades ago, ironic because Washington Post fact checkers have said President Trump has lied more than 20,000 times. Throughout the debate, Pence acted like a polite low key Trump. Harris was skillful in being able to transition from the moderator’s question to her talking points. Following Biden’s debate tactic, she talked directly to people by asking them questions. Like Pence’s “fact” comment, Harris also was waiting for a chance to use a prepared retort and twice said, “I will not sit here and be lectured by the Vice President,” obviously targeted at women voters.

Page:

How did she do?

She had to demonstrate that she can control the candidates, make sure that they didn’t talk around her questions; that questions were not lollypops and that she showed no favoritism. I gave her a passing grade on this portion of my scorecard. It’s an impossible task to control political debaters. But her final grade was a gentlewoman’s D. Here’s why: She bungled the most important question of the night: Would Pence commit to a peaceful transfer of power if Biden wins. When the vice-president refused to commit to a peaceful transfer, instead of following up with at least one question, Page kept to her prepared script and asked a question by an 8th grade student. A disgraceful display of journalism. (Giving Ms. Page a D for fumbling her question regarding the most fundamental aspect of our democracy is generous on my part. If I didn’t mark on a curve and include the TV pundits, I would have given her an F.)

The Winner:

While neither of the candidates rivaled the debating skills of Winston Churchill, (or Cicero, I’ve been told), in my opinion the night belonged to Ms. Harris. Pence had to defend the indefensible, beginning with the fact that more than 200,000 American had died from the coronavirus to the current economic slowdown, which only GOP defenders deny. 

Conclusions:

The big question that was not discussed by any of the moderators was, “Did the candidate’s performances during the debates matter to the voters.” The answer is maybe, maybe not, because a Wall Street Journal survey of 1000 voters published on September 20 revealed that more than 70% said the debates won’t matter much, including 44% who said they will not matter at all.

PoliticalDebateDid We Learn Anything New From the Debates

Regarding the policy differences between the candidates, we learned nothing that an interested voter didn’t already know. However, many people who don’t follow politics on a daily basis, and even those who do, learned that Vice President Pence is the most nationally-elected dangerous politician in America, even more so than President Trump. That’s because of his nearly four-year-long act, everyone knows that Trump is not to be believed or trusted. Pence, on the other hand, lies as frequently as Trump, and smears his opponents with the same gusto as the president. But he does it in a gentle, understated, calming manner, free of bluster, with a smile on his face. He is the con artist of politics. But instead of money, the future of U.S. democracy is at stake. (I didn’t come to that conclusion because of the debate. During the impeachment hearings, I told my wife that if Pence becomes president, because of the way he presents himself, he’s liable to get far right wing policies enacted that will take years for Democrats and moderates to undo.) Pence reminds me of why I stopped ordering cake many years ago in a diner: Looks delicious, tastes awful.)

My Opinion? 

The debates matter more to the political pundits than to voters. To use baseball terminology it’s “inside baseball,” meaning that what is important to insiders has little relevancy to the general public. And it shouldn’t. After four years of any president, voters should have enough opinions to make up their own minds. And just as important, what candidates say during debates often has no relevancy to how they will govern, similar to platforms of political parties, except during a debate it’s spoken words, not written ones.

But A Caveat:

Occasionally, a debate can influence an election. Such was the case in the first 1960 televised debate between Sen. John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon. Nixon was seen on the small screen perspiring and with a five o’clock shadow; Kennedy young and dynamic. The comparison between the two vaulted JFK from trailing Nixon to the presidency. During a 1976 presidential debate against Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, President Ford said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” When given an opportunity to clarify the remark by moderator Max Frankel of the New York Times, Ford refused, insisting that Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia are free from Soviet interference. Ford’s comment haunted him throughout the remainder of the campaign, with many analysts saying it helped Carter win the presidency. And in a 1992 town hall debate between President George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, Bush’s action of checking his watch during the debate illustrated his frustration of having to explain his actions and his distain for having to debate, unlike Clinton, who, perhaps, is the best candidate since FDR to convince voters that he cares for them by speaking directly to them.

Final Thought (from a self-anointed stable genius): 

Other less intelligent pundits thought that Biden hurt himself by getting into the trash basin with Trump during their first debate. I disagree. Here’s why: In order to prove Trump wrong about his months long smear, saying that Biden was on the edge of senility and was unfit for the job, the only way Biden could counter Trump’s lies was to demonstrate in front of a national audience that he is still quick-witted and can throw his own zingers back at the president. The debate gave Biden that opportunity and he used it to his advantage.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com and artsolomon4pr (at) optimum.net.




Democratic Debate # 11: Trump Lost Before It Began; But Will There Be A Coronavirus Affect?

(And Two Important PR Lessons From the Political Scene For PR Pros, Plus Two Important Lessons For Future Political Office Seekers)

Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

If President Trump is reelected, he should invite the leadership of the Democratic National Committee to his inaugural party. Because by scheduling so many debates during which Democrats presidential hopefuls criticized other Democratic candidates, the Republicans didn’t have to waste time and money planning attacks on the candidates: All they had to do was remind people to watch the debates.

Democratic Debate # 8: So Long, Iowa. Hello Mike?In the aggregate, I thought that the first 10 debates did nothing to help the Democrats in the 2020 election. What it accomplished was the damaging of other Democratic candidates. Too many circular firing squads; too few attacks on Donald Trump, except by Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg. And what did that get them? Thumbs down by the primary voters. After the first 10 debates, my score was Democrats’ 6, Trump 4, not because of the Democrats’ actions, but because of Trump’s manic, childish, narcissistic, grandiose behavior, and setting a U.S. presidential record for lying. And that was prior to his calling the coronavirus outbreak a “Democratic hoax” and fibbing about everything else associated with it. Thus even before Debate # 11 began, the score was Democrats 7, Trump 4.

But with the Democratic candidates’ field shrinking to former veep Joe Biden and Sen. Sanders, did Debate # 11 provide less attacks on each other that could work to Trump’s advantage? More on that later.(But any advantage that Trump might have gained from Sanders and Biden attacking each other probably was eclipsed before the debate began by the president’s inept handling and remarks regarding the coronavirus. 

Because Sen. Sanders’ followers are true believers (aka as fanatics in my dictionary), the caronavirus scare should play to his advantage during Tuesday’s voting. Fanatics are much more likely to wait in line to vote, despite being advised by medical pros to stay away from crowds, than rationale voters. The flip side is that young voters, that make up the bulk of Sanders’ supporters, don’t vote in large numbers.

Before Commentating on Debate # 11, A Recap Of The Last Debate:

In my Super Tuesday round-up column I said the following about remaining candidates:

  • Joe Biden: The former veep said that he considers himself a liberal, but a look at his record suggests he’s a liberal – moderate, more liberal than most members of the Senate, but less than Sens. Sanders and Warren. If Biden becomes the candidate, he might have a tough time convincing Sanders voters to back him, instead of staying at home as they did in 2016 when Hillary Clinton was the nominee. While Biden had a generally liberal voting record as a senator he’ll have to defend his vote for the Iraq war and his sorry performance when, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he presided over the confirmation hearings in which Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court hearings in 1991.Nevertheless, his Super Tuesday performance was terrific and Bloomberg endorsing Biden the following day is certain to gain him additional support.
  • Bernie Sanders: The Super Tuesday results showed that the senator’s support is a mile long and an inch deep. In order to have a chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination he has to attract more than his fanatical supporters. That would mean moderating his policies, which could turn off some of his current base. No matter what Sanders does, I don’t think he can attract liberal-moderate voters. And I don’t think he will be nominated at the convention.
  • Elizabeth Warren: My original choice for the nomination (for many months). But as the campaign continued, she reminded me of a female Bernie Sanders, sounding like she’s the only person who knows what’s right for the country. She positioned herself as the alternative to the ultra-liberal Sen. Sanders and suggested the other candidates were not liberal. While some       people think that her debate performances of interrupting other candidates before they concluded their responses to questions and her vicious attacks on Bloomberg, who has done more to help liberal and Democratic office holders than all of the other candidates rolled into one, helped invigorate her campaign, I think it damaged her chances for the presidential nomination,    even if there is a brokered convention.

Did anything happen between the Super Tuesday voting on March 3 and Debate # 11 on March 15? Yes, some were the same old, same old. However, there were also significant new occurrences, one that was related to Super Tuesday but happened prior to it.

The most noteworthy event was Biden’s resounding victory in the South Carolina primary, which carried over after his Super Tuesday success and continued until the voting on “Super Tuesday Jr.” on March 10. It was the coalescing of the former veep’s presidential opponents into a Biden support group. Helped by a string of endorsements by former candidates, Biden strengthened his delegate lead over Sanders with convincing victories on March 10. (In my opinion, the nomination race is now over and Biden can seriously start thinking about his veep running mate, and Sanders should start thinking about how he will convince his fanatical supporters to vote for Biden in November.)

The Biden support group trajectory:

  • On March 4, former NYC Mayor Bloomberg acted in a statesmanlike manner saying that he entered the race to defeat President Trump and after the Super Tuesday results the best option for accomplishing that was to withdraw and endorse Joe Biden.
  • Contrasting Bloomberg, on March 4, was Sen. Sanders, who immediately attacked Biden for his past stands on NAFTA, social security and Iraq.
  • Sanders was counting on the Michigan primary on March 10 (Michigan has 125 pledged delegates) to revive his faltering campaign. But a possible fatal setback to the Vermont senator’s plan occurred on March 5, when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer endorsed Biden, and on March 10, when other Michigan political leaders backed Biden.
  • On March 5, Sen. Warren suspended her campaign. In theory, most of her followers would vote for Sen. Sanders in the remaining primaries. But I’d be willing to bet a Boston cream pie, with a cranberry topping and a side of baked navy beans that Biden will receive off-setting endorsements for the remainder of the primary season.
  • Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined the Biden band wagon on March 6.
  • On Sunday, March 8 there were two significant occurrences: Sen. Sanders reiterated on Chris Wallace’s TV program that he will definitely support Biden if the former veep gets the nomination. (The question is will Sanders’ fanatical supporters follow his lead or stay home as many did in the 2016 election, to Trump’s advantage?) The other significant occurrence was that Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed Biden prior to the voting in other primary states and said she will campaign in Michigan for Biden.
  • Also on March 8, the Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Sen. Sanders and joined him in a rally in Michigan. (In my view, Rev. Jackson’s endorsement is less important than Sen. Harris’ of Biden, because Harris is a rising star, Jackson a fading one.)
  • On March 9, Sen. Cory Booker endorsed Biden.
  • On March 10, Andrew Yang, another fallen Democratic candidate, endorsed Biden.
  • Of the major candidates only Sen. Warren has yet to endorse a candidate. I’m willing to give up punditry (but not for too long) if she doesn’t eventually support Biden, because not doing so would weaken her ability to push for legislation she favors if Biden wins the presidency.

(The are too many endorsements to list them all. The above are what I consider game changers in Biden’s favor.)

A less important, but still significant, occurrence happened on March 11, the day after Sanders poor showing on Super Tuesday Jr. He made a speech during which he attempted to choreograph the questioning of the March 15 debate by enumerating a number of questions that he would ask Biden. The questions all were about Biden’s stance on issues that Sanders has been campaigning on for years. It obviously was an attempt to get Biden to say he will promote Sanders’ agenda. However, there were two important aspects in the speech. In the beginning and the conclusion, Sanders emphasized that he would do anything to help defeat President Trump, and unlike past Sanders’ speech there were no attacks on Biden, which indicated to me that the senator would soon suspend his campaign and endorse Biden. Sanders also said that if Biden hoped to attract younger voters, the bulk of Sanders support, the former veep would have to embrace some of the Vermont senator’s positions (which I believe is true and was borne out during exit interviews with voters who embraced much of the senator’s agenda, even though they cast a ballot for Biden.)

With only two candidates remaining, the made-for-TV series should have provided a more detailed and fact-driven debate on March 15. In some aspects it did. But it also provided a comic disagreement between Sen. Sanders and Biden’s staffers whether the two should stand or sit during the questioning. 

There were two aspects about Debate # 11 that I thought were most important: Did the remaining two candidates continue to attack each other in a manner that could work to Trump’s advantage? And did Sen. Sanders, after resounding defeats in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday and Super Tuesday Jr. change his debate strategy? 

(During my previous debate articles, I’ve designated winners and losers, not to the debaters, but to the Democrats or President Trump, depending on what transpired during the debates. In this case, I didn’t have to wait until it was concluded before choosing a winner, or more precisely a loser. It was Trump because of his mishandling of the coronavirus epidemic, which was muddled and lying (that shouldn’t be surprising), augmented by a Neanderthal-like view of science.) 

Nevertheless Here’s my evaluation regarding debate # 11:

(Thus far in my opinion, Sen. Sanders has outperformed Biden in every previous debate.)

  •  This was the best of all the debates because it was limited to just Biden and Sanders, providing them both with more time to explain their positions.
  • There was a major difference between the approaches of the two candidates: Sanders talked in generalities; Biden in specifics.
  • Sanders attacked Biden on the former veep’s positions on social security, student loans, the Defense of Marriage act, the Hyde Amendment, gay rights, the Iraq war and NAFTA. Biden denied some of Sanders accusations.
  • Biden attacked Sanders on his positions regarding Central America and particularly his comments about how some conditions in China and Cuba have improved. The Vermont senator replied that facts are facts but that he condemns dictatorships everywhere.
  • Both Biden and Sanders agreed on many positions, but split over how to achieve them.

Because Biden provided specifics about how he would achieve his aims, I awarded this debate to him. Saying that, Sanders also did well, as he always does in these debates.

I also thought the CNN-Univision moderators, Ilia Calderon, of Univision, and CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash and anchor Jake Tapper turned in the best moderated debate of the series.

They began and ended the debate with the major news of the week, questioning the candidates about how they would tackle the coronavirus.

The trio of moderators made CBS’ Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King look like they flunked journalism 101, because even though the coronavirus was the big news on February 25, the day of their debate, they followed their prepared list of questions and didn’t discuss the coronavirus situation until late in that debate. That was also one day after Sen. Sanders made his partial defense of Fidel Castro, which should have been the second questions asked. Just awful journalism.

What About The Future: 

I believe that Sen. Sanders will suspend his campaign and call for his backers to support Biden before the end of March. And that Sen. Warren will endorse Biden shortly after.

My Take:

  • In my estimation Mike Bloomberg is the MVP of the primary season and before. Even prior to suspending his campaign after a poor showing on Super Tuesday, the former NYC mayor has already done damage to President Trump. His support of Democrats running in the 2018 election helped Democrats win control of the House, which resulted in Trump being impeached. And his ads obviously have irked the president, who attacked Bloomberg even after he suspended his campaign. Even though he is no longer a candidate Bloomberg can still do considerable damage to Trump’s reelection efforts by continuing to do what he did in 2018 and during his 2020 campaign: Providing the funds that Democratic candidates can use in their campaigns and by continuing his on-target ads condemning the Trump presidency. He has done more to help Democratic office holders get elected than all of the other candidates combined. But that didn’t stop Sen. Warren from viciously attacking him, a main reason I withdrew my support of her and switched to Bloomberg.
  • No matter who the Democratic candidate is, the person cannot completely ignore Sen. Sanders’ campaign messages. Together with Sen. Warren’s ideas they make up a large portion of what the Democratic base believes, (including me, and I’m not a socialist, just a believer that when people need help they should get help from the government because they’ll never get it from the private sector, which is all about profits.) The Democratic platform must embrace some of Sander’s ideas, and the candidate must include some of them while campaigning during the lead-up to the November election. (While I disagree with Sen. Sanders’ remarks about U.S. foreign policy, I do believe a large portion of his economic message about conditions in the U.S. is correct and should be addressed.)
  • If I was strategizing the Democratic campaigns, I’d spend a lot of money on TV and social media on ads emphasizing how President Trump tried to cut The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding.
  • The ease of which the coronavirus is spreading across the U.S. caused Sen. Sanders and Biden to cancel rallies. (Since most people who attend the rallies have already made up their minds about who to support, it will not do any lasting damage to the candidates. The losers will be the cable TV channels, which depend on the rallies for content and punditry comments.) However, President Trump, who is also Chairperson of the Coronavirus Hunch, Flat Earth and Global Frozen Societies, scheduled a rally in the midst of the virus outbreak, and then postponed it.
  • The similarity of political consultants and football and baseball managers: Ever notice how campaign mangers for losing candidates are hired by other candidates? Or how losing football and baseball managers are hired by other teams? Or how losing campaign managers show up on cable TV as political experts? In none political and none sports businesses, winners, not losers, would be hired by other entities. (Advice to novice PR people: Consider leaving your job and joining a political or sports organization. Unlike our field, bad work does not disqualify you from advancement.)
  • I take exception with the media, led by the sorry cable TV political shows, for dividing candidates into “progressives,” “moderates,” or “conservativescategories. As someone who has worked on local, state and presidential campaigns, I know that a candidate can have different policy positions, which according to today’s media labeling would do the candidate an injustice by channeling the person into a one – size – fits – all grouping. I’ll use myself as an example: I lean left of center on most economic issues; slightly less left of center on social issues, and center or right of center on police and military issues. In fact, because I always give the benefit of the doubt to police actions (not to those who protest them) and I am against a volunteer Army and believe in a draft, “progressives” would consider me an “extreme right of center conservative,” which I am not (no matter what they say). Good journalism would detail how the candidates differ on specific issues, but doing so would go against the formula of the headline driven “Breaking News” reports on cable. Also, I’m willing to bet an expensive lunch or dinner that most of the cable reporters do not know the specific details of the candidates’ positions.
  • A tale of Two Parties: Here’s what wrong about American politics today: Democrats – The color of a person’s skin is more important in selecting candidates than choosing the most qualified individuals. Republicans — Not standing up to a divisive, incompetent, ignorant president (read his statements about the coronavirus and his being surprised to hear that the flu kills people). What is important to the GOP is not speaking out against the president and keeping their concerns about his behavior limited to “off-the-record” conversations with journalists.
  • The bungled response by the White House, first by playing  down the threat and then having President Trump contradict health experts and saying he had a “hunch” about the progress of the coronavirus, will give the Democratic candidate for president an unexpected line of attack. Even pro-Trump papers like the Wall Street Journal have had stories critical of how the   president has responded to the outbreak. (Example: On March 10, two articles in the WSJ were critical of the president’s response.) Health legislation concerns were a big factor in the Democrats winning the House in 2018. They are certain, because of the coronavirus, to be even a stronger Democratic issue in November.
  • My suggestion for lexicographers: New definition for “hoax.” Anything that President Trump disagrees with. Example: The coronavirus is a hoax.
  • Health advice for political junkies: Don’t hold your breath waiting for the next debate. Even though the Democratic National Committee announced that there would be 12 debates, the final one has not yet been announced. If Biden sweeps Tuesday’s primaries and greatly extends his delegate lead over Sanders, Debate # 12 might never be held.

Important Lesson # 1 from the political scene for PR pros: Being the most competent person in your agency does not guarantee your rise to a high-ranking position.

Important Lesson # 2 from the political scene for PR pros: President Trump, who has been caught by fact checkers of lying about 16,000 times since he took office, has also lied about the coronavirus. As a result, whatever he now says about the virus is taken with a grain of salt, no matter what lackeys like Vice President Pence says about the president’s magnificent leadership during the epidemic. Remember: Never lie or mislead the press. Unlike the president, you, your agency or your client are not a “must” cover story. Get caught lying once and you might find yourself on the “Do not trust” list.

Important Lesson # 1 from the political scene for future political office seekers: As Sen. Sanders has learned, a “movement” doesn’t mean most voters believe in it.

Important Lesson # 2 from the political scene for future political office seekers: As Sen. Sanders has learned, young voters talk a lot but they don’t vote a lot.

Personal Experience Note: I hate to see airline employees laid off because the coronavirus is limiting travelers. But it’s difficult to feel sorry for the airlines because of the way they treat passengers.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.




Democratic Debates Round-Up (And A Very Important PR Lesson From The Political Scene)

Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

So now that Super Tuesday 2020 is history, how did the candidates’ performance in the Democratic Debate Debacles (DDD) affect their vote?

The truth (except you’ll never hear it on cable TV) is “Who knows?” There are many factors in a voter’s decision. Pundits who claim they know really don’t know, as their history of being wrong about election outcomes show.

In 2016, these know-it-alls knew that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. In 2019 and 2020, the same crowd knew that Joe Biden would be the run-a-way favorite to win the Democratic nomination for president. They were wrong on both accounts.

One thing we know for certain: The TV know-it-alls will have all the answers about why Joe Biden did well on Super Tuesday and why Bernie Sanders, Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren didn’t. But only after the results are in.

If you believe that the 10 debates affected the vote, your opinion is as valid as those on TV who make their living predicating, making excuses, and second-guessing.

I’m not sure if the TV debates helped or hurt a candidate. But I do have an opinion on how the candidates performed during the first 10 debates.

Here’s my opinion. (In the alphabetical order after the South Carolina Debate.):

(Important Note: The analysis of the candidates below was written prior to the South Carolina primary vote on February 29, and was not changed as a result of the vote. If it proves me right, I accept full credit; if wrong, blame someone else.)

  • Joe Biden: After a sluggish beginning, his last two debates were on-target and should help him with African-American voters. (If only he would stop talking about his family.)*
  • Mike Bloomberg: I thought his much improved South Carolina debate keeps him viable until Super Tuesday and after. His smartness was on display during the South Carolina debate by scheduling two ads during it. Because he is not a great debater, the ads augmented his on-stage performance.
  • Pete Buttigieg: I don’t think he was helped by his debate performances. He sounds too strident (like a moderate Bernie Sanders, without the Vermont senator’s following.) He makes my basic training sergeants seem soft-spoken.
  • Amy Klobuchar: Her calm demeanor, never screaming, always sticking to her talking points, helps her gain national recognition as a person to watch in the future. Not well-enough known to win the nomination, but definitely a veep candidate or a Senate leadership position. (If only she would stop talking about her upbringing during her closing remarks) *
  • Bernie Sanders: It’s not difficult to see why he has such a loyal following; he means what he says, been saying it for many years and lets attacks against him roll off his shoulders, like lies emanating from Donald Trump’s mouth. But will his positive remarks about Fidel Castro hurt him with moderate and conservative Democratic voters? Will those remarks be his Waterloo? I don’t know, but I bet your friendly TV political pundit has a definitive answer (subject to excuses of course, if proven wrong).
  • Tom Steyer: Obviously s good debater. In fact, during the first eight debates I thought he was always among the top three, often among the top two. But he changed his talking points in the last two debates, to his determent, in my opinion. Out of the running for 2020, (although he never had a chance from the beginning. Not well enough known nationally). Should run for           another office before trying the presidential lane again. Many Democratic voters agree with his wants.
  • Elizabeth Warren: My original choice for the nomination (for many months). But she lost me because as her hope of gaining the nomination was fading she transformed into a shrill, interrupting individual, not letting others finish their remarks. Especially distasteful to me was her vicious attacks on former NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who has done more to help Democratic office holders get elected than all of the other candidates rolled into one. If only she would stop talking about her early struggles)*

*There is no such thing as the Sympathy Party.

After watching 10 weeks of circular firing attacks, I thought that Sen. Sanders would have to be in a protective booth during the South Carolina debate. While he was attacked by all the others, (the hardest by Bloomberg and Buttigieg), in general his in-coming were more duds than explosives.”

In the aggregate, I thought that the debates did nothing to help the Democrats in the 2020 election. What it accomplished was the damaging of other Democratic candidates. Too many circular firing squads; too few attacks on Donald Trump, except by Steyer during the debates and Bloomberg’s TV commercials. While Bloomberg also attacked Trump, his appearances in only two debates paled besides Steyer’s consistent ones. But the former NYC mayor’s TV commercials were the best political ads I saw since LBJ’s famous “Daisy Girl”one against Barry Goldwater in 1964. They all hit the target.

Democratic Debate Column #10: Biden’s Last Stand? was the title of my last column. So how did the former veep do in South Carolina?

He did very well, winning the primary with margins that left the other candidates far behind, causing Tom Steyer and Mayor Pete to drop out.

Nevertheless, the pundits, both on TV and in print pubs, said that polling shows that Sen. Sanders has a large lead in the delegate-rich state of California, which might make it difficult for any other candidate to catch up with him.

Did anything happen after the South Carolina debate and before the Super Tuesday voting on March 3? Yes, some were the same old, same old. However, there were also significant new occurrences.

  • March 1 was probably President Trump’s worst day since he last stepped on a scale: Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg suspended their campaigns, meaning that the vote on Super Tuesday would be less splintered among the remaining moderate liberal candidates.
  • March 2 was just as bad a day for Sen. Sanders. Sen. Klobuchar suspended her campaign and endorsed Biden, followed a few hours later by Buttigieg, meaning that the “stop Bernie” movement was now a reality. Sen. Tim Kaine and former Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid also endorsed Biden, as did Terry McCAuliffe, a former Democratic Party chairman and Virginia governor.
  • The Bloomberg ad planners were quick to jump on the day’s headlines. Immediately after Sen. Warren’s assaults on the former NYC mayor regarding treatment of women at his firm, ads appeared featuring women employees at Bloomberg’s business commending the treatment of women there. And after President Trump’s presser regarding the coronavirus, ads attacking the president’s handling of the situation, and how the former NYC mayor would handle the situation, appeared. The ads are similar to the workings of a newspaper – highlighting the day’s important news on page one.
  • Bloomberg also released detailed information about his heart health and asked Sen. Sanders to do the same.
  • Former veep Biden corrected his statement about his being arrested in South Africa, when visiting Nelson Mandela, saying instead that he had been detained.

Here’s my evaluation and thoughts of the candidates after the results of the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries were counted.

  • Joe Biden: The former veep said that he considers himself a liberal, but a look at his record suggests he’s a liberal – moderate, more liberal than most members of the Senate, but less than Sens. Sanders and Warren. If Biden becomes the candidate, he might have a tough time convincing Sanders voters to back him, instead of staying at home as they did in 2016 when Hillary Clinton was the nominee. While Biden had a generally liberal voting record as a senator he’ll have to defend his vote for the Iraq war and his sorry performance when, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he presided over the confirmation hearings in which Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court hearings in 1991.Nevertheless, his Super Tuesday performance was terrific and Bloomberg endorsing Biden the following day is certain to gain him additional support.
  • Mike Bloomberg: Even before he suspended his campaign after a poor showing on Super Tuesday, the former NYC mayor has already done damage to President Trump. His support of Democrats running in the 2018 election helped Democrats win control of the House, which resulted in Trump being impeached. And his ads obviously have irked the president, who keeps on attacking Bloomberg. The Bloomberg candidacy shows that in order to run for a national office, a candidate should not run a truncated campaign. But even though he is no longer a candidate Bloomberg can still do considerable damage to Trump’s reelection efforts by continuing to do what he did in 2018 and during his 2020 campaign.
  • Pete Buttigieg: Unlike some of the other candidates he’s young enough to make his name better known nationally if he wants to try again in four years. But he has to remain in the public spotlight, best done by running for a Congressional seat, difficult to win in Indiana, accepting a post in a Democratic administration if they win or speaking out on national issues during the next four years. (But his dropping out speech sounded more like a traditional campaign speech, unlike Steyer’s, who told it like it is.) I was anti Mayor Pete from the beginning because of three concerns: I don’t think that being mayor of a small town prepares anyone for the presidency, I think his speaking style exposes a grandiose personality and he talks in platitudes with little specifics.
  • Amy Klobuchar: By dropping out of contention prior to the Super Tuesday vote and endorsing Biden, the Minnesota Senator positioned herself for a high-level post in a Biden administration, if he wins, or for a future Senate leadership position. Both would keep her in the national spotlight for a future presidential try.
  • Bernie Sanders: The Super Tuesday results showed that the senator’s support is a mile long and an inch deep. In order to have a chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination he has to attract more than his fanatical supporters. That would mean moderating his policies, which could turn off some of his current base. No matter what Sanders does, I don’t think he can attract liberal-moderate voters. And I don’t think he will be nominated at the convention.
  • Tom Steyer: Obviously s good debater. In fact, during the first eight debates I thought he was always among the top two or three. Even though he suspended his campaign after failing to reach his goal in the South Carolina primary, much of his programs have appeal to Democratic voters, but he’s not well-enough known. But unlike some of the other candidates he’s young enough to make his name better known nationally if he wants to try again in four years. But he has to remain in the public spotlight, best done by running for a lesser office than the presidency, accepting a post in a Democratic administration if they win or speaking out on national issues during the next four years.
  • Elizabeth Warren: My original choice for the nomination (for many months). But as the campaign continued, she reminded me of a female Bernie Sanders, sounding like she’s the only person who knows what’s right for the country. She positioned herself as the alternative to the ultra-liberal Sen. Sanders, and suggested the other candidates were not liberal. While some people think that her debate performances of interrupting other candidates before they concluded their responses to questions and her vicious attacks on Bloomberg, who has done more to help liberal and Democratic office holders than all of the other  candidates rolled into one helped invigorate her campaign, I think it damaged her chances for the presidential nomination,    even if there is a brokered convention.

What About The Future:

Barrowing the orbuculum used by cable TV political pundits, here are my predictions regarding future happenings of the primary campaign:

  • Now that Joe Biden is back in the running for the nomination, the Republicans will launch continuous attacks on him and his son regarding Hunter Biden’s serving on the board of Burisma Holdings, the major Ukrainian natural gas company.
  • If Biden is the Democratic presidential candidate, he’ll choose Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.
  • The cable pundits, who have been predicting that “Sen. Sanders cannot be stopped from gaining the nomination after his victories on Super Tuesday,” will not admit that they were wrong.

My Take

No matter who the Democratic candidate is, the person cannot completely ignore Sen. Sanders’ campaign messages. Together with Sen. Warren’s ideas they make up a large portion of what the Democratic base believes. The Democratic platform must embrace some of their ideas, and the candidate must include some of them while campaigning during the lead-up to the election. (While I am not a socialist and disagree with Sen. Sanders’ remarks about U.S. foreign policy, I do believe a large portion of his economic message about conditions in the U.S. is correct and should be addressed.)

The South Carolina debate on CBS was the worst one yet. The candidates acted like a grade school class does when the teacher leaves the room, except this time playing the role of the teachers were CBS moderators, who, to be polite, were less than proficient at their roles. The candidates were unruly throughout the debate. I’ll give the moderators a pass on that; it’s difficult to get people to behave when they don’t want to, especially ones with over-sized egos. But the questioning was horrible. The talent had a list of prepared questions and followed the script even when good journalism demanded it be revised because more important news happened shortly prior to the telecast. (Makes me think that they need a script as a security blanket and they can’t change courses unless someone thinks for them.) With the coronavirus outbreak expanding, one would think that subject would be the lead question, or Sen. Sanders’ remarks about Cuba and American foreign policy of overthrowing governments in Latin America. Instead most of the telecast was devoted to the same old questions that have been asked in the previous debates and during interviews with the candidates between the debates. CBS did the impossible: By comparison, it made the cable TV political programs look respectable – at least for two hours.

The way the cableists were going Ga Ga during the lead-up to the South Carolina debate and primary, you’d think the winner would automatically ascend to the presidency.

Re Rep. Jim Clyburn joining Rep. John Lewis and endorsing Joe Biden, which got the TV pundits excited, as if they were covering a truly important presidential changing story. Let’s put things in perspective: The endorsements were only important in conjunction with the South Carolina primary and, a big maybe, in a few other states with a large percentage of black voters. But most of those states are in the GOP dominated South. The endorsements have no legs regarding the presidential election, or even in South Carolina general elections. The Palmetto State is solidly Republican and has two GOP senators. (Closest Thing To A Sure Bet: No matter which Democrat won the South Carolina primary, the state will still vote Republican in November.)

After months of tying himself to President Obama, the former president acknowledged that there was a candidate named Biden, but in an indirect way. A New York Times story said, lawyers sent a cease-and desist letter to a Trump super PAC demanding that they stop a misleading ad accusing Biden of betraying blacks

Just Asking: Wouldn’t an infectious disease expert be the better individual to lead and coordinate the coronavirus task force instead of a vice-president who sucks up to President Trump? Answer: Not if Trump was thinking of dumping Pence as his running mate again if things get worse.

If I was advising the Democrats, I’d tell them to begin talking about how President Trump has decimated the public health agencies and appointed a bunch of politicians to lead the coronavirus problem.

With so many candidates being permitted to run for the presidency, it permits a minority-favorite candidate to win the nomination even though the remaining candidates in the aggregate get more votes. Ridiculous! There has to be a better method of eliminating the lesser supported candidates early in the primary season.

(If the Presidential election were held today, my car bumper sticker slogan would be, “Who would you rather have as president? A democratic socialist or a totalitarian fascist?”)

You can bet the farm on the following: If Sen. Sanders does win the nomination it will not be the first time that a Democratic president or nominee has been called a socialist (or worse). Actually the Republicans and conservative Democrats have been using “socialist” as a scare word since the 1930s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was accused of being a socialist because of his progressive programs. In1952, former President Harry S. Truman said the following in a campaign speech, “Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations .Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.” Truman also said when the Republicans called the Democrats socialists what they mean is “…down with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal,” and “down with Harry Truman’s Fair Deal.” And one thing is certain: No matter who is the Democratic nominee for president in 2020, that person will be attacked as a socialist, as were former presidents Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, both of whom Sen. Barry Goldwater considered socialists.

But labeling programs by a Republican president as socialist seems to be forbidden.

Example:

President Nixon enacted or recommended economic legislation that if proposed by a Democratic president would have been attacked as socialist. An article on the website of The Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship, included the following,”

“Probably more new regulation was imposed on the economy,” wrote Herb Stein, the chairman of Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisers, “than in any other presidency since the New Deal.” Nixon in 1970 signed into law a bill to create the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); concern about the environment led him to propose an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and to sign amendments to the 1967 Clean Air Act calling for reductions in automobile emissions and the national testing of air quality. Other significant environmental legislation enacted during Nixon’s presidency included the 1972 Noise Control Act, the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, the 1973 Endangered Species Act, and the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.

He also proposed a massive overhaul of federal welfare programs. The centerpiece of Nixon’s welfare reform was the replacement of much of the welfare system with a negative income tax the purpose of the negative income tax was to provide both a safety net for the poor and a financial incentive for welfare recipients to work. He also proposed an expansion of the Food Stamp program. A part of his welfare reform proposal became a lasting part of the system: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides a guaranteed income for elderly and disabled citizens. The Nixon years also brought large increases in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, according to a Miller Center article.

Of course today, Nixon might be called a traitor to the Republican Party by President Trump or a socialist or even worse in Trump’s opinion, a disloyal person.

The Very Important PR Lesson From The Political Scene: Be realistic when preparing a budget for a program. An inadequate budget will make it impossible to accomplish the program’s goals. But an enormous budget will not guarantee that a program will be successful. If you don’t believe me, just ask the candidates who were completing for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hey, Political junkies don’t despair. The Democratic National Committee announced that there would be 12 debates, so there are still two more to look forward to. The next will be in Arizona on March 15; the site of the last has not yet been announced. Will these debates have any more affect on the outcome of the November presidential election? Probably not. As in the previous 10 debates, the candidates were seeking the support of voters who probably were going to vote against President Trump regardless of who the Democratic candidate is.


About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

 




Democratic Debate # 6: The Comparisons

(With Lessons That Apply to Agency Life From The Debate Stage)

Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

The first four Democratic presidential wannabe debates had Democrats attacking Democrats. Thus, I thought the winner of all of them was President Trump.

But the TV script changed during Debate # 5, on November 20, because the candidates mostly turned their ammunition against Trump.

Democratic Debate # 6: The ComparisonsHowever, probably the most noteworthy news that emerged from debate # 5 was a pleading for voter support (because he had not yet qualified for the December debate) by Sen. Cory Booker who played the race card against former vice-president Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, regarding who best can attract the black vote.

Nevertheless, because the candidates were better able to state their opinions about issues than in previous debates, I awarded # 5 to the Democrats.

Unfortunately, the candidates’ best presentations to that date had a very short shelve life. Because the debate took place the evening prior to the closing impeachment inquiry session their performances were largely ignored the next day. Also, as usual in these lame excuses for debates, the lesser known candidates were largely ignored by the questioners, once again demonstrating the flawed design of the format.

You might remember that prior to the November debate the hopefuls formed a circular firing squad and attacked each other. It wasn’t until they were on the stage that they remembered they were trying to defeat President Trump, but nevertheless Democratic candidates attacking other Democratic candidates continued, but much less than during previous debates.

(During my career as a journalist and PR practitioner, I’ve often noticed the change in a person’s demeanor when they are under pressure. That’s because desperate people do desperate things  and often, but not always, their true character emerges. Donald Trump is the poster boy for this type of behavior. After watching five debates, and also watching how the candidates act during non debate media appearances, here is my impression of the candidates. I’m always amazed when an individual thinks that only he/she has the answers to save a situation. The world has survived for years despite the “indispensible person” having died. One thing that’s sure: There’s a lot of ego, but not much humility, on the debate stage. In my opinion, there were two candidates who have demonstrated modesty during the debates, and they have as much chance of getting the nomination as I do — Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who was not in debate # 6, and former veep Joe Biden also come across as the type of persons I’d like to have a cup of coffee with. Sen. Sanders reminds me of in-laws that think they have all the answers. Of course, a “niceness” quality is not necessary in order to win an election, as the bombastic performances of President Trump, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Doug Collins and Sen. Sanders demonstrate when they are in front of a TV camera. Their bombastic speaking styles makes me wonder if they’re after the hard of hearing vote or if they believe that shouting might sway some voters. Of course, I realize that how these individuals might act on a personal one-on-one basis might be completely different and I might enjoy sharing a meal with them, especially if they pay.)

Perhaps because of the debate infighting, President Obama said, a day after debate #5, that the goal is to defeat Trump. “In recent weeks, Mr. Obama has repeatedly said that the presidential candidates should stop being concerned with debates over ideological purity and instead focus on beating President Trump,” reported a New York Times story. Did his comments stop the internal strife? 

Did their cannibalizing of each other stop in the weeks leading up to debate # 6? Unfortunately for the Democrats, the answer to the question is, “No.” 

Some examples:

  • During his Iowa bus tour, Biden attacked Mayor Pete Buttigieg for stealing the former vice president’s ideas.
  • Biden also went after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, claiming there was a lack of enthusiasm for her during his Iowa tour.
  • Bernie Sanders criticized Mayor Pete.
  • Warren criticized Mayor Pete, Biden and Michael Bloomberg.
  • Booker criticized the entire debate process.

And the above were the attacks that I personally saw or read about:

Also, the race card again was dealt, this time prior to debate # 6 when Sen. Kamala Harris called it quits. It took a New York moment before African-American spokespersons, led by civil rights activists Rev. Al Sharpton, and Aimee Allison (of She The People) to criticize a Democratic debate without an African-American participant. (In my opinion, Sen. Harris will emerge as the leading candidate for vice-president, buoyed by her skilled performance during the upcoming impeachment trial that will provide her with the national exposure that she lacked during her presidential run,) 

And after Sen. Harris declined to participate, two candidates for president, Sen. Booker and former housing secretary Julian Castro both criticized the make-up of any debate that would not have a person of color included, obviously either forgetting or ignoring that Andrew Yang was a participant. (Sen. Harris did qualify for the December debate before deciding to bow out.) 

Sen. Booker and his allies have been decrying a lack of diversity among the remaining debate participants since Sen. Harris withdrew. That claim is bogus. There was plenty of diversity among the original cast of debaters. If Sen. Booker couldn’t qualify for the December debate maybe he should consider his own shortcomings instead of playing the racial card.

(In my opinion, religion or race should not be a determining factor of who should be in the debate or who is elected. If a candidate can not deliver a message that attracts support, it’s the candidate’s fault and playing the race card only helps divide the country more than it is.) 

As the made for TV soap opera-like debate # 6 on December 19 approached, the overall debate score card, in my opinion, was Trump 4, Democrats 1.

Even before a word was spoken during debate # $6, in my opinion, the Democrats were the winners, but with a caveat: It was not because of their debate performances. It was because of the impeachment hearings, which made public the unconstitutional actions of President Trump, augmented by his sleazy, low brow remarks about the late Rep. John Dingell.

Thus as we wait for the first debate of the New Year my score card reads Trump 4, Democrats 2:

Here’s why I feel that without the impeachment hearings the Democrats would have lost debate # 6 to Trump.

  • The infighting among the candidates prior to the debate.
  • The playing of the race card, which turn off many people.
  • The impeachment news smothering the remarks and taking away free air time from the candidates.

My take-a-ways from debate # 6:

The debate ledger showed positives and negatives.

On the negative side:

  • The Democrats continued to act as headhunters (and I don’t mean those who look for PR talent).
  • Warren attacked Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s fund raising methods, resulting in a spirited, antagonistic back and forth not seen in previous debates and the moderators let them slug it out.
  • Klobuchar criticized Mayor Pete’s accomplishments and his electoral record.
  • Even Mr. Yang, who has not criticized other candidates in the past, found fault with Mayor Pete’s fund-raising methods.
  • Sanders attacked Biden; both went after Mayor Pete while criticizing each other’s health plans.

On the positive side:

  • This was the best debate to date because the moderators permitted the candidates to speak, instead of cutting them off every few seconds.
  • The questions were more evenly divided among the candidates.
  • All of the candidates did well.

In my opinion, Sen. Klobuchar was the star of the night. Tom Steyer, the liberal activist who has been calling for President Trump’s impeachment for two years, was a close second.

Even though this was his best debate performance, the way I see it, Joe Biden was the big loser even before he stepped on the debate stage, and it had nothing to do with his polling numbers or performance. As the impeachment hearings revealed, Biden and his son, Hunter, will be attacked by Republicans throughout the 2020 campaign if the former veep is nominated because of Hunter’s relationship with Burisma. And the Biden’s don’t have any good answer to why Hunter was given a seat on the board of Burisma Holdings, a major Ukrainian natural gas producer.

This should be a good time for the Democratic candidates to aim their knives solely on President Trump. Instead some, led by Sen. Booker and other Democratic allies of color, are constantly playing the race card, and threatening the party with African-American defections on election day because the African-American candidates could not connect with voters during the past debates, as did President Obama. Instead of blaming the debate process, those who play the race card, might consider that the fault is not with the process, (which I think is ridiculous), but the reasons Sens. Harris and Booker didn’t do well is because of the way they performed. (Personally, I was able to connect with Sen. Harris but was unable to do so with Sen. Booker because of his demeanor. Too often, he reminded me of the “end is near” prophets).

The conduct of Sens. Booker and Sanders makes me think that they believe they are the indispensible persons. All the candidates and their supporters who truly care about American democracy should not divide the democratic voters. Sanders did so in 2016, which many people feel helped elect Trump. African-American activists are doing so now. Doing so only helps President Trump. 

Most Democratic candidates remind me of loop recordings: They keep on repeating the same dogma regardless of changing circumstances. A prime example: Despite the economic indicators continuing to show strength, they keep on saying that it began improving when Obama was president. Who cares? People are concerned with what’s happening now. As Kris Kristofferson wrote in his great song, “Help Me Make It Through The Night”–“Yesterday is dead and gone.” It’s Trump’s daily actions that they should focus on, not what they consider the inadequacies of their opponents.

Because of the Democratic candidates’ fratricide, and their race card playing allies, they should pray that Donald Trump will run for a second term. Because if the GOP candidate is a rational individual, who is more truthful, honest, doesn’t have totalitarian instincts and believes that Congress is an equal part of the government, doesn’t use gutter language and kowtow to murderous and dictatorial regimes, their chances of winning are greatly reduced.

The daily reports of Trump’s transgressions play to the Democratic candidates’ advantage, lessening the impact of their poor debate performances and circular firing squads. But candidates aren’t chosen from the debate stages. The ultimate winner might not be from the debate pool, and unless the debate candidates stop attacking each other that would be okay with me.

Each of the debates had take-a-ways that could be applied to agency life. Below are a few from this debate.

  • I’m always amazed when individuals think that having a prestigious title means they have all the answers to save a situation. Just because someone has a supervisor’s title or higher doesn’t mean they know more than you do. During program planning sessions, speak up (and keep a written record of your suggestions).
  • When things on accounts go good, supervisors act differently to their A.E.s than when things turn sour.
  • Collegialities among colleagues are prone to disappear when they are after the same promotion.
  • As the candidates during the debate do, don’t let others take credit for your ideas.
  • Also, as the candidates do, don’t get caught in the “team concept” trap. If you want to get ahead, make your contributions known to top management.

The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr (at) optimum.net.

 




Democratic Debates: Keeping Score

Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

The fourth Democratic presidential nominees’ debate is history. And now TV entertainers, known as political pundits, will have several weeks to opine whether it changed anything before the next made for TV show in the series is aired next month. Unlike the pundits whose similar, and stale commentary is akin to a loop recording, I’ll limit my opinion (Thank God, you might say) to this column.

But first a recap. 

The score after the first three Democratic presidential debates were, in my opinion, Trump 3, Democrats 0. 

The reasons for the Trump victories? 1) The Democrats are practicing “segmented politics,” instead of agreeing on issues that will unite all Americans. 2) No Democratic candidate has yet produced the excitement to their base that Trump has to his. 3) Trump keeps his messages simple: “Build the wall,” “keeping my campaign promises,” (even though he hasn’t).4) Even though the Democratic candidates probably agree on 99% of the issues, the way they campaign is more like the other candidates are the enemy instead of Trump and the TV pundits exaggerate the differences in order to keep viewers tuned in. 5) GOP surrogates on cable TV back Trump. Democratic surrogates practice parricide and try to kill candidates that they don’t support.6) Democratic attacks on Trump concentrate on his policies. What they haven’t done is attack Trump, the person. They should, in my opinion.

Trump has his “Make America Great Again” slogan. Seemingly, the Democratic candidates, instead of coalescing around a plan to defeat Trump, are campaigning with a slogan that says, “How could you even think of voting for anyone but me?”

Importantly, past debates revealed that no Democratic candidate has caught the imagination of American voters as JFK and Barack Obama did:

Instead what came out of the past debates thus far were:

  • The wannabee presidential hopefuls were like the gang that couldn’t shot straight. Instead of attacking Trump they assaulted their own.
  • Instead of crafting messages that applied to most Americans the candidates campaigned as if people of color, and illegal immigrants were the most important problems in the United States.
  • The closest thing so far to an “OMG, I have to vote for him,” moment was when Beto O’Rourke said, “Hell yes we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” (Gun lobby proponents jumped on that remark, showing they’re fearful of future legislation.)
  • As Hillary Clinton did in the 2016 campaign, candidates are ignoring the needs and concerns of large segments of the population in their messaging. (Suggestion: They should hire some of the GOP strategists that helped Trump in 2016.)

But did the just concluded debate change the score at the top of the column? Yes it did. My new score is Trump 4, Democrats 0.

Here’s why I feel that way.

All the candidates did what they should have done in all the previous debates, with sharp attacks on Trump. Tom Steyer, who has been running ads for more than a year saying the president should be impeached and was making his first debate appearance, called Trump “that criminal in the White House.”

But then the circular firing squad again formed:

  • The piñata target of the night was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was attacked by Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobucher, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris.
  • Buttigieg attacked Tulsi Gabbard and O’Rourke.
  • Biden attacked Sanders.
  • Sanders attacked Biden. and so on and so forth.

The most intelligent remark of the night came from Sen. Cory Booker, when he opined that Democrats attacking each other played into Trump’s hand.

Because of the candidates attacking each other the winner of the debate in my opinion was again Trump.

But as usual, the format of the debate – 12 candidates with only a few minute each speaking time – made it impossible for someone to fully express their opinion on a subject, as Biden said. As usual, the result was sound bite debating.

If anything positive happened to any of the debaters since the commencing of the made-for-TV shows, it was not because of their on stage performances. It was because of the doings and sayings and generally inept performance of President Trump.

(In the last week or so, Biden started to aggressively attack the egotistical, dictatorial-inclined, foul mouthed Trump, who thinks using gutter language makes him appear tough, when in reality it makes him look like a lowlife thug. The former vice president kept up the attack during the debate. The question is was it too little to late to stop other candidates from closing the money and polling gap? I’ll let the TV pundits answer that, because, as we all know, they know everything. Right?)

Prior to joining Burson-Marsteller, my first job in public relations was with a political PR firm, where I worked on local, state and national campaigns, including presidential ones.

During that time I heard a lot of bromides from candidates and old timers, most of which could have been recorded and sold as insomnia cure remedies.

But there was one bit of advice that made sense then and that still does, even though it dates back to the 1960s. It was known as the Eleventh Commandment and was a phrase used by President Ronald Reagan during his campaign for governor of California, I was told. The Commandment is: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Democrats should learn from it and stop attacking each other.

Democrats should also learn from the 2016 campaign. Clinton ignored her “sure thing states;” Trump didn’t and won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by narrow margins, giving him the presidency. Now Trump is eying another “sure thing” Democratic state – New Mexico, and has eyes on New Hampshire, Nevada and Minnesota. Conversely, for decades, Democrats have conceded most Southern states to the GOP, not wanting to waste time or money on “sure thing” Republican states. A big mistake. Because doing so eroded the framework of a Democratic opposition, raising the question, “Are Republican strategists smarter than Democratic ones?” My opinion: You betcha

Thus far what has come out of the debates is that Democrats have mixed messages and that their enemies are the other candidates on the platform. (They continue to attack each other on and off the debate stage, during and in between debates.) Instead of crafting a unifying message to defeat Trump, what the candidates have provided resembles a poorly prepared bouillabaisse that causes heart burn, which, unless corrected, will again result in another Trump victory dinner.

Democrats should talk about Trump as they do about their rival candidates. No more Mr. or Ms. Nice. No more “when they go low, we go high.” In order to level the playing field against Trump they have to temporarily sink to his level. They can wash off the scum and muck emanating from Trump’s mouth and his surrogates after the election.

Years ago, a famous sports writer, Grantland Rice wrote, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Democrats should reject that advice. Instead they should adopt another sports quote, “Nice guys finish last,” which some people credit to Leo Durocher or “Winning Isn’t Everything; it’s the Only Thing,” attributed to several sportsmen. And the feuding Democratic candidates should heed what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “Good guys don’t always win, especially when they are divided and less determined than their adversaries…” (Note to Standing on Principal Voters: Winning is better than losing. If you don’t believe me ask the losers.)

Of course, if Trump is again “the chosen one,” a major reason, in addition to the Democrats disarray, will be the cable TV political coverage. Despite their hand-wringing over the way they covered Trump during the 2016 election, the cables are doing it again – covering his no news rallies and tweets. (As I’ve said before, I believe that many hosts of cable programs who trash Trump secretly hope he is reelected. He’s good for their ratings and is more interesting than speaking about the next snow storm, heat wave or the price of soybeans.)

Debates that actually will provide information for viewers will never happen as long as the networks control the formats and supply their own talent. They are only interested in making television that will increase viewership. What’s needed is for nonpartisan organizations to control the debates and select respected political beat journalists as the inquisitors. At the minimum you would get journalists who actually know the details and can challenge stump speech answers from the candidates. At the maximum you would get answers that are based on facts, instead of candidates challenging each other over a misstatement.

But for the remainder of this political cycle, and maybe forever because of TV money, instead of calling them debates, they should be promoted as “Politics for Dummies.” Or “Cliff Notes Journalism.”

Or a cure for insomnia programming.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com and artsolomon4pr (at) optimum.net

 

 

 

 




Fake News, Fake Anguish, Fake Debates? You Decide

(Even When It’s Real, Radio, TV News and Debates Are Also Shams)

Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

So episode two of the multi-channel sham TV series mischaracterized as Democratic debates is history. And again a direct line between the president of the United States and the cable networks has been proven: Donald Trump says that every negative story about him is Fake News. As for the cable networks promoting their spectacles as debates: Also Fake News. After the first debate, Joe Biden was entirely correct when he said there’s not much you can say in 30 to 60 seconds. And the CNN debate was corroborative evidence of what the former vice-president said, as candidates were continuously cut short by the moderators.

President Donald J Trump is the master of Fake News. He makes comments about happenings that really are Fake News. And he derides true negative stories about him as Fake News. One would not be wrong to assume that this pseudo patriotic draft dodger learned from the Fake News statements made by another liar – Adolph Hitler. (Sometime when I listen to Trump’s remarks I think he’s representing the party of George Lincoln Rockwell instead of Abraham Lincoln. Not that I’m saying that Trump is a Nazi, even though he speaks Grade A Nazi fluently. But he does seem to admire tyrants and has many of their traits. And he is a population divider and is largely responsible for furthering the antagonism between different segments of our society.) Trump’s act is not new: Convince the populace that the present government is corrupt and that only he can save the country from destruction. (With a White Horse in the barn?)

 A check of past president’s remarks shows that all president’s lie, mostly to advance their agendas. But Trump takes it many miles further. He lies not only to advance his agenda but to cause citizens to distrust immigrants, as well as defenders of our freedoms, like the FBI, intelligence and other governmental services and the courts. (It’s as if all the evils of mankind have escaped from Pandora’s Box and found a home in Trump’s mouth.) To his supporters Trump is a demigod. To me he’s a demagogue.

Trump is not the only disseminator of Fake News. Pay attention to the “hard news” reports on electronic media – radio and television – and you’ll see what I mean, as the producers and reporters strive to make listeners and viewers believe that they are reporting it first, accurately and completely. (Or maybe they are not trying to deceive their audiences. There’s a good case to be made that they really aren’t knowledgeable about what they report.)

A recent radio news report that caught my attention while eating breakfast on July 9 concerned New York Met’s slugger Pete Alonso’s beneficent charitable gesture. It made me put down by morning coffee and take to the computer, because as a journalist during the era when accuracy and completeness was a must for every story, more important than “getting it first,” it disturbed me. (It also disturbs my wife, when I consistently point out the inaccuracies and omissions on cable news networks’ political reporting. That means I upset her quite frequently.)

The radio reporter on WCBS said that ESPN reported Alonso would donate 10 percent of his home run derby winnings to charities, giving the impression that it was new reporting. It wasn’t. No where during the different airing of Alonso’s accomplishment that I heard during different news cycles were the words saying that Alonso said he would do that several days prior to his winning the derby.  Often, I also hear news reported on this station that has been reported a few days earlier on other sites, like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, giving the impression that what the listener is hearing is new. (At least they don’t claim every report is “Breaking News” as their cable TV kin does.)

WCBS radio billboards itself as “More Than Just The Headlines.” Maybe at one time. But not today. Not since they became a quasi sports station and began carrying programming from financial advisors trying to get your business. More accurately, the station should billboard itself as “Not the entire story and not the latest news.”

But except for fanatics and people whose livelihood is associated with sports, the Alonso report was a minor blip in accurate reporting. Not so when the subject is political reporting.

As readers of my media columns know, I am not a fan of the political news delivered on the cable TV channels. I mentioned the report on WCBS radio to show how accurate and detailed reporting has largely disappeared on the electronic media and that people have to read major newspaper to get the entire story.

Too often it should be obvious to political junkies who watch the cable TV networks that reporters really don’t know the details of what they are reporting. Weasel words like ‘bad optics,” “wave election,” and “playing to his base” are used by pundits and reporters instead of new detailed reporting. And when the reporters race down the hall to get a sound bite from a congressperson, they excitedly report what was said without putting the remarks in context. (Terrible reporting; good for sneaker companies.)

A prime example of the above is the overblown coverage that early on was given to a very junior congresswoman with a very limited following – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, with three other congresswomen, (two of whom, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have made overtly anti-Semitic remarks that were whitewashed by the shameful Democratic leadership) have demonstrated media smarts. Thus far they have done more to ensure a second term for Trump than the entire Republican National Committee. It is cable news’ insatiable appetite for yellow journalism that has vaulted AOC from being a minor congresswoman to a media star, comparable to the destructive politics of Donald Trump. 

(In a huge July 13-14 article, the Wall Street Journal reported that Britain’s Labour Party is now in crisis because of anti-Semitic sentiment in its ranks. At one time, Labour could count on the bulk of Jewish votes; now 85.6% of Jews think it condones anti-Semitism. The same could happen here to the Democratic Party if anti-Semitic sentiment in the party isn’t strongly condemned by its leaders. Jewish voters were not always a sure vote for Democrats. From 1860 until the election of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, Jews voted for Republican presidential candidates.) 

What makes what AOC says more newsworthy than others in Congress is not the substance of her comments, which are inflammatory and separatist, rather than unifying. It’s cable news’ appetite for making every ripple in the ocean seem like a tsunami in order to stir the pot and gain audience. (And they usually succeed in doing so to the detriment of the American political system.)AOC’s “caucus” of four has as much support among Democrats in Congress as Rep. Justin Amash has among Republican House members. (I’ve been politically left of the Democratic National Committee on many issues, even before I was old enough to vote. But if AOC and her “schismists” are the future of the party, count me out. Full Disclosure: I’m a registered independent who usually votes, but not always, Democratic.) 

What personally irks me about the cable coverage given to AOC and her three congresswomen is that they are always referred to as “the progressives,” intimating that every other member of the Democratic caucus is moderate to conservative. Ridiculous and misleading. But that is to be expected from cable TV political reporting.

What the above has to do with the Democratic debates is everything. If not for the insatiable appetites of the cable channels to make every pebble seem like the Rocky Mountains, AOC and her band’s remarks and the comments by the presidential hopefuls on the debate stages wouldn’t even make the front page of many newspapers. (Nor they should. They’re nothing but pre-rehearsed sound bites that have no relevancy to what the winning candidate will say on the campaign trail.)

During the first sound-bite NBC News debate in June, Sen. Kamala Harris borrowed the deck of cards from AOC and attacked front-runner Joe Biden for saying publicly that in order to get meaningful legislation years ago he worked with members of the Senate, (whose philosophy he disagreed with). The remarks of Ms. Harris, Sen. Cory Booker and AOC remind me of someone saying, “If you don’t do it my way, I’m going to take my ball and go home.” But the home isn’t theirs. In this case, the “home” is the White House, and Donald Trump is likely to renew the lease for an additional four years because of their actions. (AOC, in particular, implies that anyone who disagrees with her is a racist, which in itself is a racist outlook on life. Of course, AOC, Harris and Booker don’t directly accuse individuals, like Biden and Nancy Pelosi, of being racists. Instead they tar them by innuendo.)

As a political junkie, whose first job in public relations was with a political PR firm, where I worked on local, statewide and national campaigns, including the presidential level, I’ve seen the Harris, Booker and AOC act before. It’s reminiscent of the 1950s GOP performances starring Sen. Joe McCarthy, who accused individuals of being a Communist without specifically naming them as Communists and without proof to back up his allegations.

What has largely been under reported is that recently AOC has been sued twice in federal court for blocking negative comments about her political positions from her tweeter account, even though she uses it for policy statements. A federal appeals panel ruled against President Trump for the same reason, saying doing so violated the Constitution. (It appears that the president and AOC have a few things in common: Thin skin, a limited view of free speech and disagreeing with George Orwell’s quote, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” But AOC and Trump seem to believe that free speech only applies to speech they say or agree with.

After listening to comments from the president and the congresswoman, it’s my opinion that Trump has a racist, White Supremacy agenda and AOC has a People of Color agenda, along with Harris and Booker. What’s needed are political leaders who advocate a What’s Good for All Americans agenda, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Sen. Harris’ pre-rehearsed performance during the first debate is a prime example why I say the debates are shams. Instead of cutting her off and reminding her that the candidates were supposed to discuss current issues, the moderators let her supposedly anguished attack on Biden go on uninterrupted. Good television. Bad for viewers who wanted to learn about the candidates position on current issues.

The performances by Harris and Booker, during and after the first debate, and the comments by AOC and her minuscule band of followers in Congress, make me wonder if they forgot who the enemy is. It’s not Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi. It’s Donald Trump. (Or maybe their quest for power is more important to them than who wins in 2020. I’ve long believed that some cable TV talent that is violently anti-Trump in their commentary secretly wishes he wins reelection, which would give them another four years of tailor made commentary. I wonder if AOC would rather burn the House down and see the present Democratic leadership fall victims to a Trump victory so she can lead a coup) 

Trump won the presidency in 2016 because of the economic instability (and racist sentiment?) in three normally Democratic states. After the June debate, his approval margin has increased because the debaters largely ignored bread and butter topics and instead agreed with the far left agenda of its party that is driven by four novice media savvy congresswomen. The presidential hopefuls seemed to forget that there is more to America than illegal immigrant rights. 

Was the July 30 and 31 so-called debate on CNN any better than NBC’s June sound-bite telecast of presidential wannabes? Maybe for CNN, but not for the good of the Democratic Party or political discourse in general. 

Instead of coming together and forming a strategy to defeat Trump, the ego-driven participants still seemingly haven’t learned the basics of a successful presidential political campaign. Instead of each performing as if they were the only person who can save the country, Democrats should become more pragmatic and accept the reality that only winners have the ability to create change. And that when selecting a presidential candidate, electability should be the only consideration. (That’s why while my heart belongs to Liz, the pragmatic side of my brain at this moment belongs to Joe)

Ever since the NBC debate, Sens. Harris and Booker have been treating Biden as if he is a pinata, trying to bust it open and have the nomination fall from his polling lead into their laps. In the second debate, they were joined by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Their continuing attacks on a much improved Biden made President Trump the clear winner of this debate.  

There were two major problems with the CNN format: 1), All the leading contenders for the nomination were not on the same stage, and 2), whenever the candidates started to mix it up and truly began debating each other, the moderators yelled, the equivalent of “the bell has sounded, go to your corner.” (Also, during the debates, CNN kept dividing the candidates into “progressives” and “moderates,” as does MSNBC and other news outlets, even after one of the CNN-designated “moderates” said he was a “progressive,” proving that the CNN storyline was set in cement no matter what the candidates said. A more accurate candidate description would be to deep six the word “moderate” and replace it with “pragmatist.”)

In the days before political correctness became the norm in courteous American society, there was a joke about a Polish circular firing squad. That’s what both debates were like: Democratic candidates firing at each other. (Full disclosure: I’m of Polish heritage and the joke doesn’t offend me. Maybe that’s because I am against censorship, including the language censorship of political correctness. That doesn’t mean I approve of the use of gutter language or language that demeans others. It means I believe in the first amendment to the Constitution.)

As if cable already hasn’t reduced intelligent political coverage to the first grade level, CNN treated their TV debates as if they were a sporting event, holding a draw (on July 18) to determine which candidates will face off against each other. The production was more complicated than a Rube Goldberg cartoon, the difference being that Goldberg purposely contrived his cartoons to be overcomplicated, ridiculous and convoluted. (The draw would have been better suited for ESPN. Not only is cable TV responsible for the decline of significant political discussions, CNN has made the candidates appear as pawns in a TV game.) But CNN accomplished a near miracle with its salmagundi: It made Fox News seem respectable. 

On the afternoons of the two-headed debates, CNN thought an insert of the debate venue or showing the candidates walking through the venue was newsworthy. It reminded me of cable’s coverage of O.J. Simpson’s  white Bronco car chase in 2014, which continued for more than an hour without any true news value.

The hypocrisy of all the cable channels political reporting was made evident on Don Lemon’s July 18 CNN program. Lemon acknowledged that if not for the cable channels’ reporting of Trump’s racist comments at rallies, they would not get substantial coverage. Lemon said, we struggle with what to cover because we know we’re playing into Trump’s campaign strategy. But nevertheless the cable channels cover the local rallies and disseminate it nationally and discuss it on their talk shows for one reason, in my opinion: Trump’s remarks hype ratings. The cable networks said they would change how they cover Trump’s tweets and rallies after his 2016 election. They haven’t. (Maybe they’re Waiting for Godot to tell them what to do.)

A major shortcoming of all cable political analysis is that everyone on a panel must have something to say, even if their comments are rubbish and were repetitions of what were just said by other panelists. During and after Robert S. Mueller’s congressional testimony on July 24, instead of highlighting how the former special counsel continuously refuted Trump’s Fake News version of the investigation, which made page one headlines in major pubs like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, many TV pundits instead highlighted how Mueller’s demeanor had changed over the years, as if that was more important than what he said. (Is the new cable standard of what is important limited to people who come on like John Wayne in one of his Marine movie roles? What has not changed over the years are the shortcomings of cable political reporting.)

The thing that got me to put fingers to keyboard to write this column was: 1- the WCBS Radio report; 2- the alleged and mislabeled Democratic debates and 3- the questions asked to the candidates during the June and July made for TV shows. (Any resemblance to these made for TV shows and actual debates are entirely specious).

As any good novice reporter knows there is a crucial element missing from the TV political shows – follow-up questions to guests, and they were also largely missing from the June and July debates. (The lack of follow-up questions from TV political reporters – whether hosts, anchors, or the “run after the congressperson” staffers to get a sound bite – are a stain on journalism.)

Thus far, the questioning of candidates during the two debates has been less than stellar. I expect similar lame questions to be asked on September 12 and 13, when the next inappropriately-named Democratic debates are on ABC News and Univision.

There are several PR strategies in between the lines of this article that I have always followed and recommend:

  • When crafting sports marketing programs never use a star of the moment like Pete Alonso was for several days after the all-star game. By the time your program is completed and approved by your client Alonso will have been interviewed and reported on so frequently that whatever he would say would be considered stale news by many target media outlets. (Instead, I would use an athlete known for charitable work, with the proviso that the person has been out of the media spotlight for several years, making the person “fresh news.” I would have this individual talk about Alonso’s charitable gift but quickly transition to the unknown charitable work of other athletes. This would provide a new approach to the Alonso story and also make it much more than a sports story.)
  • When crafting a program, never base it on what you have heard being covered on TV or radio, or what has been printed in newspapers. Chances are that account groups at other agencies          are doing the same, and if their programs are more creative, newsworthy and launched first, the chance of you receiving significant news coverage will be greatly diminished.
  • When crafting a program, always do original research. Never base it on what you have seen on TV news shows or read in prints pubs. Too often what is reported is just the tip of the ice burg. Even worse, many reports are wrong. (On TV, especially, wrong facts are hardly ever acknowledged and corrected. I remember it being done and explained why it happened just once, many years ago by Megan Kelly on Fox News.)

With so many research tools available only a search engine away, there is no excuse for factual mistakes by PR people. As for the mistakes by TV political reporters, it is to be expected. After all, when there is “Breaking News” every few seconds there’s little time to check on the facts. Right?


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.




The #VPDebate Faceoff (Op-Ed)

Pence was cool but the victory went to Kaine

virgil.featuredBy Virgil Scudder, President, Virgil Scudder & Associates

This was perhaps a more important encounter than many vice-presidential debates in the past.  Given Donald Trump’s poor showing in the presidential debate and the many damaging stories about him that appeared in the last week, the pressure was all on Mike Pence.

The Indiana governor had to somehow convince the country that Trump was stable, had some serious programs and policies, and was qualified to lead the nation.  Tim Kaine only had to hold serve, calling attention to Trump’s reckless statements and inconsistencies while touting Hillary Clinton’s experience and her agenda for the nation.

Senator Kaine won, but not by a huge margin.   This contest was much closer than the presidential debate on September 26 when Trump was blown away by Clinton.  Pence performed so much better than Trump had that you can expect some whispers from Republicans that the ticket should be reversed.

Pence was working under a perhaps insurmountable handicap: the challenge of defending Trump’s inflammatory attacks on women, Muslims, Mexicans, Gold Star parents, and an Indiana-born judge of Mexican heritage.  He was playing defense all night.  The senator kept demanding that Pence justify some of Trump’s more outrageous comments, many of which are simply indefensible.  Pence’s response was to dispute that Trump had made some of those well-documented statements or to ignore the challenge and immediately attack the record and character of Secretary Clinton on another topic.

Kaine kept coming back to Trump’s refusal to release his tax records, a topic for which Pence had no good response.  Neither he nor the Trump campaign has disputed the speculation that the real estate developer has paid no federal taxes for 18 years.

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

But, to his credit, the GOP candidate never lost his cool during the #vpdebate, even when he was clearly annoyed at his opponent’s line of attack.  Like Kaine and unlike Trump, he came into the debate arena well prepared.  He projected a serious image even though it veered into sanctimonious territory at times.

The Democratic candidate was the more aggressive, frequently and annoyingly interrupting Pence when the Indiana governor strayed from the issue or dodged a question, especially in the early going.  But, he dialed back the interruptions a bit in the last hour and was more effective as a result.

Kaine won the battle of body language, making good use of his winning smile.  Pence was fine when he was speaking but sometimes seemed in pain when his opponent was talking. The split screen showed Pence mugging for the camera, grimacing and frowning, as Kaine laid out some of the more damaging charges against Trump.

Once again we had a moderator who was not up to the job.  There was far more interrupting and talking over each other than a strong moderator would have tolerated and far too little follow-up to insist that the candidates answer the question before heading off to non-related matters.  The public is ill-served by a long-winded, free for all environment.

Pence probably helped his ticket by laying out some specific policy proposals, something Trump has notoriously failed to do.  It was a big improvement over Trump’s “Trust me” approach.  He also projected seriousness and conviction in his positions.  Kaine, too, served his party and his ticket partner well with his performance.

But Pence was not destined to win. Though well prepared, knowledgeable, calm, and articulate, he simply faced too big a hurdle when called upon to defend Trump’s rude and offensive statements or his refusal to release his tax returns.  Pence gets an “A” for effort but the night belonged to the senator from Virginia.

About the Author: Often referred to as “The Dean of Media Trainers,” Virgil is considered one of the world’s foremost communication experts.  In a 30-year career that has covered 26 countries on five continents, he has provided coaching and counsel to heads of some of the world’s largest corporations and government leaders. Virgil is a prolific writer and speaker.  His book, World Class Communication: how great CEOs win with the public, shareholders, employees, and the media, written with his son Ken, was named one of the 25 best business books of 2012.  His column, In the C-Suite, appears in every quarterly issue of the Public Relations Strategist and is read by leaders of major public relations agencies and global heads of public relations of large companies. He has written or been featured in articles that have appeared in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Investors Business Daily, and numerous professional publications.  Two of his speeches have been reprinted in the prestigious Vital Speeches of the Day. Prior to founding Virgil Scudder & Associates in 1990, Virgil headed the media training units of two of the world’s largest public relations firms, Hill & Knowlton and Carl Byoir & Associates.  Earlier, he was an award-winning news broadcaster at major radio and television networks and stations in New York City.  He was a first-night Broadway drama critic for six years during that period, broadcasting reviews on NBC’s all-news radio network and all-news WINS radio.  

 




From PR to FP: Minding the Gap between ‘Real-World’ Foreign Policy and Debate ‘Sample Size’ Material

Nati KatzBy Nati Katz, Manager, Technology Practice, Burson-Marsteller

Mitt Romney yesterday stated that Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is unworthy of the Presidency, since he has neither the temperament nor the judgment for the job. What stood out in his speech, is rather a bold statement for the world to hear, stating Trump’s “foreign policies would make America and the world less safe”. Trump retaliated in last night’s debate with elaborative promises and approaches on how to deal with ISIS and the global war on terror. These are all good as statements, but as one Apple encryption saga has shown us, the complexities can’t fit into soundbites.

And boy, are the soundbites out there. It was a week full of foreign policy remarks such as Cruz’s ‘unapologetic support for Israel vis-à-vis Trump’s pledge of neutrality in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations. Striking fear in voters’ hearts during political campaigns is nothing new, nor is the garnering of electorate points based on promises.

Professor Boaz Ganor, founder and Executive Director of the International Institution of Counter Terrorism at IDC, believes the current international position the US finds itself in, poses unprecedented complexities no candidate can currently tackle in soundbite.  “I’m not familiar with domestic policy like healthcare, but where foreign affairs is concerned – leadership merely to maintain the last eight years’ actions,” – tells me Professor Ganor, – “is the last thing the world needs”.

“The world of national security, intelligence, counter terrorism and foreign affairs is unlike any other sector and industry in its extreme distinction between what is said and what is possibly done.”

It is an unparalleled arena where the majority of the practice takes place with or without public debate, in line or aside of public opinion, and in most cases – far from the podiums of speakers.

Professor Boaz Ganor, founder and Executive Director of the International Institution of Counter Terrorism

Professor Boaz Ganor, founder and Executive Director of the International Institution of Counter Terrorism

I met with Professor Ganor this week, for an in-depth briefing on what exactly is the state of the war on terror, the Middle East arena, ISIS, and why there is absolutely no precedence regardless of how the Apple-FBI saga concludes.

Like a distorted mirror, the Apple-FBI debate has come out to the public, yet unreflective of what is really going on and how much of it is a competition to score points among the general public. “Of course it’s happened before”, says Ganor, and believes it is happened with Apple and various other technology companies. “Regardless, law enforcement doesn’t need Apple, Facebook, or Telegram in order to actively monitor the activity on those platforms”. In Ganor’s view, it’s the FBI attempting to score points and show how effective they are in battling and investigating terrorist activity, while Apple wishes to woo customers in showing its commitment to their data and privacy.

As a perfect expression of this notion, we witnessed many of the known technology startups taking sides in the case, likely for mere PR value, regardless of how useful they may or may not be, “if it happened to them”. Rebuking the federal government included companies like Google, whose NSA-alliance has been a matter of public debate last year, and Telegram – regarded in the US as ISIS’s preferred messaging app. Its founder, Pavel Durov was quoted on CNN saying “Opening ‘back door’ to encrypted apps could aid terrorists”.

The constant development of technology, encryption, and counter-encryption is a cat & mouse chase. Technology in our age has brought society and global economy some of the most powerful means of growth and advancements, but in its double-edged sword nature, experts like Ganor want to advocate for a balance. “I’d like to see more mutual recognition of the sides’ needs”. Ganor thinks this case will conclude in court – which will seek that balance on a case by case basis, rather than setting a precedence for all future instances. “Yes, I strongly believe that even ‘secret’ photo, video and text apps – all have the data documented and stored, for whatever amount of minimum time at the least”. And that data, he stresses, if proven to court as vital to avoiding the next attack or understanding the dynamics behind the previous ones, must be surrendered.

I asked the world-renowned expert, who’s been advising Presidents, intelligence agencies and military officials, how can world affairs, ISIS and foreign relations be communicated in a way that does justice to the complexities yet can be conveyed in ‘sample size’. I was impressed to learn there is a very simple response. “I have been honing my expertise for nearly forty years. I’ve seen the widest possible array of terrorist profiles and dynamics of attacks and movements in modern warfare. And I can put it all into one simple equation”. Prof. Ganor explains there are just two components in this scientific formula: motivation X capability. “It is the most widely-applicable formula across all forms of terror. When capabilities are neutralized, motivation is meaningless, and when motivation is eliminated, capabilities are nice to have, and symbolic”.

What differs the US from say, Russia or Syria, is where to put the weight and efforts. In the US, claims Ganor, there is a bi-partisan inherited belief that motivation is everything. “We’ve seen it since Bush 43, and through the current administration – democratization and public diplomacy, almost in an imposing manner”. On the flipside, the Middle Eastern players such as Israel, operate under the impression it’s all about dismantling capabilities through operative activities. “It has been effective on the ground, but today motivation is off the charts”.

These are all the ‘tip of the iceberg’ but in a closer look, the multiple layers appear – and things are no longer fitting to the 140-character standard. Ultimately, I conclude, in PR and communications, it’s the bearer of information who has the ability to leverage on wider array of topics, deeper insights, and a breadth of possible angles.

About the Author: Nati Katz serves as a manager in the technology practice at global PR agency Burson- Marsteller, a Young & Rubicam Group company. He owns none of the above mentioned stocks, and does not have a professional relationship with the companies included in this piece. You can follow him at on twitter and LinkedIn  




Examining the GOP’s Communications Strategy

Bill RosenthalBy Bill Rosenthal, CEO, Communispond

The horrific assaults on civilians in Paris November 13th allegedly carried out by Muslim extremists immediately called on Republican leaders and presidential primary candidates to remind supporters of what the party believes is its unassailable and unmatched commitment to national security.

As each candidate works to position him or herself as the best choice for this task and the GOP braces for the 2016 campaign season, this pledge to protect America against such violent and terrifying foes has most Republicans condemning or appearing to condemn an entire faith as incompatible with a democratic and civilized society.

From the perspective of someone who specializes in coaching business managers, sales professionals and public figures who routinely address demanding constituencies, from highly skeptical buying committees to angry, frightened employees, investors, and consumers, there are three reasons to adjust this course as soon as possible.

Roar Like a Tiger, Eat Like a Crow  

The first concerns the all too human tendency to promise more than we know for sure we can deliver in competitive, high stakes situations. The more overwhelming and intractable the issue, such as safety for ourselves and our loved ones in a seemingly dangerous world, the bigger the temptation to scapegoat and posture.

If a candidate backpedals right after making an outrageous claim in an attempt to appear strong and determined, there’s no escape from looking foolish, as well as dishonest.

Do it enough, and this tactic becomes counterproductive, maybe not in the eyes of a candidate’s ardent followers but certainly to the goal of capturing the nomination and presidency. The opposition and the media will take turns hammering home what a paper tiger this person really is.

The Lion and The Mouse, or you never know who’s the next MVP

Once a candidate, or a political party in general, becomes known for deliberately isolating people because of race, religion, ethnicity or any other reason, that candidate and that party risk forfeiting the help of anyone who belongs or has links to that community inside and outside the U.S.

For our middle eastern foreign policy, there are unsettling downsides to this familiar campaign tactic. Muslim Americans remain a minority in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same respect, dignity and rights as any other American.  Also, our soldiers, advisors and diplomats stationed in the Muslim world depend on local citizens’ cooperation and support for their very lives.

So often in our history, free speech, commitment to our bedrock principles and full debate have overcome long odds, a trend social media and globalization have accelerated.  When the time comes to make a decision in the privacy of the voting booth, rational thinking about our policies’ longterm effects and a keen awareness of what it means to be an American that transcends the circumstances of birth and personal identity then take hold.

From Despised Minority to Mighty Underdog

With terrorism and warfare so much in the headlines, anyone tied to Islam remains vulnerable to ostracism and worse, here and in Europe. Still, ceaseless public shaming and calls to demote a whole group to a kind of second class citizenship awaken a universal, deep-rooted fear among observers: the fear of humiliation and its corollary, outsider or low status.

Eventually, those who hold a healthy skepticism of politicians or whose experiences or family history cause them to sympathize with the desperate will ask, what will happen to me if I stand up to this candidate after he or she’s elected? A number of Republican politicians, most notably President George W. Bush, distinguished between the religion of Islam and the perpetrators of abhorrent and criminal acts done in its name. There’s no good reason this truth can’t be deftly woven into a Republican presidential candidate’s message right now so it’s compatible with the duty to protect our nation effectively “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The resulting positive impression might vault this candidate to the head of the field. How? Most of us nourish an innate respect for someone who takes a bold, challenging, if well-reasoned step. In the current environment, this decision will indicate a willingness to put the country ahead of personal gain.

About the Author:  Bill Rosenthal is CEO of Communispond, a communications skills training provider that’s helped over 700,000 business and sales executives and sports, media and political figures the world over better understand, connect with and win over their most important audiences. 

 




Cable TV ‘Breaking News’ 2021: Not Really

My 2019 Cable TV “Breaking News”

 

Arthur Solomon

The opening paragraph of my column about the evaluation of 2020 cable news political programming read in part, “It’s been several weeks since program changes have been made by the major cable TV networks. My question is, “Will it make the products any better?” My answer, based on past changes at the networks is, “Probably Not.”

As in all the past years of its existence, cable news programs broke a minimal number of stories. Instead, they  continued to opinionize about news that they had no part in bringing to the public.  In reality, cable news reporting is talk radio with pictures, except for Fox News, whose reports are largely are akin to someone who had too much to drink.

It didn’t take me long to see that the formula that has made cable TV political programming a disgrace to the journalism profession didn’t change.

Providing “headline type” newscasts, instead of fully reporting on a story; not correcting misinformation; pretending news that was reported by other media outlets hours before is “Breaking News;” allowing unsubstantiated remarks of guests to go unchallenged by program hosts (Fox’s Howie Kurtz’s Sunday Media Buzz program is the prime example of this on a major network) and stretching a relatively minor story into a week-long one if there is video to accompany the report.

It was early in 2021 that I saw the first example of a Fox personality who is either delusional or deliberately misleading, when on January 3, I tuned in Media Buzz, Kurtz’s supposedly unbiased look at the news. Kurtz closed his program by saying he believes in journalistic balance and journalistic fairness. As someone who watches his program every Sunday, I can unabashedly say his statement has no relation to the truth. The majority of his guests and panels are always right of center, sometime very far right like frequent Trump apologizers Mollie Hemingway and Ben Domenech of The Federalist, a pro-Trump propaganda publication. But that’s to be expected on a Fox program. So I’ll give Kurtz a pass on that. But what is nothing short of journalistic malpractice is Kurtz permitting his right wing guests to have an open mike without him correcting their frequent falsehoods. 

On March 7, the hypocrisy of Kurtz saying his program is an analysis of the week’s news was never more evident. The big story of that day was the passage the previous day of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief packageBut Kurtz led with a commentary criticizing the networks for down playing the allegations of sexual harassment against New York Governor Cuomo, pivoting into a lengthy discussion of the situation featuring the extreme right wing commentator Hemingway of The Federalist, the far right wing publication, that lasted almost 12minutes. Kurtz didn’t mention the passage of the coronavirus bill until into 17 minutes of his program and then only with a one line comment. On the same program he didn’t correct Glenn Greenwald for saying that MSNBC’s Joy Reid is a Democratic spokeswoman. A far left supporter of Democratic policies yes; a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party, no.  Instead of labeling Media Buzz an analysis of the week’s news, the program should be renamed Incomplete Fake Right Wing News. (In my opinion, Kurtz is the biggest fraud on television. He positions himself as a media analyst when, in reality, his program is a conduit for right wing propaganda. Even though I disagree with their commentary I have more respects for the Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity types; at least they don’t pretend to be other than what they are.)

One of Kurtz’s most ridiculous comments was when he opined on March 21 that the words of a president have no bearing on what others may do and that presidents are not responsible for any actions that results in violence. That’s like giving a get out of jail free card to the twice-impeached former presidential instigator Trump for his more than five years of inflammatory remarks that encouraged white supremacists to storm the Capitol on January 6 and has led to the country being more divided than ever.

One of the lowest of many lows by Kurtz occurred on his July 25 program, when he defended Fox News and the conservative media against accusations that they have downplayed the need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and said the increase in Covid infections was because of the refusal of minorities to get vaccinated, dismissing the refusal of citizens in Southern GOP states, despite evidence to the contrary.

There are so many low points in what is theoretically objective journalism on Kurtz’s shows that’s it difficult to point out the worst. But here’s one for consideration:  On August 8, Kurtz mentioned that CNN had a problem because Chris Cuomo was still allowed to broadcast during his brother’s harassment investigation proceedings. But Kurtz never mentioned that his follow Fox broadcaster Sean Hannity spoke at a Trump re-election rally and was allowed to continue broadcasting. He also didn’t remind viewers that the dean of conservative  TV and print columnists, George Will, helped coach Ronald Reagan for his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter and then told television viewers after the debate that Mr. Regan had performed very well. It took a guest on the program to “remind” Kurtz of the happening.

Kurtz also is guilty of frequently interrupting the comments of his liberal guests and questions what they are saying while permitting his conservative contributors to complete their thoughts, even when what they say are controversial half-truths, to put it politely, and fictional.

I have to stop watching the Kurtz show or I’ll run out of room for criticizing it. But on his August 15 program he let Robby Soave, the libertarian author, say “kids have a tremendous national immunity to Covid…,” without Kurtz pointing out that hospitals are reporting their pediatric ICU beds are at capacity. Just another example of Kurtz’s journalistic malpractice.

But this is not a Howie Kurtz column, so…

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s trip to the sunshine of Mexico while citizens of his state were without heat or water was a prime example of cable stretching what should have been a one day story into a week long saga, not because Cruz made a dreadful situation worse, but because tape was available to accompany the coverage. It’s true that Cruz‘s going to a fancy resort during the Texas freeze was a limited PR disaster for him. And his doing so deserved a day’s coverage. But cable’s credo seems to be, “make a ripple in a pond into a tsunami” and that’s what they did making the ridiculous claim that the senatror should have stayed in Texas to pressure the feds into sending help. And how was he to do this? Via telephone, they said, which he could have done even if he was on Mars. What would have made more sense was if the cable commentators said that Curz should have flown to Washington to button- hole senators face-to-face. (Full Disclosure: I am not a fan of the senator’s politics. I find him encouraging the divide among our population. But it is the cable political shows that convey his remarks to the public. They are the bullets for Cruz’s gun.)

General Observation # 1: I’ve long said that Chris Wallace is the hardest hitting TV journalist and his targets are not determined by the political leanings of his guests. However, when a host subs for Wallace on his Fox News Sunday program, it becomes just another Fox GOP propaganda outlet.

A few other cable TV lowlights:

An example of getting it wrong without correcting a statement occurred on February, 23 when Nicolle Wallace said on her MSNBC Deadline: White House  program that Tiger Woods was involved in an automobile “collision,” when just a moment before the on- the- scene reporter said several times that a collision was not involved. Wallace’s misstatement might seem trivial but it was wrong and maybe confusing for viewers. But it highlighted a major cable TV problem: This is just another example of what occurs hundreds of times a year on cable news programming – misinformation that is not corrected. Worse than misstating the cause of the mishap was the time devoted to the accident. Ms. Wallace committed the first 45 minutes of her 4 p.m. program to the situation, as if it was more important than the Congressional hearings about the lack of security during the January 6 Capitol insurrection, the continuing Covid-19 situation or the Supreme Court ruling that former President Trump couldn’t keep his tax records from being turned over to Manhattan prosecutors. She also led with the Woods story on her 5 p.m. hour, spending 37 minutes of not reporting anything newsworthy before turning to the Congressional hearings about the storming of the Capitol. The program opposite Ms. Wallace’s on CNN, The Lead With Jake Tapper, had a more balanced take on the day’s news.

Wolf Blitzer on his CNN 6 p.m. show added to the lameness of cable TV news coverage by asking the networks s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to discuss the medical problems facing Woods without the doctor examining him, something most psychiatrists who witnessed former president Donald Trump’s behavior on television for many years wouldn’t do when they were asked by cable hosts to give their opinion regarding Trump’s mental condition. Shepard Smith led his program on CNBC with a about a six minute Tiger Woods story, and then returned to it later on for about a minute. But unlike the other cable shows, the bulk of the program was about the Congressional security hearings, the Covid-19 situation and other non-Tiger news. But for the remainder of the night cable kept reporting on the golfer’s accident as if it was the equivalent of the discovery of the anti-Covid vaccines, some programs with lengthier reporting than others.

The deficiency of cable news was evident again during the trial of George Floyd.  Instead of reporting it as one of many important stories, the coverage dominated some networks as if the entire world was taking a time out during the trial, leaving other important stories with minimal coverage.

Also earning a place on this list for letting her bias replace facts was Rachel Maddox on her March 31 MSNBC program. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might be the darling of the far left of liberal wing of Democratic Party but to introduce her as one of the most influential members of Congress, as Maddow did before interviewing her, is the equivalent of saying a seedling is a full grown oak tree. This is just another example of why comments by cable TV political hosts should not be taken seriously.  A better description of AOC would be “one of the most outspoken and publicity-seeking members of Congress.” Some day AOC might be able to dominate Democratic policy, but not this year. Proof: The candidate she backed for mayor of New York City in the primary, progressive candidate Maya Wiley, was defeated in the primary election.

June 16, the day of the Biden-Putin summit, should be remembered by cable watchers as the day CNN resembled, more than ever, Groundhog Day, the movie where repetition was the theme. After the press conferences by the two presidents, CNN, the channel I was watching, spent more than an hour of having its commentators all repeat the same thing in different words. 

(It was as if they were reading from a thesaurus.) None of the reporters shared original insight or presented additional news about what happened. The only thing that was different was the name of the reporters. But that’s to be expected from all the cables, talk without substance. I didn’t tune in Nicole Wallace’s MSNBC program until 5:16 p.m. because I was certain I’d get more of the same. I was correct. At 5:20 p.m. I checked on Wolf Blitzer’s show. More of the etcetera, etcetera comments. I didn’t check on Fox or Newsmax TV because I wasn’t in the mood for fiction, I tuned in Blitzer’s program again the following day. It was as if Groundhog Day was extended. His lead story was analyzing yesterday’s summit.

CNN’s Jake Tapper joined the “let’s make something out of nothing” cable crowd on June 22 by devoting an extended segment on President Biden missing his goal of having 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4, as if the president did not keep a promise. Perhaps Tapper should have consulted a dictionary on the meaning of the word goal. Merriam-Webster defines “goal” as “something that one hopes or intends to accomplish,” not as Tapper continually said that the president is moving the goal posts.

A prime example of what’s wrong with cable TV hosts is when they try to create a controversy when there is none, like Joy Reid did on July 5 during a segment about a Black U.S. Olympic athlete being banned from the Tokyo games for failing a drug test.

An excerpt from MSNBC’s The ReidOut: (The complete transcript is available on the internet.)

REID: All right. Well, coming up the latest controversy surrounding American Olympics athletes of color exposes the sneaky little racism these athletes are encountering at every turn. ESPN`s Bomani Jones joins me next.

REID: In an Olympic year when black women athletes are posed to become the faces of Team USA, gymnast Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles and sprinter Allyson Felix to name just a few. The biggest topic right now is the star athlete who potentially will not appear at the games.

Sprinter Sha`Carri Richardson, the 21-year-old American track star, following her one-month suspension after testing positive for THC, the chemical in marijuana.

Richardson has accepted the suspension. She won’t appear in her solo event, the 100 meter dash and told the “Today” show she takes full responsibility for her actions. But a lot of people are questioning why weed, of all things, which to my knowledge has never made anybody faster, is keeping her out of the games.

REID: I mean, Bomani, her mom had just died. She found out from a reporter. What is going on here?

BOMANI JONES, SPORTS JOURNALIST: Well, I mean as far as the suspension itself, it’s kind of textbook and hard to get around. If you fail that test in that time when she did, these are what the consequences are. This is not one that I think the drug testing people had the luxury of being able to be like, okay, let’s act like we didn’t happen. That was not going to be it.

REID: Am I reading too much into that?

JONES: I don’t feel like this is the example of that. I think that there’s certainly room for empathy for her. Again, I don’t think anybody — when I hear her apology, the worst thing to me is she feels like she has to apologize to us when she certainly does not. I haven’t seen a great deal or a measure of judgment. There seems to be a lot of understanding about how those things could come together and lead her to where she is.

Reid went on to state what she thought was deliberate discriminatory actions against Black athletes, which is ridiculous to anyone who follows the Olympics and knows that Black Ameerican athletes have been celebrated as  Olympic heroes on U.S. teams since Jesse Owens performance in the 1936 Nazi Olympics. Perhaps Ms. Reid should have taken a course in Olympic history before she broached the subject on national TV.

What Reid did was an example of what happens much too often on cable news. A host of a program reads a story in the New York Times, Washington Post or other respected publications, and attempts to use it as an “issue,” without fully understanding about the situation. Journalism Grade: A gentlewoman’s “F.”

General Observation # 2: It’s long known that hosts of cable TV political programs are “homers,” meaning their commentaries favor the political leanings of the hosts who act as journalists. The same is also true about the announcers on sports events, but unlike the political shows it doesn’t matter what sports announcers say.

One of the most misleading and incomplete reports that I ever heard on cable news occurred on July 23. It was by Paula Reid, the CNN senior legal affairs correspondent’s report on bail granted to indicted Trump ally and friend Thomas Barrack Jr. Ms. Reid kept repeating that it was because of the outstanding lawyers defending him that he was granted bail but failed to mention that he was released on a $250 million bond,  that  his movements were restricted to Southern California and New York, he had to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet and surrendered his passport awaiting trial for illegally lobbying the U.S. government for the United Arab Emirates and lying to the FBI. Barrack, who was chair of former President Trump’s inaugural committee, was also ordered to have no contact with UAE or Saudi officials. 

A story in the Wall Street Journal on August 23 highlighted one of my biggest complaints about the cable news pundits of the left and right –attacking other people for their comments while refusing to answer questions about themselves. The Left: A WSJ article, about Rachel Maddow’s new contract with MSNBC, ended with “Ms. Maddow didn’t respond to a request for comment.” The Right:  Tucker Carlson, who has been criticized for his anti-vaccination rhetoric, refused to say if he has been vaccinated, when asked by the Time reporter Charlotte Alter. But both hosts expect others people to answer their questions.

An Op-Ed column by Nicholas A. Ashford, a professor of technology and policy, and the director of the technology and law program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the New York Times on March 31, 2021, was titled “The Lies on Broadcast Media.”

The article said, in part, “Television and radio are often full of misleading information, both on news programs and in advertisements, and the broadcast gives the information a whiff of legitimacy.”

After listening to thousands of hours of cable news broadcasts over the years, I would add “and in most cases a lack of knowledge about what is being reported, incomplete reporting and incompetency, plus the inability to admit that what was disseminated was incorrect and issue a correction.”

And I would also add, it’s funny how cable TV news programs can only find the “story of the day,” to feature, even it it’s the same story that they have been reporting for several days, in contrast  to major print newspapers that find several new important stories every day.

But one of my main criticism of cable news political shows is that they give an open mike to liberals, conservatives, radicals, fanatics and extremists without doing due diligence on the person, allowing  them to deliver false statements as truths, without the host correcting  them, adding to the crevice that divides the American public.  A prime example of giving a hot mike to anyone who says something that might attract viewership is Michael John Avenatti, who was a darling of Ari Melber on MSNBC and Brian Stetler on CNN, until he wasn’t.

There were many other examples that I could have included about my negative feelings regarding the great majority of cable TV programming. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to two of the excellent news programs on cable – Shepard Smith of CNBC and Brian Williams of MSNBC, who will end his show this year. He will be missed. 

Once again cable news proved that in order for people to be informed that they should read a respected print publication.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com. 




Jim Acosta, Guest –That Said with Michael Zeldin

 

Join Michael Zeldin as he speaks with CNN Anchor and Chief Domestic Correspondent Jim Acosta, to hear details of history’s most unconventional presidency and its unprecedented relationship with the DC press corps. Acosta, considered one of the nation’s foremost political correspondents, will reveal the backstories the public has yet to hear about the Trump White House and its contentious dealings with reporters.  Acosta will share highlights from his best-selling book, The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America”.

Acosta will describe what it was like to hear former President Trump call him out at a press conference as a “rude and terrible person” who “CNN should be ashamed to have working for them”. He’ll also describe the incidents that led  the Trump White House to dub him “public enemy number one” and have the press office revoke his press credentials. Acosta will offer insights about what journalists can expect from former President Trump and the Biden administration.

Guest

Jim Acosta

CNN Anchor and Chief Domestic Correspondent

Jim Acosta is a CNN anchor for weekend programming and the network’s chief domestic correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. Previously, Acosta served as CNN’s chief White House correspondent, where he covered the Trump administration and the Obama administration from the White House and around the world. He regularly covers presidential press conferences, visits by heads of states, and issues impacting the Executive Branch of the federal government. Acosta also reported from the 2016 campaign trail following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Prior to joining the White House beat, Acosta was national political correspondent throughout CNN’s ‘America’s Choice 2012’ election coverage, embedded with the Romney presidential campaign as the lead correspondent. He traveled with the GOP presidential candidate to key battleground states and to the U.K., Israel, and Poland, covering the latest campaign developments. Acosta sat down with Mitt Romney for two one-on-one interviews, breaking several political stories and presidential debate coverage. In addition, he covered both of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations and contributed to the network’s mid-term election coverage.

Acosta has received several awards including The National Association of Hispanic Journalists 2017 Presidential Award, the SJSU Journalism School 2018 William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award, and was a part of the CNN team that won an Emmy for their 2012 presidential campaign coverage. In 2019, he was honored with the annual “Truth to Power” award from the New York Press Club, which is given to individuals “whose body of work challenges the power establishment and/or defends journalists.” In addition to his reporting, Acosta’s debut book, “The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America,” which focuses on his experience covering President Trump during his first two years in office, was released in June 2019 and became a New York Times bestseller.

In 2009, when the Obama administration lifted some restrictions on American travel to Cuba, Acosta reported from Havana, Cuba, on the effects of the policy change and on the post-Cold War relationship of the United States and Cuba. During the 2008 presidential election, Acosta covered the campaigns of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barack Obama, frequently contributing as co-anchor on CNN’s weekend political program, Ballot Bowl. During his time with CNN, Acosta has covered several breaking news stories, including the tragedy at Virginia Tech and the Gulf Coast during the oil spill crisis.

Before joining CNN in March 2007, Acosta was a CBS News correspondent since February 2003. Originally based in New York, he later relocated to the CBS bureau in Atlanta. He contributed primarily to the CBS Evening News and has covered stories including the Iraq war from Baghdad, the 2004 presidential campaign of then-Sen. John Kerry, Hurricane Katrina, and the blackout of 2003 that impacted major cities in the Northeast U.S.

Previously, he was a correspondent for CBS Newspath, the network’s 24-hour news service, from 2001-2003 and was based in Dallas and Chicago during that time. Acosta covered the Pennsylvania miner rescue, the Washington, D.C.-area sniper story and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, among other stories.

Prior to CBS Newspath, he was a reporter and substitute anchor for WBBM-TV, the CBS-owned station in Chicago from 2000 to 2001; a reporter for KTVT-TV, the CBS-owned station in Dallas, from 1998 to 2000 and a reporter and substitute anchor for WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., from 1995 to 1998. He began his journalism career with WMAL-AM radio in Washington, before making the transition to television.

Acosta graduated cum laude from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in political science.

Follow Jim on Twitter: @Acosta

Host

Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin is a well-known and highly-regarded TV and radio analyst/commentator. He has covered many high-profile matters, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Gore v. Bush court challenges, Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump impeachment proceedings. 

In 2019, Michael was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught a study group on Independent Investigations of Presidents.

Previously, Michael was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as Deputy Independent/ Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files, and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, investigating the handling of the American hostage situation in Iran.

Michael is a prolific writer and has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelZeldin




A Potpourri Of PR Lessons Learned From the 2020 Political Scene That Can Apply To Agency Situations

(Author’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll be writing for CommPRO.biz until Inauguration Day, January 20. Previously, I wrote 17 political columns leading up to Election Day. FYI – My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column, I write on how PR people can learn tactics from the political scenes that were not taught in communications school classes.)

Arthur Solomon

My first job in public relations was with a political agency, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. There were many lessons from my campaign days that I have been using on none political accounts ever since. Today, because of the continuous coverage of political news on cable TV, those lessons are available to anyone who pays attention, and I have always told people who reported to me that valuable PR lessons can be learned from the political scenes.

As in the past, the 2020 political scene offered a master class in do’s and don’ts that can be applied to agency life. As we approach the inauguration of a new president, here are some of the most important lessons from the campaign (and a few from previous campaigns) that elected Joe Biden. 

  • For years, President Trump disparaged the U.S. intelligence services and NATO. But during his speech explaining why he ordered the killing of Iran General Qasem Soleimani the president said he based the attack on intelligence reports and also asked NATO to help in the mid-East. Lesson to Remember: Ours is a business where individuals vie for the same promotions and jealousies regarding others advancements are not uncommon. Nevertheless, never bad mouth your competitors. As the Trump speech showed, you never now when you will need their help.
  • For the media trainers reading this, a suggestion: Use President Trump’s prepared statements and q and a sessions with the media as examples of what a client should not do in press sessions. Because of his record of lying, immediately after the president has concluded his remarks, reporters point out his latest falsehoods. Lesson to Remember: No matter how significant a client’s title, lies will be called out. And in the future, whatever is said will be greeted by the media with skepticism.
  • Client relationships are the most important aspect of account handling. An important lesson used by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, during her standoff with GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell, about when to deliver the impeachment charges to the Senate, is easily transferred to every type of account. If a client suggests doing something that you believe is wrong, don’t automatically agree with the suggestion. Tell the client why you feel it is wrong. Of course, if the client insists you have no choice but to comply, as long as it is not illegal and will not destroy your reputation with the media by disseminating false information. Lesson to Remember: When disagreeing with a client’s suggestion, always do so with alternative suggestions that meets the client’s wants.
  • The New York Times, in its January 6 edition, printed a tweet from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, saying, “While Democrats are trying to remove President Trump from office, the President is focused on removing terrorists from the face of the earth.” The Democrats responded by saying the matters were not related and that the impeachment process could continue during a debate on Trump’s foreign policy. Lesson to Remember: If you are defending a client with a PR crisis, always expect negative tweets. The savvy PR practitioner should have crafted a series of responses as soon as the crisis developed that can be used as a retort.
  • Be flexible. Despite saying that an impeachment must have bipartisan support, Democrats said the situation had changed and went ahead with their inquiries. Lesson to Remember: Even approved client programs should always be considered an interim draft. If situations change, tactics and elements of the program should be revised.
  • After saying he was too busy to watch the impeachment hearings, President Trump continuously tweeted and commented about them. Lesson to Remember: Contradictory changing of positions makes the media not to believe what is said.
  • During the impeachment hearings, Congressmen would yield their speaking time to others who could better deliver the message, Lesson to Remember: During a press conference always make sure that there is more than once person to answer questions.
  • During the impeachment hearings, the Democrats used constitutional experts to make their case for impeachment. Lesson to Remember: When planning a media tour, or during press conference, third party experts have more credibility than company spokespeople.
  • During the impeachment hearings, every Republican kept repeating the same message points. Lesson to Remember: Message points must be stressed during every media opportunity. A story or TV interview without message points is worthless to the client.
  • When questioned during the impeachment hearings, some members of the committees replied, “I don’t have that information. I’ll get back to you.” Lesson to Remember: A person being interviewed should never wing it. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I’ll provide the information after checking.” 
  • During the impeachment hearings, the Democrats displayed a savvy command of how to gain continuous positive media coverage by staggering the release of transcripts instead of releasing them all at once. Lesson to Remember: Copy that tactic whenever possible when releasing positive important news. If the news is negative to your client, release it all at once. Positive news should be spaced to gain coverage over a long period of time.
  • When representing a client with a PR problem, consider House Speaker Pelosi’s strategy of delaying delivering the impeachment papers to the Senate. Lesson to Remember: Do not rush to immediately answer media questions after a PR crisis occurs. Information helpful to your client might emerge by waiting for a couple of days. A statement like, “We’re investigating the situation and will provide more details as we learn them,” is my go-to media response immediately after a crisis happens. 
  • The way House Speaker Pelosi handled the press conference, on January 15, after announcing the impeachment managers who will act as prosecutors in Trump’s Senate trial, should be a template that PR people should follow during their press conferences. Instead of answering every question herself she deferred to others who were more involved in the specifics of the questions. Lesson to Remember: Providing specific answers, rather than generalizations, makes for a successful press conference. Don’t let one speaker act as a Renaissance person.
  • It’s impossible to derail the coverage of bad news by announcing a new initiative. On January 15, 2020, shortly after House Speaker Pelosi’s press conference announcing the managers who will prosecute Trump in his Senate trial, the president held his own presser regarding a trade deal with China, obviously timed to upstage Pelosi’s announcement. Of course, what he hoped for  didn’t occur. (That tactic hasn’t worked for decades, if ever.) After the president’s announcement concluded, the big news on TV reverted to the impeachment. The three major cable networks, even Trump ally Fox, provided live converge of the House vote to approve the impeachment resolutions and send them to the Senate. That coverage continued throughout the day. The lead story on the following days was also about the impeachment of the president. Lesson to Remember: PR people should remember there is enough media to cover more than one story as a time.
  • When selecting celebrity spokespeople, make certain that they are squeaky clean or their past might become part of any news stories or interviews you arrange, as happened when lawyers Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz were named part of President Trump’s defense team for his Senate impeachment trial. Radio, TV and print media mentioned that both lawyers were involved with negotiating lenient plea deals for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and that Dershowitz was accused of having sex with an under age girl, which he denied. Stories also mentioned a list of seedy clients that Dershowitz defended. A New York Times story said that Starr was pushed out as the Baylor University president because of his handling of sexual misconduct by the football team. Lesson to Remember: The news reporting prior to the beginning of the clash between prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Senate chamber once again confirmed what I’ve said for decades: Once an entity or individual has been involved with a PR crisis, it becomes embedded in its DNA and can be revived anytime. That’s what happened to Starr and Dershowitz. 
  • Nancy Pelosi gave a lesson that all PR practitioners should remember when having a press conference: Despite being the leader of the Democrats, once the Senate trial began she deferred to those involved in the trial to hold press briefings. Too often during press conferences, the ceo, president or other high corporate executives are featured, instead of individuals who really know the details of the subject being discussed. Lesson to Remember: That leads to an unhappy press and sometime disgruntled reporters who says the PR people wasted their time. (Not good for cementing relations with journalists.)
  • For the better part of a year, maybe longer, Ari Melber (MSNBC) and Brian Stelter (CNN) lionized Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti (who was convicted for financial extortion) without doing their due diligence, before promoting him as the greatest thing since the invention of the light bulb. Lesson to Remember: Before you engage any spokesperson, make certain that complete due diligence is conducted Never accept the assurances of an agent.
  • Joe Biden achieved his Super Tuesday success with minimal advertising support or a break-the-bank PR budget. Nevertheless, he blanketed the country with earned media. That’s what everyone in our business should remember: A savvy publicity program without marketing support can achieve as much, and often greater, media coverage than a program supported by millions of dollars. Lesson to Remember: The size of a budget will not determine whether a story will be used (with the exception of marketing and trade book writers.) What’s important is the uniqueness and newsworthiness of your program and pitch. That will determine whether it results in earned media.
  • The biggest PR blunder since seven Southern states seceded from the union in 1860-61 occurred on February28, 2020, when during a campaign speech President Trump said that the criticism by Democrats over his handling of the coronavirus was “their new hoax.” Even though he did not call the coronavirus itself a “hoax,” his remarks were reconstructed and were brought up during the campaign as if he called the coronavirus a “hoax.” 
  • Lesson to Remember: When preparing remarks, PR people should never use words that can be reworked by opponents.)
  • As the tobacco industry, BP and the National Football League learned years ago, and Boeing, Wells Fargo and President Trump learned more recently, it’s almost impossible to lie during a PR crisis and not be proved a liar by investigative journalists. During the coronavirus epidemic, the Wall Street Journal, a friendly Trump paper, published a lengthy article in the March 13 edition detailing Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus crises. The story also cited instances in which both Trump and Vice-President Pence lied to the public about the situation. And on March 18, the New York Times ran an article detailing day-by-day all the untruths that the president said about the virus. Lesson to Remember: Reporters, whistle blowers and government agencies are watching. Don’t lie during to the media; especially be extra careful of remarks made during a PR crisis.
  • The lesson of President Trump should be required teaching in every PR 101 class: Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, fact checkers tallied around 16,000 lies by Trump since he took office, (which is now estimated at more than 22,000).  He continued lying during the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S .and has not discussed it with reporters for weeks. As a result, even when he spoke truthfully, what he said was not accepted at face value by many people in and out of the media, His remarks regarding the coronavirus were immediately fact checked. Lesson to Remember: Once you’re caught lying to the media (and in all aspects of life), even when you speak the truth it’s difficult and sometime impossible, to regain trust.
  • For decades I’ve advised clients that announcing bad news on a Friday night or holiday weekend will not prevent the news from receiving major coverage. Obviously, those who advise President Trump don’t agree with me. In an attempt to hide news that they think will receive negative coverage the White House announces it on Friday nights. Not only does that not lessen news coverage but journalists have coined the name “Friday Night Massacres.” Lesson to Remember: Attempting to hide bad news on a Friday night or holiday weekend doesn’t work. What it does is get journalists to investigate and report on the reason behind the timing of the news.
  • For months President Trump made statements regarding to Joe Biden’s supposed memory lapses. But beginning with Biden’s Democratic Convention speech and continuing thereafter, Biden showed that he had not lost a step and said he was in better physical condition than Trump (who is clinically medically obese.) Lesson to Remember: PR people should always remind clients never to make a statement that can be refuted.
  • Let’s face it. CEO’s think they are always the smartest persons in the room. Many, including President Trump, believe they can convince others to agree to their positions. Not so, as Bob Woodward’s book exposing Trump’s hiding the truth about the coronavirus from the public, because the president didn’t want to “cause a panic,” which was the president’s defense, is a valuable lesson learned teaching tool. ” Lesson to Remember: One of the most important jobs of a PR person is to attempt to convince a CEO from engaging in media matters that might have a downside. Use the Trump/Woodward example as a template.
  • A very important lesson from the political goings-on that should be remembered is how easy it is for a client or PR person to lose the respect of the media. Rudy Giuliani is the template for this situation. For years he was known as “Americas’ Mayor,” for demonstrating skillful leadership after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that collapsed New York City’s Twin Towers. But while he was slowly losing respect because of his lying statements in defense of President Trump since 2016, he lost what was remaining of his reputation because of his complete fabrications of why Trump lost the 2020 election. Lesson to Remember: Always be truthful when engaging with the press. It’s difficult for PR people to be trusted and get a good reputation with the media; easy to lose it.

Ever since my political PR days (my first PR job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, state and presidential; campaigns), I have been advising PR practitioners to closely watch the workings of political campaigns, because, I believe, many tactics used in those campaigns can be transferred to non-political agency clients. The 2020 presidential campaign again confirmed to me that I am right to do so. So pay attention to the political scene in 2021.There will be new lessons that can transfer to your agency clients.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

 




That Said with Michael Zeldin – Guests, CNN’s Abby Phillip, Political Correspondent, and Manu Raju, Senior Congressional Correspondent

Free Virtual Event: December 17, 5:00 PM ET

 

 

The Trump Administration has tested our political norms like none other in recent history.  As the Trump presidency draws to a close, the Biden presidency about to begin, two special senatorial elections that will determine the balance of power in the Senate on the horizon, and the prospect of precedent setting presidential pardons a daily threat, it’s time to look back on where we have been these past four years, distill the lessons to be learned, and project where we will be heading.  

That Said, join Michael Zeldin as he speaks with CNN’s Abby Phillip, Political Correspondent, and Manu Raju, Senior Congressional Correspondent, to break down what to expect at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and on Capitol Hill. How will this divided government work, if at all? Who will hold the keys to success or stalemate? How will centers of power shift if the Democrats win the two Georgia Senate seats, win one, or lose both?

Introduction by Lawrence J. Parnell, Associate Professor & Program Director, Masters in Strategic Public Relations – GSPM, Adjunct Professor – School of Business, The George Washington University

Speakers

Abby Phillip

Political Correspondent, CNN

Abby Phillip is a CNN Political Correspondent covering the 2020 presidential election. She is on the campaign trail but is based in Washington, D.C. She joined the network in 2017 to cover the Trump Administration and served as White House Correspondent through 2019. In January 2020, she moderated CNN’s Democratic Presidential Debate in Iowa.

Phillip joined CNN from The Washington Post where she most recently served as a national political reporter, covering the White House. While at The Washington Post, Phillip wrote on a wide range of subjects related to the Trump White House, including efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the president’s overseas trip to Poland and Germany for his first G-20. As a campaign reporter during the 2016 election Phillip extensively covered Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Phillip was also a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post, where she covered domestic an international news including the tragic Charleston, S.C. and San Bernardino massacres. Before joining the Washington Post, Phillip was a digital reporter for politics at ABC News. She has also covered the Obama White House for POLITICO as well as campaign finance and lobbying.

Phillip was raised in Bowie, Md. and is a graduate of Harvard University with a degree in Government. She currently lives in Washington with her husband.

 

Manu Raju

Senior Congressional Correspondent, CNN

Manu Raju is a senior congressional correspondent at CNN, covering Capitol Hill and campaign politics. Raju is a veteran reporter in Washington, having previously served as a top Capitol Hill correspondent at Politico for seven years. Prior to his time at Politico, Raju reported for The Hill newspaper, Congressional Quarterly and Inside Washington Publishers. He has long been a frequent guest on political talk shows on TV and radio.

Raju has won multiple journalism awards for his reporting on the major battles consuming Washington and his coverage of campaign politics. In 2012, Raju was part of a team of four reporters who won the White House Correspondents Association’s prestigious Merriman Smith award for presidential reporting under deadline pressure for their coverage of the debt ceiling crisis. In 2015, Raju also was awarded first prize by the Society of Professional Journalists in D.C. for beat coverage of the 2014 midterm elections, and a Folio: Eddie Award for a feature profile on Senator Elizabeth Warren. In 2017, Raju won the Joan Shorenstein Barone award, given annually for best congressional reporting by the Radio and Television Correspondent Association.

Raju has developed a reputation as a reporter who can find out what politicians are privately discussing out of the public’s view. And he is well known for his sharp and skillful questioning of politicians, a skill he showcased in 2014 when he moderated debates in two of the biggest races in the country — for a key Senate seat in Colorado and a hotly contested governor’s race there as well.

Raju got his start in media working at the student newspaper The Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his alma mater. And his writing roots extend to his late grandfather, Gopalakrishna Adiga, a legendary poet from South India who wrote in the language of Kannada. Raju is a long-suffering Chicago sports fan and a native of the Greater Chicago area.

 

Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin is a well-known and highly-regarded TV and radio analyst/commentator.

He has covered many high-profile matters, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Gore v. Bush court challenges, Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump impeachment proceedings. 

In 2019, Michael was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught a study group on Independent Investigations of Presidents.

Previously, Michael was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as Deputy Independent/ Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files, and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, investigating the handling of the American hostage situation in Iran.

Michael is a prolific writer and has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.

Follow Michael On Twitter @MichaelZeldin

REGISTER




The Supremes (Not The Motown Ones) And The Election

(Author’s Note: This is the third in a series of political articles for CommPro.biz that I’ll be writing leading up to Election Day. It’s one that was not on my “to do” list. But because of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court will be an important issue until after the 59th president is sworn in on Wednesday, January 20, 2021,   FYI – My first job with a PR firm was at a political one, where I worked on local, state and presidential elections. 

Arthur Solomon

The big news among the political pundits since Justice Ginsberg’s death was, not surprisingly, who and when will replace her and how will it affect the election.

Here’s my “two sense.”

  • The Supreme Court has always been an important issue for many Republicans; less so for Democratic voters who have broader visions of what’s best for America.

The unanswered question is will the Supreme Court vacancy now change the outcome of the election?

Don’t believe what the pundits say about the issue.

The pundits will say that filling the vacancy at the court will attract GOP voters who were hesitant about voting for Trump. They will certainly come home and support him on Election Day, the pundits will say. But that’s not surprising. History shows that even disgruntled Republican voters always eventually vote the GOP line on the day that it matters, regardless of the GOP candidate. Disgruntled Democratic voters stay home. Thus, I don’t believe that Trump’s “vote Supreme Court” message will be enough to attract a substantial amount of GOP voters. (But his law and order message might attract both undecided Republicans and independents voters.)

Even though former veep Biden has had a consistent lead in the polls,

there are many ultra-liberal Democrats who would rather see a Biden defeat than have who they label a “moderate” win. Their reasoning is that only by showing that “moderates” can no long win, will the Democratic Party nominate a candidate more along the lines of Sens. Sanders or Warren in the future. This is not my pipe dream. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton was defeated mainly because of two reasons: 1)Many Black voters stayed home because there wasn’t a Black on the ticket, and 2) many Sander’s supporters stayed home because they believed Ms. Clinton wasn’t far-left enough.

But there is one vital difference between 2016 and 2020. It is the mishandling of the coronavirus by President Trump, augmented by the increasing death rate caused by it that will continue each day throughout this year’s election campaign. (As I write this the number of deaths in the U.S. is approaching 200,000, not counting those who died at home.)

More “two sense.”

  • I believe that the coronavirus will continue to be the prime issue of the campaign and that the Supreme Court is not on the minds of most voters who are facing problems of their own caused by the coronavirus.
  • I also believe that the Supreme Court issue will activate some left-wing Democratic voters, who otherwise might have decided to sit this one out.

I concede that Trump will gain some new support from voters who are Supreme Court fanatics. But most voters who feel that the Supreme Court is the most important issue of this election already were in the Trump camp. So there’s not much more he can glean from that copse.

Conversely, the Supreme Court will probably engage more liberal Democratic voters to not sit this one out. Since there are more Democratic voters than Republican ones, I believe that if the Supreme Court dominates the remainder of the campaign, it will benefit Biden more than Trump.

More “two sense.”

  • The Supreme Court is not a new issue for the president to campaign on. On Wednesday, September 9, Trump announced his list of potential Supreme Court nominees. 
  • But for Biden, the situation provides an additional new facet to add to his agenda, providing him with enough topics to attract voters of various opinions.

However, I still believe that the main issue for the remaining weeks of the campaign will be the coronavirus, and that’s a plus topic for the former vice-president.

More “two sense.”

  • So will the Supreme Court vacancy become an issue to change the outcome of the election? Not in my opinion. But it certainly will generate more dooms day talk about the future of America among some activists along with Republican and Democratic politicians from the “sky is falling” wings of their parties. (But benefiting the most will be the drivel-rousing right wing pundits who now have a new topic with which to incite people.)
  • But what if Trump gets another chance to appoint a new justice before the new president is inaugurated, which is a possibility?  That will also work to the advantage of Biden because it will attract more voters, especially younger ones who normally don’t vote and who feel that it will take a Democratic president to counter an extremely conservative Supreme Court. (Remember: Recent elections show that the younger the voter, the more likely they are to vote Democratic. The trick is how to get them to vote; the divisive actions of Trump might provide the answer.)

More “two sense.”

  • You can bet your life’s savings, and be a sure winner, that the president will try to change the media’s coverage from his coronavirus handling failure to the Supreme Court. (He always does attempt to change the subject when he doesn’t like what is being written about and discussed.)
  • And you can be assured of winning because, despite what some TV pundits wrongly have been saying for almost four years, the president never gets the media to change the subject, because there is always enough room for more than one story to be covered at a time. (If you believe what pundits say you’re a “seer-sucker,” and I don’t mean a certain type of fabric)

Final “two sense.”

  • If the Republicans seat a new conservative justice prior to presidential inauguration day, which is likely, the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade will be in extreme danger of being ruled unconstitutional
  • But, and it’s a Big But, if the above scenario plays out it will play to the Democratic advantage in the 2022 and 2024 elections, and probably longer, as more woman feel abused and abandoned by the GOP, and people with health conditions find their safety nets abolished. Thus the GOP winning today is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory. 

As I write this on September 20, thus far three GOP senators have said that they will oppose a vote for a new justice before the election — Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who expressed their opinions recently, and Iowa’s  Chuck Grassley, who said so prior to Justice Ginsburg’s death. Based on past performances, the only one who I have faith in keeping her word is Sen. Murkowski. South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who might be the biggest hypocrite in the Senate, has said that he understands where Trump is coming from and will support the president’s new replacement nominee, despite a 2016 video of of him saying the Supreme Court should never be filled in an election year, when arguing against President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, who never even was granted a Senate hearing.

Unlike the Republicans, because the Democratic Party is so much more diverse, the Democrats will have to work hard to keep their various facets from imploding and handing the election to Trump, as they did in 2016.

In 1935, the famous humorist Will Rogers was quoted as saying, “I am not a member of any organized political party — I am a Democrat.” It was true then; it’s true now. The Supreme Court issue might be the adhesive to hold the Democrats together.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court is an important election issue. But so are the ever increasing number of Americans who have died because of the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, more than in any other country in the world. Add to that the threat that a new justice will almost certainly ensure that the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade will be ruled unconstitutional — advantage Democrats.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.




Political Lessons Learned From The Primary Season (And How They Apply To Agency Situations)

Arthur Solomon

It seemed like it would never end. It was a victim of the coronavirus. But unlike the still increasing, devastating, and deadly coronavirus it finally did, when on August 11 Connecticut held the last scheduled Democratic primary of the 2020 presidential campaign, even though it was known months ago that former vice-president Joe Biden would be the Democratic candidate. (Note: The Puerto Rico primary on Sunday, August 9, was suspended in mid-voting because there weren’t’ enough ballots delivered to polling sites. The remainder of the primary was tentatively rescheduled for Sunday, August 16.)*

During the primary season, before it was evident that Biden would be the Democratic candidate, I wrote a column after each TV debate on this web site giving my analysis of the situation, importantly including lessons learned that could be applied to agency non-political accounts. More on those later.

But first politics: The most important lesson learned from the primary season is that it’s time for the caucuses to go the way of the five cent ice cream cone. The caucus, helped by media reporting that exaggerates their importance, proves nothing. They give the winner of a caucus bragging rights for a few weeks, nothing more. They provide the political pundits with story lines that have as much validity as the advice provided from a race track tout, nothing more. 

The caucuses are dominated by the few voters who have time to kill, like the ladies who lunch, or the men who tune in to sports talk radio for countless hours, arguing the merits, or lack of, of the designated hitter role, or, maybe, if Joe DiMaggio was a better center fielder than Mickey Mantle. Not participating in the caucuses are the 99.9% (maybe more?) of voters who cast a ballot in a primary and then get on with their daily life. 

Those who benefit most from the caucuses are not the winners. It is the local economies that cater to the influx of visiting political activists and media reps. The caucuses have been dying a slow death. In 2020, Kansas, Maine and Hawaii ditched their caucuses and switched to a primary voting system. It’s time for the few caucus states remaining to discard this undemocratic method of selecting a candidate and open up the voting with a primary election that makes it easier for everyone to participate.

The great majority of PR people will never be involved with political campaigns, as I was. My first PR job was with a political agency, where I worked on local, statewide, and presidential campaigns. During that time, I learned lessons from political PR pros who threw away the text books used in communications schools. I encourage all PR people to pay attention to the political scene; better still, consider volunteering your services to a campaign. It will provide a Master Class in dealing with the media. 

Here are some of the most important PR lessons from the primaries that can be applied to non-political agency life:

Let’s begin with the most important take-a-away from the primary season that applies to accounts you’re most likely to work on during your career: PR people should not assume that an early success when launching a new program means that the end results will be what you promised a client. In the Iowa caucus, the first Democratic nominating contest of the 2020 primary season, Pete Buttigieg was the winner; Joe Biden finished a poor fourth. Point proven.

Here are other lessons to remember:

Assumption: In the early days of the primary season, many pundits proclaimed Sen. Bernie Sanders as the ultimate winner: Many PR people proclaim a new program a success when the launch of a program gains positive media the next day or for several days later. Both assumptions are wrong. In the Sanders’ situation he was proclaimed the presumptive winner of the presidential nomination by pundits before the primaries commenced. But in April, Sanders discontinued his campaign, partly because of the coronavirus outbreak, but mostly because of his lack of support by voters. Relation to Our Business: It’s not unusual for a new PR program initiative to receive coverage during the first few days after the launch, and then fade away. Lesson: A few early hits do not indicate a successful program. Success or failure will not be known for many months. Advice: Don’t write self-congratulatory memos to the client about the success of a program until results over many months are in. Important to Remember: What an account team might consider a success, a client might not.

Assumption: Because of his popularity with young voters, Sen. Sanders believed that they would overwhelmingly support him in the primaries. They didn’t. Relation to Our Business: Many PR people believe that because they have good relations with journalists, a reporter will do them a favor when needed. The days when reporters would do “favor” stories are largely gone because of technology. Many reporters never go to the office and have to continually update stories. Thus it is more difficult than ever to form a “buddy” relationship with a journalist. Lesson: As Sen. Sanders found out when his Bernie Bros didn’t vote for him, never count on a pal to bail you out by writing a story. Too many eyes are watching. Also, because of layoffs and the discontinuation of pubs there are less print news outlets that clients care about. Advice: The best way to assure media success is to pitch stories that work for the media and the client. Important to Remember: Too often, media friends have told me, because I was a journalist prior to joining the PR business, the majority of releases from PR people are tossed, as are pitches, because they are client-centric, making them useless. And because of that pitches from PR people who continually send “no news” pitches are not even read. 

Assumption: Former New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg assumed that he could gain the nomination by spending considerably more money than the other presidential hopefuls. Relation to Our Business: Many PR people blame lack of a sufficient budget for their program’s failure. Lesson: Just as spending money on an expensive dog and pony show press conference doesn’t assure media success, neither did Bloomberg’s massive expenditures during the primaries work. Advice: Because of the 24 hour news cycle, and reduced staffs, the days when a press conference was sure to attract a large number of journalists has largely disappeared. They are a waste of money that could better be used to help clients in other ways, like arranging round table discussions with beat reporters who cover the topic. Important to Remember: The size of a budget does not guarantee media success. It’s the content of your pitch that that matters.

Assumption: The larger the budget for a PR campaign, the greater the success of the campaign. Relation to Our Business: Account people always strive for larger budgets. Lesson: Joe Biden had much less money to spend during the primaries and had trouble raising money. (While other candidates had considerably more money to promote their campaigns, no one came close to Sen. Sanders; Bloomberg’s efforts were self-financed.) Advice: If a PR effort falters, never complain to a client that it was because of a limited budget. If a budget was not sufficient, the client should have been notified before the beginning of the campaign and different tactics should have been suggested. Important to Remember: As the Biden’s primary victory showed, the size of a primary budget does not guarantee media success. The same is true with PR initiatives. It’s the newsworthiness of your PR campaign that determines success or failure.

Assumption: Long-planned strategies by candidates before the primary season began and detailed planning by PR agencies for their initiatives will assure successful roll outs of plans. Relation to Our Business: The best planning does not assure the success of a program. Lesson: The coronavirus epidemic disrupted the plans of both primary candidates and PR firms. Advice: Always have a back-up plan. Important to Remember: As Robert Burns wrote in his 1785 poem “To A Mouse,” “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ MenGang aft agley.”

Assumption: Television debates during the primary season will help little known candidates break through the clutter. Relation to Our Business: Good publicity will not necessarily help a client to stand out. Lesson: The media pundits loved the debates, but the debates had little affect on voters. Advice: Wasting your client’s money by suggesting programs that have little chance of advancing you client’s goals is a malpractice of PR. Never suggest a program you don’t believe in because the clock is running out or because you believe it will be easy to get reporters to cover the story. (Example: Using well-known celebrities who are not adept on delivering client talking points during TV interviews or whose own stories dominate the interviews.)  Important to Remember: The Democratic candidates during the primary season dropped out of the running early, throwing their support to Biden, probably fearful of doing what the Republican presidential candidates did during the 2016 primary – squabbling among themselves instead of rallying behind one candidate until it was too late to prevent Trump from gaining the nomination. Never think you have all the answers to a client’s problem. The best plans are conceived by incorporating other people’s good ideas into programs.  And never act as if you’re the smartest person in the room, even if you are.

Assumption: Responding promptly to reporter’s questions is always a good media strategy. Relation to Our Business: I always believed, and practiced, that rushing an answer before you are prepared to do so should never be done, especially during a PR crisis situation, when the facts are still murky. Lesson: Because of  the Covid-19 situation , which curtails his travel,  the Biden campaign seemingly has added a new twist to not giving in to reporter’s endless questions, which began after the  Super Tuesday primaries, of who he will choice for vice-president. He kept them guessing. As a result, the campaign gained weeks of national publicity, even though Biden stood at home. Advice: If you can’t handle the media pressure, there are many other aspects of public relations that you may be better suited for than dealing with the press. Important to Remember: During a crisis, once the facts are known, disseminate the bad news ASAP. Conversely, try to dribble out good news as long as possible in order to gain consistent favorable media coverage.

There are also two important lessons that PR people should heed from the pandemic pressers of President Trump and Gov. Cuomo, some of which were held during the primary season. 

Assumption: A press conference featuring the CEO of a major corporation will impress the media. Relation to Our Business: Some PR practitioners feel that the CEO of a company in crisis should lead the response to the media. Lesson: The coronvirus epidemic magnified an important lesson that PR people should heed. The higher a speaker is in the corporate structure, the more closely what is said will be checked for accuracy. (Everything President Trump said during his daily pressers was fact checked for accuracy, sometime in real time, and his many misstatements, to phrase it politely, were reported on). Advice: Always fact check every statement by a client before meeting with the press. Important to Remember: The CEO of a company and its size will not deter the media from pointing out inaccurate statements, exaggerations and outright lying. The same goes for PR people no matter which agency you’re employed by or what your title is. Be careful of what you and your clients say when talking to the media. The “gotcha” journalists will point out your fibs on TV and in print. As they should.

Assumption: The loftier a speakers title the greater press coverage a press conference will receive. Relation to Our Business: Some PR people still think that reporters are anxious to interview corporate CEOs and presidents. Lesson: It’s the news revealed at press conference that determines the coverage, not the speakers. Advice: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pressers provided a template for PR people on how to prepare clients for an interview. Cuomo would begin each one by announcing new facts. But he quickly transitioned to working in his most important talking points early in the presser, not waiting or hoping that reporters would bring up the subjects. PR people should use the same technique. Important to Remember: Unlike years ago, when editors would eliminate talking points from reporters’ stories, saying they were too commercial, most will permit them, but it’s up to the client to work them in smoothly.

In conclusion, I found all of the Democratic primary debates boring. It’s time for a new debate format in which only hard news boots on the ground political reporters, who really know what they are talking about, ask the questions, instead of the high profile studio cable stars, who only ask top of the shelve questions, whose answers viewers already knew from tuning in political news shows or reading the morning newspapers. Especially evident during the made for TV show debates was the lack of journalistic ability of questioners not being able to change their prepared questions or ask follow-ups depending on the candidates rehearsed answers. 

In comparison, the 2016 Republican debates were much more interesting because you never knew what would come out of Donald Trump’s insulting mouth. But after nearly four years of his administration we now know: A totalitarian-admiring, divisive egotistical, racist “how can it help me and the heck with everyone else” president who is incapable of leading the country during a crisis. (I’ll take boring any day.)

Finally, my advice about listening to the pundits on TV during any election: If you are really interested in the political ups and downs ignore 99.9% of what is said on the cables.

Here’s why:

  • Cable reporters often parrot “inside” polling information from a candidate’s campaign. Question: Do you really think bad news about a candidate would be divulged? Not a chance. (As someone who has worked on political campaigns, including at the presidential level, I can attest to that.)
  • Much reporting by the cables begins with the lead-in, “Our sources tell us.” See above bullet for my answer.
  • Pundits often say, “So and so is leading, but here’s why it might not hold up.” Question: How do they know? They’ve been wrong so many times in the past. Check their track records. Ask Al Gore and Hillary Clinton or all the GOP presidential candidates during the 2016 primary season.
  • Political pundits are paid by the networks to give an opinion, even if it’s not based on information they’ve investigated. (Being correct and opining on something new is not a requirement That’s why all the expert pundits who declared Hillary Clinton the winner in 2016, until the votes came in, are still on the job.) Their opinions are formed from the same information you can get by reading a newspaper like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or other respected journals.

Soon the presidential debates will begin with their ridiculous format of having the candidates answer questions in a few seconds, instead of giving them sufficient time to fully state their positions. 

Even worse, after each debate TV pundits will criticize the demeanor, if not the replies, of the candidates and wonder if they “can recover from their poor performance.” (Question: Who elected the TV pundits to decide which candidate was better? Answer: They elected themselves. ) But the main reason these presidential debates, as were the ones held during the primaries, are ridiculous is because too many people think the way a candidate can answer a question is the determining factor on how he will govern as president. And TV is to blame for that preposterous assumption.

There’s a simple way that the cable networks can improve their election night coverage: Do away with the multi-tiered panels of pundits, where each one has a different opinion, and just report the votes tallies as they are known. (But I have a better chance of becoming president than the cables doing that.)

Candidate’s remarks should be fact checked for accuracy as they make them. Period. Exclamation Point.

In this election, voters will have a living history on how the candidates will govern if elected because both Trump and Biden’s records are known. Voters should decide for themselves and not be swayed by the comments of TV pundits or the candidates’ surrogates. 

But if you prefer comic-relief, tune in the cable channels, especially the programs hosted by Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham and the other fabulists on Fox News, all of whom must have majored in creative commentary at Trump University.

*(Based on my experience working on all levels of political campaigns, including presidential ones, if I was advising Joe Biden, I would have suggested that he delay his announcing his vice presidential selection until the day before, or on the day of the Democratic Convention, when the suspended Puerto Rico primary will probably have been concluded. Doing so would show respect for the Puerto Rico citizens in the U.S., whose votes could make the difference in states like Florida, which an estimated 1,128,000 Puerto Ricans call home. I also would advise Biden to not make the Hillary Clinton mistake and neglect “sure thing” states, or run on a “stronger together” campaign, as Clinton did.  Each day, Biden, his veep and surrogates should concentrate mostly on the inept handling of the coronavirus by Trump, especially emphasizing how the president has disregarded the advice of medical scientists throughout the pandemic, how doing so has affected all facets of life and is now urging schools to reopen, essentially using children as guinea pigs and campaign fodder. That’s probably the one issue that Americans of different political beliefs can agree with. All other issues are secondary. )

Now that Biden has selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate, you can bet the house, condo, co-op or farm that for the next week or so the TV pundits will be discussing winners and losers among the other contenders. Here’s my opinion: Among the losers were all the other female Black hopefuls. But the biggest loser of all is a male who was pleading for voters to support him during the primaries – Sen. Cory Booker, because if the Biden-Harris ticket wins, Sen. Harris will be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2024, and the possibility of her choosing a Black veep is as likely as me growing younger, not older, every tick of the clock.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.




Media Lessons Learned From The Trump Senate (Impeachment) Trial

Media Lessons Learned From The Trump Senate (Impeachment) Trial

(That Were Probably Not Taught In Communications Classes)

Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

On January 13, on this web site, I wrote an article regarding media lessons learned from the House impeachment hearings. Many of the examples I listed also applied to none political accounts that most PR practitioners who work at large and small agencies can use.

The natural sequel to that article, I thought, was Media Lessons Learned From The Trump Senate (Impeachment) Trial. And there were plenty.

But before the lessons, there are important happenings that occurred prior to the actual trial:

It’s not unusual that before a highly anticipated trial of a celebrity begins for the accused to claim that:

  • The charges are untrue,
  • That the only reason for the trial is because of false media stories,
  • That everyone is lying about the situation,
  • That, in this case, it’s a witch hunt, and, also in this case,
  • How can they impeach me when I’m such a great president?

President Trump has been tweeting a variation of the above for months, but on Sunday, January 12, he seemed unable to make up his mind about his upcoming trial. He tweeted backing for a Senate trial that would include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, as witnesses. But a few hours later Trump said he didn’t want a trial; instead that the Senate should dismiss the impeachment charges without one. (Lesson: PR people should never release a statement unless it has been decided that it is the definitive one, the exception being if facts have changed between statements. Doing so will make you an untrustworthy news sources for journalists. Also, if necessary, perhaps as the president should have done, don’t forget to take your medicine before releasing statements.)

In addition to Trump’s tweet attacks, there was  a lot of  the usual give and back comments between Trump and his GOP defenders and the Democrats, but only one statement that no one can quarrel about: It was by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the December 12 “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”  program. Ms. Pelosi said, “Ten months from now we will have an election if we don’t have him removed sooner. But, again, he’ll be impeached forever.” No one can argue with that fact (except some defenders of Trump among my friends, who don’t know the meaning of impeachment).

For people who have worked on Broadway shows, as I have, the lead up to the actual trial might remind them of how producers and publicists structured the advance publicity of shows with different daily announcements prior to opening night. The same techniques were used by Democrats in the days prior to the beginning of the Senate trial.

The sequence:

  1. On January 14, the Democratic caucus met to discuss strategy.
  2. At about 10 a.m., on January 15, Speaker Pelosi announced the seven Democratic managers who will act as prosecutors in Trump’s Senate trial. A few hours later, the House debate regarding approving the managers and advancing them to the Senate began. By early afternoon, both measures were approved.
  3. At 5:24 p.m., after a short speech, House Speaker Pelosi signed the impeachment documents and it was delivered to the Senate at 5:36 p.m.
  4. After each step, the Democrats made a spokesperson available to reinforce their points and answer media questions.
  5. On January 16, Speaker Pelosi again spoke to the press prior to the Democratic impeachment managers reading the charges against President Trump to the Senate, which officially was the beginning of the trial.
  6. On January 17, the Democrats released information regarding the relationship between Lev Parnas, President Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
  7. Also on January 17, Ms. Pelosi said during a television interview that the Democrats knew more damaging information regarding President Trump would become public, but the new details were not necessary to bring impeachment charges.
  8. On Saturday, January 18, the Democrats released its impeachment brief to the media.
  9. On Sunday, January 19, Speaker Pelosi ceded the media mikes to Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler, both House committee chairman and impeachment managers, providing the media with an opportunity to get their perspectives on what will happen during the Senate trial.
  10. On January 20, the Democrats transferred the platform to Sen. Bob Casey, and Rep. Gerald Connolly to make their case.

    Of course, the great majority of you, if any, will not be involved in political campaigns, local, national or presidential, as I was when my first PR job was with a political firm. But if someone was crafting a publicity program with the objective of receiving continuous and long-term media coverage, using some aspects of the Democratic media plan is a model that should be considered. Some of the tactics resemble the strategy I always used at my two none political agency jobs.

    Another tactic the Democrats employed, that I always used, was not to call a major press conference to announce news, unless there was truly blockbusting information. (Announcing a new and improved car seat cover does not fall into that category, no matter what your client may say; neither does the reformulation of a hair shampoo or the new packaging of a cereal). The Democrats made their points known by having short meetings with the media, sometime in a group setting, other times via one on one interviews.

    (Because the media turnout at a press conference is never guaranteed, I would arrange interviews for the client with a handful of important news outlets the day prior to the conference, with the proviso that their stories not be released until the conference begins. All of these journalists were long time friends, from the days I was a reporter, or that I forged a strong-working relationship with during my PR days. Caveat: Don’t use this tactic with reporters that you can’t trust. A reporter breaking the story the day before a press conference can affect the turnout.)

    There are important media tactics that people in our business should remember regarding the above before trial tactics:

    • If you have good news, considers staggering its release over several days to gain continuous positive coverage for your client.
    • But, if you have bad news, release it ASAP all at once, hoping that it will limit continuous negative coverage, which media history shows is mostly an unfulfilled wish. (This is still considered a must tactic of PR crises specialists even though it hardly ever works and never will in a major PR crisis. It might have, once in a millennium, during the days before the 24/7 news cycle, never now, regardless of what PR crises specialists say. It’s like the still used PR crises maxim that says, “Get ahead of the story,” whatever that means.) Don’t believe me. Ask President Trump, Joe and Hunter Biden.
    • The way the Democratic leadership crafted their media strategy, so that their messages had a continuing flow of negative information about the president’s conduct, should be required teaching in PR 101 courses. Certainly savvy PR practitioners can craft brand and corporate publicity campaigns, as I have done a number of times, so they can be structured to have a long shelve life.

    Media Lessons Learned From Proceedings During The Trial:

    (I mistakenly thought the trial was about the abuses to the Constitution by President Donald John Trump. But once it began the Republican senators and their attorneys renamed the trial:” The Joe and Hunter Biden Punching Bag” piñata.)

    Nevertheless:

    • Despite his previous hard line stance regarding the rules of the impeachment trial, Mr. McConnell surprised senators with revising two of the most controversial ones on the opening day of argument, January 21. The majority leader agreed to permit both sides 24 hours to make their case over three days, instead of two days, that he advocated for the previous day, and also said that the evidence gathered by the House Democrats would automatically be entered into the Senate record unless there was an objection. Previously McConnell said the evidence would be barred. Lesson: Be flexible, even it if means contradicting yourself to achieve your goal.
    • Too often during an agency press conference, the speakers are limited to one or two persons. That’s fine for pre and after conference interviews. But I’ve always crafted press conferences to have several principal speakers so journalists can have various ways of approaching a story to meet the needs of their outlet, assuring significant coverage. During the debate over the rules of the impeachment trial, the Democrats did the same thing. That’s a good technique that is too often not utilized. Lesson: Don’t be penned in by “do-it-by-the-book” tenets.
    • January 21, was the day the Senate met to discuss the rules for the trial. But by using a clever technique, introducing numerous amendments to Sen. McConnell’s proposed organizing resolution, the Democrats presented their entire case for impeaching the president. Lesson: The Democratic strategy should be a template for press conferences and individual interviews: Important points should always be disclosed immediately because, history shows, not all reporters at agency press conferences stay for the entire show, and when a client is being interviewed the reporter controls the clock.
    • On January 22, prior to the Senate reconvening, Democratic Senate leader Schumer held a press briefing summarizing what transpired the day before, which again emphasized the Democrats positions. Lesson: While it’s not possible to use the same technique the day after an agency press conference, there is a method of accomplishing the same goal that I have often used: It’s emailing a document to the reporters immediately after the conference or interviews emphasizing the key client points. Then send another email the following day, asking if any more information was needed. (But don’t be a pest and telephone.)
    • If I was writing a Saturday Night Live skit I could use the words of Chief Justice Roberts verbatim during the impeachment trial session that began on January 21. Justice Roberts admonished both the House impeachment mangers and Trump’s defense team for using “ language that is not conducive to civil   ” Nothing wrong there. But his statement also reminded the opponents that they are “addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” a ridiculous statement considering that all 11 Democratic amendments were rejected by a party line vote, without having the senators debate them, and that since Sen. McConnell became the GOP Senate majority leader, tabling legislation has become the norm rather than allowing debates. Lesson: When preparing remarks for a client, do not use grandiose or embellished language. Make certain the statements agree with the facts.
    • The Democratic House managers repeated the same facts continuously during the trial, (much like advertising agencies repeat the same ads many times). By doing so, their messages of Trump’s wrong-doings were heard by TV audiences at various times of the days, reaching people who might have not heard the charges earlier in the proceedings. Lesson: In order to be successful, a PR program’s message points must be sustained over a long period in order to break through the clutter of others’ messages.
    • On January 23, an important PR lesson that everyone should remember was played out on national television. Democratic House manager Nadler played a videotape of remarks that Sen. Lindsay Graham made when he was a House manger for the GOP during the impeachment trial of President Clinton. Graham’s statement contradicted his then Clinton position now that Trump is on trial. Shortly prior to the video clip being shown, Graham, who had a script of the power point presentation, left the room, returning when Nadler moved on. Lesson: Be careful what you say. It might be used against you.
    • Speaker of the House Pelosi gave a lesson that all PR practitioners should remember when having a press conference: Despite being the leader of the Democrats, once the Senate trial began she deferred to those involved in the trial to hold press briefings. Too often during agency press conferences, the ceo, president or other high corporate executives are featured, instead of individuals who really know the details of the subject being discussed. That leads to an unhappy press and sometime disgruntled reporters who says the PR people wasted their time.  (Not good for cementing relations with journalists.) Lesson: Do not schedule a press conference unless you are prepared to have a spokesperson who can provide specific details; never craft a dog and pony show for corporate execs to use as a promotional tool.
    • Unlike some PR practitioners, who feel that if a client refers to notes during a TV interview it will give the impression of not  knowing the facts, I have always told clients that they should always refer to notes, if necessary. During the q and a sessions during the Senate impeachment trial, the Democratic House managers and Republican lawyers believed the same as I do. It was clearly seen on TV that both referred to briefing books. Lesson: A client, or PR person, should never answer a question unless they are positive that what they are saying is correct.

    There was also one very important non-media lesson that should be remembered from the trial – the use of email – because it was used extensively by the House managers as evidence against President Trump. Sensitive information should never be emailed. It should be personally walked to others on a need-to-know basis. If the information has to be sent to colleagues in other offices, use overnight mail marked “personal.” Inter-office telephone conversations regarding sensitive information should be avoided, and used only when absolutely necessary.

    Impressions from the trial:

    • Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff was far and away the best messenger during the trial, resulting in providing him with a national reputation should he seek higher office.
    • The Democratic media strategy before, during and after the trial was the first time in many years that the Democrats’ tactics bested the Republicans.
    • President Trump’s “scam” and “hoax’ remarks during the trial seemed old hat and didn’t receive much press coverage.
    • Throughout the trial, the defenders of the president provided minimal evidence to contradict the impeachment charges.
    • The lameness of cable TV news was again evident during the trial. During the trial breaks, the fish in my aquarium could have predicted the answers, when the reporters questioned the senators about their views of the proceedings: Democrats replying that their House impeachment managers are doing an excellent job; Republicans slamming the presentations.(Not exactly a surprise.)

    General Observations:

    Despite Senate Leader McConnell not allowing a vote on whether to allow witnesses until the second week of the trial, the Democratic House mangers found a way to use witnesses from the first day of their opening statements: As part of their presentations, they used video of the testimony of witnesses taken during the House impeachment inquiry; also of the president and “Mick” Mulvaney, Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and acting White House chief of staff, who said at a press briefing that Democrats should, “Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy,” when questioned about the freeze in foreign aid to Ukraine.

    The news reporting regarding President Trump’s defense attorneys once again confirmed what I’ve said for decades: Once an entity or individual has been involved in a PR crisis, it becomes embedded in its DNA and can be revived by the media at anytime. That’s what happened to Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, when they were announced as part of the Trump defense team.

    Radio, TV and print media mentioned that both lawyers were involved with negotiating lenient plea deals for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and that Dershowitz was accused of having sex with an under age girl, which he denied. Stories also mentioned a list of seedy clients that Dershowitz defended. A New York Times story said that” Starr was pushed out as the Baylor University president because of his handling of sexual misconduct by the football team.

    TV reporters and pundits also continuously told of the advantage that some Democratic presidential candidates had in Iowa because senators sitting as jurors during the impeachment trial couldn’t campaign there and other early primary states. Of course, everyone in our business knows that’s nonsense. Because of technology dating back many years, a person in Washington can use video interviews to gain the media exposure in states across the country.

    By repeating the same facts continuously throughout the trial the Democratic House managers were pursuing a two-pronged strategy: 1) to convince the Senate to remove President Trump from office, (which they knew would not happen), and, 2) to convince the voting public of the president’s guilt so they will vote against him in the November election.

    I thought the Democratic House managers did a superb job of presenting the case against President Trump, except for two facets: Too much of their presentation was about the past; too little about how Trump would continue to  trample the Constitution and power of Congress in the future if he remains unbridled. They began to make these points later in the trial but it should have been a key message point from the beginning.

    As a reporter and editor prior to crossing the line to the PR business, I’ve always known one truism about media reactions to major PR crises situations, which I’ve always told to clients: Diversionary public relations or publicity initiatives will result in temporary overlaying press coverage but will still be miniscule compared to that of the underlying predicament. Coverage of media reporting of the Senate trial, compared to the travels of President Trump and Vice-President Pence and other smoke screen tactics they used during the Democratic House manager’s presentations, again proves what I’ve said.

    To lift a thought, and some words, from Jason Gay’s non-political sports column in the Wall Street Journal (January 24), regarding the baseball sign stealing scandal: (My take). Both the baseball commissioner and President Trump seemed to get what they wanted – an in-house investigation and a speedy trial before a fixed jury. But in both cases, suspicious media coverage will continue, because of the past conduct of cover-ups by baseball commissioners, and what the GOP Senate Majority Leader and other “impartial” jurors said publicly about how they would vote prior to the flawed Senate trial’s commencement. Eventfully the truth about both situations will become known. Until then the fairness of the in-house sign stealing investigation and the acquittal of the president will linger as a damaged piñata over the heads of baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and President Trump, waiting for the truth about both situations to be revealed by an investigative press, whistle blowers or, eventually, insiders who have had enough.

    Because of the Republican control of the Senate, the Democratic leadership knew the chances of President Trump being found guilty were nil to none. But, looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, they proceeded with the impeachment process.

    That’s a very important PR media lesson that should be learned from their tactics: When crafting a media-oriented publicity program, it should include long-term as well as short term objectives.

    In addition to the media lessons learned from the Senate trial of President Trump, and from the prior impeachment inquiries, there’s a valuable personal lesson that PR practitioners who work at small and large agencies should remember: Take contemporaneous notes of your daily activities and what is said to you (you’ll never know when you might need them). Be careful of what you say, what you write and what you do because no matter how complimentary your supervisors, top management and H.R. are to you, you’re still an employee number. And if circumstances change, (like a new client contact wanting a new account supervisor for an account you’ve managed for years), even if you’ve done nothing wrong and everything correct, management will feed you to the sharks if it helps the agency.

    Final Thoughts:

    • The outcome of the Senate trial was known before it began. Even before the first words were spoken the outcome was never in doubt. The GOP Majority Leader was true to his word, when he said he would work step-by-step with the White House
    • The Democratic House managers’ arguments were made with the November election in mind.
    • The Republican vote refusing to allow John Bolton to testify was beneficial to the Democrats. If Bolton testified, the outcome of the trial would not have changed. By blocking his testimony, the Democrats can now claim, “what were they trying to hide,” from tomorrow to election day.
    • I’ve said for years that when a client has had a PR crisis, as the president has had even before he was inaugurated; it becomes embedded in the individual’s or entities DNA and never goes away. It can be revived by the media unexpectedly at any time, even years later. That’s not true in this case. In this case, the media will keep the president’s crisis alive day-after-day until the election.
    • There’s another important media lesson that people in our business should remember regarding the Senate proceedings. When a client has a PR crisis, self-designated crises specialists, in this case the president’s defenders cannot prevent negative coverage. Only the media can decide when to cease writing about the subject. And there’s nothing PR people can do about it. If you don’t believe me, ask the impeached president.

      Are there overriding media lessons that can be learned from the impeachment trial? Yes there are. In fact, there are four. Lesson 1: For the remainder of his tenure, and during his next term if he is re-elected, the president, like Boeing, Wells Fargo, Facebook and so many other individuals and entities that have had major media crises, the president will always need a crisis team in place, because the negative press coverage will continue as new information emerges after court rulings and new books are published by people who have worked for his administration. Lesson 2: Even though much of their advice is flawed, PR employees should consider joining a PR crises firm. It’s an aspect of public relations that will always be in demand. Lesson 3: If you reach the stage in your career where you will manage a large group of people, be nice to them. If you’re not, don’t expect them to say nice things about you to the media, and Lesson 4: If you are ever interviewed by the press or an investigative body, remember that whatever you say can be used as evidence, if necessary.

      The Senate trial ended in the acquittal of President Trump. But the history books will record him as only the third impeached president of the United States. And beginning right now, the day-to-day chroniclers of history – the journalists – will report on his plans to convince a divided country to reelect him in November. And the impeachment of the president will remain a continuing story line. Media Lesson: Despite the best efforts of PR crises specialists, the press will always have the final words.


      The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com and artsolomon4pr (at) optimum.net.




      Media Lessons Learned From the Impeachment Hearings

      Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

      My first job in public relations was with a political firm, where I worked on campaigns ranging from local to presidential ones. My experience during those several years, before joining Burson-Marsteller, provided me with lessons that can never be learned from a communications’ school education. The most important was to never take your eye off the target, but don’t be afraid to dump an approach and switch tactics if the original plan isn’t working as hoped.

      The above lessons were learned years prior to the House impeachment hearings leading up to the trial of President Trump in the Senate. The House hearings provided many important lessons in how to deal with the media. But the ones I have been practicing for several decades are still viable today.

      It’s as sure that big fish will eat little fish that the trial of President Trump in the Senate will provide additional media lessons. There has already been one, and the trial has not yet commenced.

      • The New York Times, in its January 6 edition, printed a tweet from Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, saying, “While Democrats are trying to remove President Trump from office, the President is focused on removing terrorists from the face of the earth.” But the Democrats responded by saying the matters were not related and that the impeachment process could continue during a debate on Trump’s foreign policy. Lesson: If you are defending a client with a PR crisis, always expect negative tweets. The savvy PR practitioner should have crafted a series of responses as soon as the crisis developed that can be used as a retort.

      For people paying attention, the House impeachment inquiries produced more than a few media approaches that can apply to all manner of PR programs:

      The Lessons:

      • Democrats said the situation has changed and went ahead with their inquiries despite previously saying that impeachment had to be bi-partisan; however GOP congressional members stuck to their scripts and continued to tell fictionalized versions about both the facts that led to the impeachment and the procedures leading up to the vote. Lesson: Flexibility and sticking to talking points are both necessary when creating a media plan.
      • But it was President Trump who rewrote his scripts many times: After saying he was too busy to watch the hearings it turned out that he did watch them and tweeted about how the Republicans supported him; he also said he welcomes a trial in the Senate; early on he said that he welcomes an impeachment because it would help him in the next election. Obviously he changed his mind on November 17, when he sent a six page letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi slamming his impending impeachment. Fact checkers said the letter contained falsehoods. Lesson: Make certain that you know what you want to say before issuing statements to the media. Constant changing of positions makes the media not to believe what is said.
      • During the hearings, Congressman would yield their speaking time to others who could better deliver the message, Lesson: During a press conference always make sure that there is more than once person to answer questions.
      • During the hearings, the Democrats used constitutional experts to make their case for impeachment. Lesson: The same approach should be used when planning a media tour. Third party experts have more credibility than company spokespeople.
      • During the hearings, every Republican kept repeating the same message points, even if they were not always true – “Democrats held their hearings in secret; the president was not permitted to have his lawyer present and Republicans were not given an opportunity to call witnesses,” to name a few. Lesson: Message points must be stressed during every media appearance.
      • During the hearings, both Democrat and Republican committee members referred to notes. Lesson: Spokespeople should always have an information sheet they can refer to if necessary.
      • When questioned, some members of the committees replied, “I don’t have that information. I’ll get it and get back to you.” Lesson: A person being interviewed should never wing it. There is nothing wrong with saying you’ll provide the information after checking.
      • During the hearings, both Democrats and Republicans used graphics to make their points. Lesson: Always provide graphics that media outlets can use as artwork for use if they wish.
      • After the hearings, Democrats and Republican committee members made themselves available for interviews. Lesson: After an interview, always let the reporter know whom to contact if there are any other questions, or if additional information is needed. Always immediately, via email, follow up with information important to the client that might not have not been covered during the interview. Very Important: Also, always send a synopsis of the interview to all agency PR and client personnel involved with the account, so they don’t get blind sided, and everyone is on the same track, if they are contacted by other media about the interview.
      • All during the hearings many GOP congressmen, notably Chris Collins and Jim Jordan, kept screaming at the Democrats, as if shouting would make their case stronger or change minds. (Aside to the GOP shouters: Unless there is a constitutional amendment changing voting laws, hard of hearing voters are entitled to only one vote.) I’ve witnessed PR people doing the same thing to reporters when an unfavorable story about their client is reported. Don’t do it: Berating a reporter, or threatening to complain to his editors, will not change anything. If there are true errors in the story, inform the reporter about them and follow up in writing, pointing out the errors with corrective facts. Lesson: Reporters are more likely to listen to your complaints if you speak in a calm voice. Screaming at them is more likely to result in their hanging up on you.
      • If you have more than one spokesperson at a press conference, make sure that each speaker has something newsworthy to contribute. Lesson: Reporters don’t have time to hear the same information repeated in different words. Many will leave before the conclusion. The impeachment hearings provide a good roadmap on how not to stage a press event.
      • The impeachment inquiries proved a media tenet that should always be remembered when speaking to a reporter: Facts Matter. Despite the incomplete or misleading statements from some Congressmen, the opposition was able to refute them by reading from transcripts. Never tell a reporter that there were misquotes in an article, as I’ve heard account people do, unless you have the evidence to prove there were errors. Lesson: Telling a reporter that the client didn’t mean to say what was said doesn’t mean the reporter was wrong.
      • During the hearings, the Democrats displayed a savvy command of how to gain positive media coverage by staggering the release of transcripts instead of releasing them all at once. Lesson: Copy that tactic whenever possible when releasing positive important news. If the news is negative to your client, release it all at once.
      • After the hearing was concluded and Congress broke for the holiday recess the sniping between Trump and Pelosi, Democratic and Congressional Republicans did not diminish, leading to continuous news coverage. Lesson: PR people representing clients in crises always have to be prepared for unexpected and continuous coverage. Also, remember the follow-ups, which history shows can continue for years and sometime your client crisis will not be mentioned again until a similar PR crisis occurs for a different individual or entity.
      • When representing a client with a PR problem consider House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy of delaying delivering the impeachment papers to the Senate. By doing so additional negative information about President Trump was revealed that could strengthen the Democrats during the trial. Lesson: Do not rush to immediately answer media questions after a PR crisis occurs. Information helpful to your client might emerge by waiting for a couple of days. A statement like, “We’re investigating the situation and will provide more details as we learn them,” is my go-to media response immediately after a crisis happens.

        More general important media take-a-ways that can be learned from the impeachment hearings are: 1 – Media tactics used were not created from tenets that were crafted by PR elders generations ago; 2 – If you don’t have relevant hard news, only new or creative approaches will result in coverage; 3 – Think out-of-the box and make certain that your program contains elements that work for both the client and the media; 4 – When dealing with the media discard the hackneyed old rules, 5 – Repeating the same talking points continuously might get some people to believe them (and will make your client happy), 6 – Be flexible, 7 – It was obvious that both Democratic and Republicans choreographed the approaches they used during the hearings; during a press conference, presentation or when pitching a story do the same thing, and 8 – Tough talk will not change minds.

        Probably because she knew that the GOP controlled Senate would not vote to remove President Trump from office, after the conclusion of the impeachment hearings, Ms. Pelosi delayed submitting the impeachment charges to the Senate. Instead, the Democrats commenced a concerted media strategy of saying that unless witness were called any Senate trail would be unfair. (Still, unless additional bombshell information emerges before the end of the Senate trial, it’s unlikely that President Trump will be found guilty.)

        But the strategy did have the affect of having some Republican senators say they want to hear from witnesses; importantly, most voter polling said the same.

        There was also another tactic used by Ms. Pelosi during her standoff with GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell, about when to deliver the impeachment charges to the Senate that account personnel should use in dealings with clients. If a client, in this case Sen. McConnell, suggests doing something that you believe is wrong, don’t automatically agree with the suggestion. Tell the client why you feel it is wrong. Of course, if the client insists you have no choice but to comply, as long as it is not illegal or will not destroy your reputation with the media (by disseminating false information).

        Call me cynical, which I am about many actions taken by politicians and many business people who run our corporations, including PR firms, advertising agencies and media companies. But given the fact that past administrations (George W. Bush and Barack Obama) were aware of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani‘s terrorist activities, but decided that killing him was not worth the dangers of retaliation by Iran to Americans and our allies, and given that White House spokespeople said the decision to eliminate Soleimani had been discussed for a long time, and given that different explanations for the attacks were provided by President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials, it makes me wonder if the timing of taking out Soleimani might have been dictated in an attempt by the president to change the media subject from the possibility of additional impeachment charges being brought because of the continuing negative new impeachment-related news regarding a Trump cover-up that became public during the time Congress was on its holiday break. Or from the president’s desire to appear tougher than his predecessors.

        If the reason for the attacks was to drown out the media coverage of the impeachment, it didn’t work. Trump’s Iranian action proved two things, which he should have known: There’s enough media to cover more than one story at a time, and, because of his continuous lying, even when he is telling the truth many people think of the Aesop Fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

        The majority of the Republican tactics used during the impeaching hearings was old hat and was an attempt to put a cocoon around President Trump’s legal and media crises, unlike the Democrats, who used some innovative techniques.

        If you are ever in a position where you are asked to implement a media approach for a client with a PR crisis, the methods used by the Democrats to make their points are much more aligned with a PR crisis maxim I coined many years ago, which has been appropriated by others in their writings (without, incidentally, giving credit to the originator). It’s that, “Unlike clothing, there is no one size fits all PR approach to a crisis. Each crisis needs original thinking.” The Democrats feel that way about the trial in the Senate.


        The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

         




        Why The Democrats Are On The Path To Losing In 2020 (But There’s Still Time For Them To Change Tactics)

        Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant

        My first job in public relations was with a political PR firm, where I worked on local, state and national campaigns, including presidential ones.

        A congressman once told me, “If you ever decide to run for office your messages should always appeal to all people.” That’s good advice. Unfortunately many of the Democratic candidates seeking the presidential nomination do the opposite, as last night’s (Sept. 12) debate confirmed. “Segmented politics,” with messages that emphasize the plights of people of color and illegal immigrants, and largely ignore the troubles of other Americans were again a major focus of the made for TV show.

        Instead of banding together with a cohesive message about how best to defeat President Trump, the Democratic candidates again formed a circular firing squad. They attacked each others plans, and it seemed as if some of the candidates’ main message was, “I’m the least racist person up here.”

        In this debate it was Julian Castro who led the attack against front-runner Joe Biden, when he accused Biden of forgetting what he said two minutes earlier. Also attacking Biden, but in a much more gentlemanly manner, without the vitriolic verbage of Castro, was Sen. Sanders. Sens. Harris and Booker, who had attacked Biden previously, refrained from assaulting Biden, maybe because they saw their previous assaults on the former veep didn’t help their polling numbers.

        In order to defeat the president, Democrats have to stop criticizing each other and stick to attacking Trump for his policies. The “my way or no way” Democrats have to remember that to many Americans race and ethnicity are not the most important issues. They are worried about making ends meets, being able to pay for college, family security, increasing healthcare costs, gun violence and sexual preferences.

        Candidates should remember that the “Me Too” movement, other sexually-oriented rights and the plight of people illegally crossing our Southern border are not the most important issues for most Americans, even though to listen to the pundits on cable TV a visitor from another planet would think they are. Most of all

        Democratic candidates should remember that the only way that change will occur is to defeat Trump, not beat up each other.

        Recent presidential elections show that the policies of Democratic presidential candidates often are disconnected from Americans who do not live along the ocean coasts. And political polling shows that most Americans find fault with Trump. But Trump has a potent weapon: Republican strategists are better than those of Democratic candidates.

        The GOP strategists zero in on a few targets, like lower taxes and appointing federal judges to their liking, and stick to those goals election after election, unlike those of the Democrats that are all over the universe and can change positions according to minority pressure groups wants and what cable news reports. Importantly, unlike supporters of the Democratic primary losers, Republicans rally around their standard bearer. That’s why even though Al Gore and Hillary Clinton won the popular votes, they lost in the Electoral College in past elections.

        Listening to the views expressed on Fox News Channel and MSNBC mirrors the talking points of Democratic and Republican political strategists. Fox mainly emphasizes two topics: Making Trump look good and vilifying everything Democratic. To listen to MSNBC, a newcomer from Mars would think that the most important problems in the United States are the treatment of people of color, including those attempting to cross our Southern border illegally.

        That’s why I think that emphasizing the problems of a few segments of our populations, and ignoring the difficulties of most Americans, is a road map that leads to a Trump re-election, unless the eventual Democratic candidate takes a different route. (Of course, following the advice of financial advisors, I’m willing to spread my bankroll around and hedge my bet by placing a few dinaros on a Democratic win. But before I do so they have to come up with a ticket that appeals to all segments of our population, not easy considering the racially-oriented pronouncements of many still seeking a place on the ticket.) 

        Recent presidential election history shows that the Democrats are most successful when they appeal to independents, centrists and left of center moderate voters. So far most of the candidates’ messages seem to be directed to the far left fringe segment, many of whom would rather see a Trump reelection than a victory by a candidate that they don’t support.

        Today, Democrats not only can’t agree on which issues to emphasize, but on the best strategy to run against Trump. Even if all the Democratic presidential candidates suddenly stop attacking each other and agree on a single candidate, the task of defeating Trump will still be difficult because of Democratic infighting.

        Already a Sanders supporter said on television that if the senator doesn’t get the nomination his supporters will stay home on Election Day, as many probably did 2016. And an African-American spokesperson said they must be represented on the presidential ticket in order to get out their votes, meaning that if it’s an all white ticket many will not vote again, mirroring what happened in 2016. Bullying statements like those turn off many voters and bolster the chances of another Trump victory. (These statements prove what has been said of the Democratic Party for decades: It’s composed of various special interest groups that only care about their particular concerns and not what’s good for all Americans.)  

        An under reported problem that Democrats must solve if they hope to defeat Trump is that many African-Americans haven’t come to the voting booth since President Obama left the White House. In 2016, in states with large black populations, the less than expected black vote gave the states and presidency to Trump. The same scenario was repeated in Tuesday’s close North Carolina congressional election, resulting in a GOP win.

        Also, in what might be a turnoff to middle of the road Democrats – the so-called Reagan Democratsmany of the candidates for president are campaigning as if the Democratic platform should consist of Emma Lazarus’ famous poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty. That’s a path to Ellis Island, not a road map to the White House.

        During my aforementioned political public relations days, the owner of the firm gave me a sticker to place on my desk when he hired me. It said, “The object is to win, not get headlines.”

        Pre, during and post debate comments by some of the Democratic presidential wannabees, led by Sen. Cory Booker, in my opinion, seemingly think whomever gets the most headlines will be the nominee. Candidates should remember that “any publicity is good publicity” was never a truism. Perhaps if Booker and the other candidates would focus on criticizing the policies of Trump, instead of trying to get cable TV time, their standings in the polls would be higher.

        It’s been years since the Democrats emphasized policies that appeal to all Americans. It’s as if the policies of FDR, Harry Truman, and LBJ are outdated, but many of the same problems remain, (including the health care issue, which Democrats successfully campaigned on last year and resulted in their taking control of the House). In addition, some Democratic candidates are attacking today’s most popular Democrat – President Obama. It’s tough enough to defeat an incumbent president. But the Democrats, by emphasizing “segmented politics” and practicing parricide are making it much more difficult.

        If I was advising a candidate, I would suggest they change tactics and start campaigning on issues that still affect all Americans today. There’s still plenty of time to emphasize the need to address the problems of the many, while not ignoring the needs of people of color and the illegal immigrants’ problem, and discard “segmented politics.” Doing that, I believe, would put a candidate on the right path to the White House and derail Trump’s re-election. But after listening to the Democratic candidates during the debates, and on cable TV programs, if I were a betting person, I’d put down more dollars on Trump, because presently some Democratic candidates seem to be campaigning for the 2024 nomination instead of aiming for a 2020 presidential victory. (Of course, wagering on outcomes, whether it be in politics, sports or stocks is for chumps. Like me. Hopefully not like you.)

        Regarding the made for television debates: What the candidates say today has no relevance to how they will campaign if they get the nomination. So maybe the eventual presidential candidate will campaign on a more inclusive platform. That’s important to remember. History bears that out.

        Also important to remember is what the TV pundits say before and after the debates, and until the next debate in October means nothing in the long run. Remember 2016 when Hillary Clinton was declared the winner throughout the campaign with the pundits almost daily predicting by how big an electoral margin she will have. Remember “wave election” predictions. It was only after the election of President Trump that the TV pundits started to criticize Clinton’s campaign strategy. Wednesday morning quarterbacking at its worst.

        This year the TV pundits universally criticized Biden for running a “quiet” campaign, saying it will be detrimental to him. Thus far, Biden is doing just fine in the polling. That might change as the field of Democratic candidates narrows. And if it does, it will be because of his past and present policy positions, not because months ago he didn’t take the advice of the TV pundits. But be assured, they’ll say, “We told you so.” They always do. Like the self-anointed PR crises pundits in our business, they never admit they were wrong: In their eyes, they’re always correct, even when they aren’t. (Thus far, the biggest hurdle facing Biden is his too often misstatements, his searching for words and rambling responses to questions, which have raised questions about his memory. Because of Biden’s slip-ups more attention than ever has to be given to his running mate if he wins the nomination. Trump’s mental state is also a concern, although perhaps it is his thin skin that makes him seem at times unhinged. Or as a showman, possibly he’s just acting; but not to be discounted is that he can’t remember his lines.) 

        But my main problem with what is ludicrously labeled as debates are the questions asked by the TV performers. Instead of acting as umpires and call balls and strikes fairly, the questions resemble a pitcher’s curve ball and are too often meant to divide the candidates, ignoring that they probably agree on 99 percent of the issues and that over the years their positions might have changed, as if that’s a crime.

        In my opinion, asking a candidate about a controversial, complicated topic like health care and not permitting a detailed answer because of time restraints is a disservice to the candidates and voters. (I guess, technically, calling the sound bite length discussions a debate is correct but as Biden has said, the format doesn’t provide enough time for a candidate to fully express a viewpoint. To which I agree.)

        If the present polling holds up, Americans will have to decide whether to support a serial liar who has antagonized allies and admires totalitarian leaders, or an individual who at times confuses or deliberately reconfigures facts.(Biden, however, doesn’t try to glorify himself, unlike the egotistic, self promoting, president with his delusions of grandeur mentality.)

        Regardless of the new national pollings after the debates, people should not take them too seriously. What really matters are the local polling in various states, which result in a candidate gaining the electoral votes. (Gore and Clinton can attest to that.)  

        In my opinion the TV debates should be viewed as political entertainment programs. Because in reality that’s what they are. Having to answer questions about policy in a 30 second to one minute format isn’t really a debate. It’s a reality TV joke.


        The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com and artsolomon4pr (at) optimum.net.

         

         




        “Pinocchio” and the Two Democratic Parties (Op-Ed)

        Elliot Fineman

        The very act of the Democrats selecting a presidential nominee for the 2020 election will most likely cost them the election. However, there is a path forward that will assure that the Democrats win the House, the Senate and the Presidency. 

        Numerous in-depth studies of the 2016 and 2018 elections by highly qualified groups including The Election Project, NPR and PEW make it abundantly clear that without converting a single Pinocchio’s supporter, the Democrats have the numbers, by state, to win the Electoral College in a landslide. This, provided that a sufficient number of the non-voters in the last election––both registered and non-registered––turn out to vote in the 2020 election. 

        Further, the Democrats should not try to convince any of Pinocchio’s supporters to change their vote and, in fact, their message to them is a simple one: if you believe Pinocchio is going to take you to the promised land by taking away your health care, destroying the social safety net and plunging the country into bankruptcy, by all means you should vote for him. 

        The fact is that the Democrats are essentially two parties—centrist and progressive. The selection of a centrist candidate will keep many progressive voters and some independents from voting while the selection of a progressive candidate will keep many centrist and some independents from voting. These competing positions cannot be reconciled. 

        Pinocchio and the Two Democratic PartiesThe path to victory requires the Democrats commit to do certain things within the first year (provided they win the House, Senate and Presidency) regardless of who the final candidate is. These are “common good” measures that both centrists and progressives currently embrace. With these measures in place, the areas of disagreement would be decided between the two Democratic parties after the election. 

        This means an agenda that any centrist or progressive candidate will support irrespective of the final nominee. The Democrat candidates and incumbents will be required to sign resignation letters, effective one year from the election, if they do not accomplish these measures. The reason is the non-voter is critical to the Democrats’ success and their primary reasons for abstaining – that their vote doesn’t matter; that politicians do not keep their word ––must be addressed. Unswerving trust must be built. There can be no better assurance than signing resignation letters. 

        Specific common good measures include 1) Expanding the Supreme Court from nine to 11 Justices to undo the stolen conservative majority 2) Reinstating and strengthening the overturned environmental laws and re-joining the Paris climate agreement 3) A commitment to prosecute “Pinocchio,” his family and others for illegal activities to the full extent of the law 4) A commitment to tear down any walls or parts of walls that have been built along the southern border 5) A commitment to prosecute Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for treason because he has given “aid and comfort” to enemy foreign countries by refusing to allow the protection of our elections from their interference. 6) Maintaining and strengthening current health care insurance programs––with a final version that can range from a public option to “Medicare for all” to be decided when the Democrats have taken control of the House, Senate and the Presidency 7) Crippling fines for red states that have refused to accept expanded Medicaid to tremendously reduce the number of people without health care insurance 8) Tuition debt relief for students with current debt and for students who have paid off their student loans, 9) Immigration reform that does not allow open borders but is compassionate, fair and secure 10) Immediate dissolution of horrific detention centers and reunification of separated children with their parents 11) Stabilizing Social Security to ensure it never runs out of money and can pay current or future expanded benefits 12) Expanded minimum wage for workers based on the regional cost of living not an across-the-board flat rate 13) Restore unrestricted Title X family planning grants to family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood 14) Reauthorizing the Violence Against Woman Act. 

        Other key issues include, socialism, Presidential debates, food deserts, racism and disruptive technological advances. 

        Socialism. Democrats must differentiate between Socialism 1) Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia and Socialism 2) Sweden, Norway and Finland. No Democrat wants Socialism 1. Annual surveys, however, show that the happiest people in the world live under Socialism 2. Further, those countries have millionaires and billionaires and market-based capitalism. 

        Presidential debates. Trump is a known liar whether it’s congenital, accidental or uninformed is not important. What is important is to know that lying is cheating and one does not compete in games where the other side cheats. You would not play bingo if you knew the game was dishonest, you would not want your team playing in sports contests against teams that cheated. You would not play poker or golf for money with people who cheated––in fact they would be permanently barred; they would never be allowed to play. 

        The Democratic nominee should refuse to participate in Presidential debates with Pinocchio – – you cannot win a debate with somebody who cheats. While the nominee will respond to a question with facts Pinocchio will invent facts or tell lies. 

        The next day fact checkers will give hard data that confirms their facts and Pinocchio’s fact checker Motor mouth 1 (Kellyanne Conway) will have “alternative facts.” It will be “he said/she said.” 

        Instead, the selected Democratic nominee should hold national town hall meetings to allow eligible voters to get to know them and understand the Democratic Party’s absolute commitment to the common good measures 

        Further, the argument that Trump supporters will perhaps be persuaded by watching the debate is irrelevant. Trump supporters are not needed for the Democrats to win the House, Senate and Presidency and pursuing them will cost the votes of Democrat supporters. 

        “Cheaters gonna cheat.” That’s why every voting machine must have a paper ballot trail. Does anyone remember that last year China granted initial approval for 16 new trademarks for Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand, including voting machines? 

        Food deserts. There are over 23 million people living in “food deserts”–– areas that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food. While the great majority are in low-income urban areas, there are significant numbers in low-income rural areas. Democrats must make a firm commitment to eliminate these food deserts utilizing innovative existing tools including traveling supermarkets, container farms locally placed and encouraging supermarket outlets with major tax incentives. 

        Racism. Calling Pinocchio a racist will not win the election. Racism is a disease –– it’s hardwired into racists from birth and they’re not going to change. Its evil effects can be controlled but it is not relevant to the Democrats sweeping the election. 

        Disruptive technological advances. Democrats should insist developers who create disruptive technological advances like self-driving cars/trucks that make them incredibly wealthy by putting millions of people out of work must significantly fund safety net programs to compensate/train displaced workers. 

        Pinocchio did not win the 2016 election––Hillary Clinton lost it. She lost it by following a predictably losing strategy.  Democrats cannot make that mistake again.  There will not be another chance to correct. Gerrymandering has been approved by the Supreme Court; Citizens United lets elections be bought. The 2020 election can’t be done wrong––there’s no recovering from error. 


        About the Author: ELLIOT FINEMAN: For 25 years, Fineman was a strategic marketing advisor to major consulting firms, including Accenture, KPMG and the Boston Consulting Group, which advised Fortune 500 companies. He was recognized for his extraordinary skills as a marketing strategist. Trained at MIT as a civil engineer, Fineman has debated top-echelon NRA spokespeople on radio and television and has addressed undergraduate and graduate students on the topic of gun violence around the country. He has appeared on CNBC, CNN, and Fox News and been quoted by top media outlets, including USA Today, National Public Radio, and the Chicago Sun-Times. He was the host of a program on WPWC radio in Washington, D.C called, It’s the Guns, Stupid. He is president and founder of the National Gun Victims Action Council™ (NGVAC). His book, “We’re Done Asking: 23-46-40: The Numbers To End the Gun Violence Epidemic In 12 Months,” will be published this fall. 

        National Gun Victims Action Council™ (NGVAC) is a non-profit network of millions of gun victims, survivors, the faith community and ordinary people leveraging their buying power to change America’s gun laws. Ten months before the Sandy Hook massacre, NGVAC initiated the successful action that caused Starbucks to change its gun policy. NGVAC pursues novel legal strategies to reduce gun violence and encourages corporations to be proactively involved in advocating for gun safety laws.