Nov 01

Which witch is which? Wiccans aren’t sure when it comes to Christine O’Donnell.

The following is a special election eve guest blog from friend and former co-worker, Peter Engel.

Peter once dated a witch and, if given the chance to debate Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell, tells me he'd confront her with the following riff on Lloyd Bentsen's classic remark to Dan Quayle" "Ms. O'Donnell, I knew a witch. And Ms. O'Donnell, you're no witch."

Enjoy the blog and be sure to vote tomorrow for your favorite witch, warlock or druid…

When I worked for him back in the mid-Nineties, RepMan took much amusement from the fact that I dated a woman who called herself a practicing witch. While it’s been over 15 years since that ended, hIconurle still enjoys dredging that up, even though she’s not Christine O'Donnell.

But O'Donnell ended up playing a role in an exchange between Steve and me in his blog post about poor service in a Boston Panera Bread. O’Donnell’s increasingly outrageous statements about “dabbling in witchcraft” or her awful "I'm Not a Witch" TV ad brought up a question like this: why haven’t practicing Wiccans jumped into the fray to denounce O’Donnell for creating misperceptions about them? Why haven’t their spokespeople taken to 24/7 cable media outlets, the blogosphere, or NPR/PBS-type outlets to chastise O’Donnell and opportunistic media outlets for belittling their deeply-held beliefs? 

It turns out that they really don’t feel a need to. A conversation with Rachael Watcher, national public information officer for the California-based Covenant of the Goddesses, revealed that being a part of the noise doesn’t fit organization’s communications strategy. Watcher doesn’t see how bloviating on Fox News Channel is consistent with what Wiccans are about.

 “There are legitimate questions raised about the Wiccan religion and witches,” Watcher said, ”shouting for ourselves doesn’t do us any good.”

There was already a lot of information available about the Wiccan religion and witches. But the high school experience O’Donnell has described – the one that “didn’t involve blood and stuff” – has Watcher perplexed.

“Whatever it is she ran across, it’s not our religion,” said Watcher. “What’s come out has been so ridiculous. Right now, it’s just the media looking for sensationalism.”

So what IS the Wiccan religion about? Wicca, or Witchcraft is the most popular expression of the religious movement known as Neo-Paganism. Based on nature and respecting the Earth’s elements, Wiccan revives ancient Pagan practices and beliefs of pre-Christian Europe and adapts them to contemporary life. Wiccans believe in God and prayer, honor all religions and want the world to be a better place. There are over 800,000 Wiccans in the U.S, with several local and regional organizations to be found through the Internet or word of mouth.

The Covenant of the Goddess, non-hierarchical and governed by consensus, has members in North America, Europe and Australia. According to the Institute for the Study of American Religion, it’s the fastest growing religion in Canada, and it’s coming up fast in the U.S.

Here’s what it’s NOT about: Satanism, flying broomsticks, pointy hats, boiling pots, Samantha and her mother Endora, stealing, killing (not even flies), lying, men who call themselves warlocks, or working 'black magic.'

While Wiccans feel anything but victimized by O’Donnell’s statements or the current hubbub, they do see a need to do more education and remove common misperceptions. After the election, Watcher hopes that Covenant of the Goddesses and the worldwide Wiccan community will have a less frenzied environment to build awareness about their practices and beliefs, and demonstrate how mainstream they really are.

The Wiccan religion builds its reputation through spiritual experience; they aren’t particularly eager for publicity in the traditional sense. While that probably won’t mean business for agencies, their communication strategy of first tuning out the noise is refreshing.

I’m Repman and I approved this guest blog.

Peter Engel has over 20 years experience in marketing communications working with clients in automotive, business-to-business, consumer marketing, education, financial services, healthcare, media, real estate and technology. Peter lives happily in New York City and no longer has nightmares about his experiences working with Steve and Ed at Earle Palmer Brown.

Oct 13

Will the Tea Party only last as long as, say, your average tea party?

We recently hosted a second Repchatter podcast with Andy Sullivan, one of the founding members of the white hot political movement known as the Tea Party. Andy’s also founded bluecollarcorner.com and 911 Hard Hat Pledge.

As you’ll hear, Ted ‘Ludacris’ Birkhahn and I pulled no punches in asking Andy about the Tea Party’s agenda. We addressed the subject of religious freedom in the Ground Zero mosque controversy as well as the questionable credentials of some of the Tea Party candidates running for office.

Andy handled everything in his typically graceful style. Love or hate the Tea Party movement, they’ve earned the right to be front and center (as opposed to far right) in any and all conversations about our country’s future course. That said, your guess is as good as mine as to whether they’ll grow stronger or simply fade away just like every other Third Party movement.

Click below to listen:

 

Oct 12

Christine O’Donnell is SO not me

I’ve never seen a crazier mix of ill-suited and ill-qualified candidates running for government than Christine-o-donnell-witchcraft the representatives of the class of 2010. We’re stuck with uncooperative Republicans, ossified Democrats and totally bizarre Tea Party candidates. And, the Queen of Hearts of Tea Party candidates (to mix a couple of Lewis Carroll metaphors) has to be Delaware’s Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell.

I won’t waste any time repeating the litany of things she’s done wrong in the past, but I did want to share my POV on her latest campaign commercial.

I see the commercial as a text book example of what not to do. In one fell swoop, O.D. simultaneously sends the wrong message and alienates undecided.

Instead of deflecting (or better yet, ignoring) the videotaped comments she’d made a decade ago about dabbling in witchcraft, this Tea Party temptress instead tackles the issue head-on by announcing, “I am not a witch.”

Sadly, most voters (and, indeed, most Americans) have no institutional knowledge whatsoever. So, when I tell you O’Donnell’s comments evoked a Pavlovian response by echoing similar comments made by another politician 35 years ago, you’ll probably pause and mumble, “Say what?”

It’s true, though. In the midst of the Watergate controversy that would destroy his presidency and force him to resign, Richard Nixon appeared on national television and said, “I am not a crook.” As various journalism, political science and communications academics, pundits and PR types alike have since noted, “The message Nixon sent was not the message voters received.” Instead, by reinforcing the negative, Nixon instantly undermined his credibility. His ill-conceived comments alienated his core constituents, reinforced his opponents’ beliefs and, critically, planted a seed of doubt in the key, undecided voters’ minds.

O’Donnell has done the same thing with her terrible TV spot. First, she tells me she’s not a witch. Thanks for reminding me of that negative, Christine. Second, and even worse, she tells me, “I’m you.”

Here’s the problem with telling me “I’m you.” This clueless candidate doesn’t know who I am. Nor has she taken the time to get to know me. I can tell Ms. O’Donnell that she won’t find me practicing satanic worship in the middle of the woods at midnight. That’s not me. So there’s one immediate disconnect.
 
In addition to repeating Nixon’s mistake, O’Donnell is committing the same gaffe major advertisers such as Yahoo make when they place ads proclaiming, ‘It’s all about me.” Just like O’Donnell, Yahoo has absolutely no clue who I am. They’re blissfully ignorant of my likes, dislikes and hobbies. So, don’t insult my intelligence by telling me otherwise.

I believe that O’Donnell and her Tea Party cohorts are a one-time aberration, created by eight years of W’s rack and ruin followed two years of The One’s remote and inaccessible leadership. American voters are angry, so they’re listening to unqualified whack jobs like O’Donnell. I won’t conjecture on whether she’ll win or lose because, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. Washington is at a standstill, and more divisiveness will only increase the gridlock.

That said, there are two very important image and reputation lessons to be learned from O’Donnell:
    1.)  Never, ever, repeat a negative. O’Donnell shouldn’t begin her TV spots by reminding us she once practiced witchcraft.
    2.)  Never, ever, tell me you understand me, or are just like me, when you haven’t taken the time to get to know me first.

If the Tea Party is to have a lifespan longer than a May Fly, it needs to recruit candidates who understand fundamental communications strategies. And, speaking of flies, I wouldn’t trust Christine O’Donnell to manage a media training session with the fruit stand guy outside 470 Park Avenue South.

Tip o' RepMan's bike helmet to Catharine Cody for suggesting this post.

Sep 28

Fair, balanced and well compensated

TODAY'S GUEST POST IS BY PEPPERCOMMER BETH STARKIN.

A post in Monday's POLITICO highlighted an interesting issue in that four of the anticipated  GOP candidates for the 2012 election are currently on FOX’s payroll.  This raises several concerns from both a communication and reputation standpoint, with the overarching issue that this essentially gives each of these potential candidates the opportunity to be paid to disguise Fox-news-gop their campaigning as news.  Despite the “fair and balanced” tagline, being on FOX’s payroll offers these politicians an opportunity that is anything but. 

Unlike other candidates, who will have to answer to reporters who may question their stances and proposed policies, these individuals have free reign to spread their messages without needing to answer to anyone but themselves.  In fact, no-compete clauses in the contracts of each pretty well guarantee that they won’t have to answer tough questions from other journalists, as they are forbidden from appearing on other stations.  When no one can challenge you, it’s pretty easy to keep your reputation intact and make the case that your solutions are best.

And what about the other candidates?  Is it fair that they will be up against a competitor who has unbridled access to the media, who in fact is being paid to share his/her opinions and publically stump?  I dare say, no.  They will have to fight that much harder to gain even the same level of recognition as their commentator competition, much less support for their stances and agendas.

As for all the other media outlets, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  How can you cover an election when you don’t have access to many of the expected candidates?  Is it fair to throw down the gauntlet and openly question stances and positions when the person being questioned isn’t available to answer?  Can you just ignore legitimate concerns because someone can’t appear on your station? 

Unfortunately, it’s the American people who are ultimately hurt because they can’t get access to the full picture about our candidates for the most important job someone can hold in this country.

Aug 30

Representing controversial clients is a slippery slope.

I’m a firm believer that, in the court of public opinion, a controversial client is innocent until Pat_robertson_devil_sign proven guilty. I also believe he or she deserves the very best representation possible. That said, some prospective clients are toxic and invite more trouble than they’re worth.

I’m reminded of the terrific image and reputation bashing inflicted on Hill & Knowlton in the early 1990s, when the firm decided to represent one highly controversial client after another. The carnage reached its apex (perhaps nadir is more appropriate) when Hill & Knowlton took on an image and awareness campaign for the government of Kuwait. Almost immediately afterwards, they were accused of ‘staging’ fake genocides to heighten worldwide distaste for Saddam Hussein’s Machiavellian machinations. It was an event that, whether true or not, inspired the Hollywood movie, ‘Wag the Dog’. H&K’s decision to represent a raft of highly controversial accounts precipitated a mass exodus of blue-chip clients (who didn’t want to be associated with a public relations firm that was caught in the crosshairs of negative news). The firm also lost top notch counselors, who disagreed with H&K’s stance on a moral and ethical basis.

As a proud alumnus of a kinder, gentler H&K, I’m pleased to see the firm has finally rebounded and reclaimed its rightful position as a top global player, but it took lots of blood, sweat and tears to execute the turnaround.

I mention all this because I see that 5W is representing Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law & Justice in its efforts to halt construction of the controversial Ground Zero mosque. As mentioned above, Mr. Robertson’s entity deserves the very best public relations support it can afford. But, at what cost to the firm? In its defense, 5W has never shied away from representing clients that most mainstream PR firms would avoid like the plague. But, does such representation jeopardize existing client relationships? Will it alienate employees who see the issue as a First Amendment right that has nothing whatsoever to do with public relations? Time will tell.

In our 15 years of business, we’ve tried to avoid highly controversial clients (falling prey only twice in my memory). Thankfully, neither relationship cost us clients or employees. In fact, with the latter, we were quite transparent and suggested that anyone with reservations could opt out of actual account work. Several took us up on the offer.

But, rather than place a firm in harm’s way, why choose to represent a potentially toxic client? The short-term gain in billings and notoriety will most certainly be offset by the long-term unease among clients and employees alike. As a former employer of mine liked to say, “It’s a classic lose-lose.”

Aug 26

The Main Event

BUSH-BOXING_s1-2741 Obama boxing1 Jim Lampley: ‘Good evening HBO fight fans and  welcome to what’s already being called the communications fight of the century, if not the millennium. We’re here at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas for the long-anticipated and completely over-hyped World Heavyweight Communications Championship bout between defending champion Barack ‘The One’ Obama and the challenger, former President George W. ‘The Decider’ Bush.

As fight fans know, this special, one-round bout is being co-sponsored by MSNBC and Fox News, and the outcome will be determined by three Supreme Court justices sitting here at ringside.

As always, I’m joined by longtime boxing analyst, Larry Merchant, as well as a very special guest, Former President William Jefferson Clinton. Larry, Mr. President, thanks for being here.’

Merchant: ‘Jim, I haven’t seen this sort of excitement since March 8, 1971, when Ali and Frazier squared off for the first of their three classic bouts. Whether this contest will live up to the drama of that one remains to be seen.’

Clinton: ‘That’s funny, Larry. This sort of frenzy reminds me of my impeachment trial way back when. It’s really got something for everyone.’

Lampley: ‘It sure does, Mr. President. To begin with, who would have guessed just 18 months ago that The Decider would be entering the ring against The One to determine which of the two men is the better communicator? But, since being elected, Obama has made every mistake in the communications handbook, so here we are.’

Merchant: ‘For W, it’s a rags-to-riches story worthy of Cinderella Man, Jim.’

Lampley: ‘It sure is. Because as even the least literate boxing and communications fan knows, W was routinely pilloried for his verbal flubs and guffaws, and ridiculed as perhaps the least literate president in American history.’

Clinton: ‘I’d like to think that William Henry Harrison said more substantive things in his brief one-month stint than W did in his eight years, Jim.’

Lampley: ‘Be that as it may, Mr. President. Obama’s flip-flopping miscues are making many right-wing pundits wax poetic about W’s sophomoric, yet direct, communications style. Some are even suggesting W is the better communicator of the two. Well, that will be decided in the ring in just a matter of seconds. So, let’s go up to Michael Buffer now for the official introductions…’

Buffer: ‘Good evening to the thousands of communications fight fans in attendance here and the millions watching on TV around the world and on The Armed Forces Network. Now, ladies and gentlemen let’s get ready to RUMBLLLLLE! First, the challenger, fighting out of the red corner and hailing from Crawford, Texas, via Kennebunkport, Maine. He tips the scale at a lean and mean 185 pounds, and is wearing all-white trunks with bald eagles on either side. Ladies and the gentlemen, the 43rd president of the United States, George W. ‘The Decider’ Bush! And, in the blue corner, wearing the requisite red, white and blue trunks, tipping the scales at a tight and taut 166 pounds, and coming to us from our nation’s capitol, via Chicago and Honolulu, the defending heavyweight communications champion of the world, President Barack ‘the One’ Obama!’

Lampley: The two men are coming to the center of the ring now for their instructions from referee Katie Couric. Say, is that yet another new hairdo on Katie, Mr. President?’

Clinton: ‘It was all mussed up the last time I saw it. Oops. Wait. Hold on, I did not have sex with that woman!’

Merchant: ‘Jim, both fighters are in amazing shape.’

Lampley: ‘Yup. W’s been doing extra mountain biking on his ranch, while the president’s been playing lots of pick-up round ball games on the White House basketball court. And, there’s the opening bell for this special, one-round fight.’

Merchant: ‘Obama’s off to a great start.’

Clinton: ‘No question. He’s very focused on change. That’s confusing W. And, he’s using that very same ‘change’ punch that floored Hillary on more than one occasion. He looks sharp. Hey, get a load of that blond in section C!’

Lampley: ‘Careful, Mr. President. Man, this place is lousy with Presidents. Wait, there’s been a palpable change. Just like that, Obama seems to be back pedaling?  He looks confused. Larry?’

Merchant: ‘Obama’s confused all right. He’s trying to say do everything at once. There’s his health care backhand. Easily deflected. And, there’s his education overhand. Air ball. And, he just missed badly with his so-called Wall Street wacker. And what’s going on with his Iraq drawdown and Afghani build-up? Nothing is working for the sitting President.’

Lampley: ‘Simultaneously, W continues to throw the same, direct, methodical punch time and again. That’s the punch that he affectionately nicknames his “Yer either fer me or agin me” left. It’s hitting its mark, to be sure.’

Merchant: ‘That last shot staggered Obama. Jim, he looks hurt!’

Lampley: ‘Down goes Obama! Down goes Obama! Down goes Obama!’

Clinton: ‘I feel his pain.’

Merchant: ‘Obama’s up, but he’s on Queer Street. Could be because he never really addressed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military conundrum. Either way, this sure won’t help his approval ratings.’

Lampley: “There’s the bell, which mercifully ends this round and this fight. The decision will go to the judges. But first, let’s turn to our two experts. Larry, Mr. President: ‘Did Obama’s early lead pile up enough points to offset that damaging knockdown by W?’’

Merchant: ‘The onus is always on the challenger to prove to the judges that he’s done enough to win. I don’t think W has done that.’

Clinton: ‘I need to meet someone, Jim. I’ll catch you boys later. Go Obama!’

Lampley: ‘Well, let’s find out. We go now to Michael Buffer in the ring for the official decision…’

Buffer: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have a split decision. Judge Rosa Sotomayor scores the fight one to nothing for Obama. Judge Clarence Thomas scores the fight one to nothing for Bush. And, Chief Judge John Roberts scores the right one to nothing for the NEW heavyweight communications champion of the world, George W. Bush!!!!!’

Lampley: A shocking upset to be sure! Let’s go to Larry Merchant in the ring, who is with both fighters.’

Merchant: ‘Ok, Jim. First, President Obama. What went wrong? You were ahead early with your message of change. Then, all hell broke loose.’

Obama: ‘I went with change. But, then I changed change. Changing change changed my chances.’

Merchant: ‘I have no idea what you just said. But, good luck to you. Now to the victor. President Bush. How’d you do it?’

Bush: ‘Smoked him out, just like bin Laden!’

Merchant: ‘But, you never smoked out bin Laden.’

Bush: ‘Doesn’t matter. I’m the decider. Mission accomplished.’

Merchant: ‘Mr. President, would you consider giving President Obama a rematch?’

Bush: ‘Shucks no. I want to take on that feisty momma from Alaska. Now that would be a communications brawl. The English language won’t know what hit it.’

Lampley: ‘All right. There you have it. There you have it. A big George W. Bush upset. Clearly, The One wasn’t the one tonight. Bush now holds the heavyweight title for best Presidential communicator. Regardless of whether he entertains a rematch or takes on the woman who can see Russia from her front porch, be sure to join us next month for the world’s middleweight communications bout. It’ll feature Carly ‘The Confuser’ Fiorini and ‘Big Bad’ Meg Whitman (who’s been known to manhandle friend and foe alike). For Larry Merchant and the missing-in-action former President Bill Clinton, this is Jim Lampley.’

Jul 15

Jobs tonight. Earth tomorrow.

Today's guest post is by Ann Barlow, President, Peppercom West & Director, GreenPepper.

We need jobs now and we need the earth later.  Why can’t the two go together? 
Broc_obama_2

According to an Economix blog earlier this week, green jobs, even with the spotty help they’ve gotten from government and private investment, are growing at 2½ times the rate of the rest of the jobs out there.  With the dire need for jobs and a job-led economic recovery, isn’t this something to build on?  God knows, we have a ton of work to do to become as energy efficient as Europe and even China at this point.  And renewable energy must be integrated into our existing infrastructure if we are to rely on something more advanced than burning the liquid and the rocks we dig out of the ground.  So why in the world can’t we address these two huge needs through one comprehensive, government-led program that will provide tens of thousands of jobs now while building for our future?

Oh, I can hear all of you ‘big government is our enemy’ folks yelling now, “That’s all we need! Another government project funded by the taxpayers!”  You’re not wrong; a wasteful, poorly managed program is the last thing we need.  But look at what can be done when the power of this nation’s government is wielded, power that is supported by a public that puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own personal ones.  Bridges and dams and parks and roads get built.  Power sources and grids.  Think of all of the people who were able to feed, clothe and house their families thanks to FDR’s New Deal, and the legacy they left for generations to come.

I hope this President, who came to power with so much promise for taking on the big problems, can seize this moment, becoming the Architect in Chief of a program that will relieve the suffering felt by so many millions right now while preserving the planet for their descendants. 

Jun 25

The acceleration trap


Obama
What
do President Barack Obama and Peppercom have in common? We're both challenged
by the acceleration trap.

The
acceleration trap is the title of a fascinating Harvard Business Review article
co-authored by Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges (Download Acceleration Trap). Its premise? Successful
individuals and organizations can unknowingly become victims of their own
success. Emboldened by one success after another, they take on far too many new
initiatives without clearing their plates of existing ones. As a result, they
end up doing too many things poorly instead of a few things well.

Consider
Obama's plight. He's either tackled, or been tackled by, far too many
challenges:


passage of a comprehensive health care program


a weak economy


high unemployment


the usual instability in the Middle East


the Gulf disaster


the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively


rank insubordination and back-stabbing from, and among, his top civilian and
military advisers


a financial sector run amok


the ineptness of the Big Three Detroit automakers


a rotting infrastructure of roads, bridges and tunnels


and, many more that I can't think of at the moment

By
choosing, or being forced, to choose to deal with these issues simultaneously,
Obama has appeared weak, indecisive, detached and beleagured (and that's on a
good day).

The
acceleration trap authors would counsel our president to immediately put most
of these initiatives in a 'holding pattern.' They'd suggest he hold a 'wake'
for those initiatives he kills (so, that those individuals who have worked long
and hard to make them happen, can have a period of mourning). They'd also tell
'The One' to give his staff and the nation periodic 'time outs' to re-group and
refresh. Think about it. We are bombarded multiple times a day with negative
news about one or more of Obama's initiatives either stalling or going South
(housing starts, unemployment figures, the 'runaway general,' a possible
hurricane approaching the beleagured Gulf, etc.). Phew! Man, do we need a time
out from negative news, or what?

As
for Peppercom, we live and die by innovation. We pride ourselves on outflanking
our competition and staying one step ahead of clients' needs by developing new
and different service offerings. Many have been very successful (i.e.
licensing, digital, tailored workshops, etc.). Others have become sacred cows
that exist in a permanent state of limbo that demand staff time but produce
little, if any, revenue.

We've
taken the acceleration gap very seriously and have been meeting on a
fortnightly basis to clear out the closets, shelves and files. We've put some
initiatives on hold and euthanized others. We have a long way to go, but the
benefits are already obvious. We're also looking for ways to provide more
time-outs for our people.

The
White House needs to do the very same thing. Obama needs to focus on two or
three macro issues and drill down deep on each (oil spill pun was
unintentional). He needs to do far fewer things. And, he needs to do a much
better job on the issues he does select. If he doesn't, The One will be a one
and done president.

Success demands flexibility.
The successful individual or institution has to know when to say when and
either avoid the acceleration trap or, like us, find ways to extricate oneself
from it.

Jun 17

If Obama’s lost the New York Times, he’s lost the nation

Watching the evening network newscasts one night in the
midst of the Vietnam War morass,
Obama-tv-460x276 President Lyndon Johnson witnessed a withering
assault on his policies by none other than CBC News anchorman Walter Cronkite.
LBJ sighed, wearily shut off the Oval Office TV set and famously quipped, “If
I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the nation.” And, sure enough LBJ had lost
the legendary Cronkite and, in turn, the entire nation. He scored poorly in a
few early 1968 Democratic presidential primaries and decided not to run for
re-election.

Now, fast forward to the ides of June, 2010. President
Barack Obama is himself experiencing a later-day LBJ-Cronkite experience. In
the immediate aftermath of Obama’ televised Oval Office address Wednesday night
on the BP oil spill, both the lead Times
editorial
as well as the rhetoric of its resident, caustic, left-wing liberal
columnist, Maureen Dowd’s positively savaged ‘The One’s’ indecisiveness.

This is Obama’s Vietnam moment. With Dowd, et al in the role
of Cronkite.  If the President has lost the Times, then he’s most certainly lost the nation. Looking ahead to
2012, and borrowing a phrase from the upcoming Wimbledon Tennis Tournament,
it’s ‘Game. Set. Match’ for Mr. Obama. I can already visualize the January 2013
O’Dwyer’s headline reading, ‘Former President joins Edelman’s public
affairs office. Obama to counsel high-level clients on crisis issues. Joins
endless array of other erstwhile Capitol Hill power brokers to provide senior
counsel.’

So, what went so terribly wrong?

Unlike W. and Cheney, who shot first and asked questions
later, Obama vacillates to a fault. He waits. He ponders. He evaluates. He
fiddles while Rome, or in this case, Rome, Louisiana, burns. Obama’s Oval
Office speech was deemed a rhetoric-pocked, action-lacking failure by left-wind
pundits, And, if Dowd and company are unimpressed, god knows what the likes of
O’Reilly, Limbaugh and that ultimate pit bull, Glenn Beck, are saying (note:
for reason pertaining to my personal health and well-being, I will not watch
Mr. Beck. He not only baits in Josef Goebbels-like ways, he also bears an
uncanny physical resemblance to one of the worst clients in Peppercom history.
Note: think purple).

Like many moderates and liberals, I’d hoped that Barack
Obama’s ascendance signaled a new era in politics. I answered the clarion call
of change and voted for B.O. who, sadly, is literally living up to his initials
and stinking up the place.

The BP oil spill and Gulf disaster are the Teapot Dome and
Credit Mobilier of our era. One can also throw in Watergate, Iran-Contra and
Monica Lewinsky’s beret, for good measure. It’s been building to a slow
crescendo since his swearing in, but Barack Obama has clearly self-destructed
in the past few weeks.

I’m now convinced he’s a one-term President. That said,
who’s waiting in the wings? Weird Al Yankowicz?

The combination of a relentless 24×7, news beast salivating
at the thought of savaging any new candidate, along with the limitless personal
wealth available in the private sector, has scared away America’s most talented
managers. What’s left is  a dog’s breakfast of dysfunctional miscreants
and career mediocrities who can neither talk nor shoot straight.

It’s enough to make a blogger ask for a third round of
Sancerre and go gently into that good (and oil-riddled) night. As former New
York Mets Manager Casey Stengel asked of his horrific 1962 squad: “Can anyone
here play the game?”

Jun 09

89, and it’s not so fine


June 9
I’m saddened, but not surprised, by the resignation of
legendary A.P. White House Correspondent Helen Thomas, who quit in the wake of
remarks she made about Israel. Her suggestion that Israel should ‘…get
out of Palestine’ and its inhabitants return to their countries of origin
provoked an understandable outrage. As a result, a stellar career and
reputation has been tarnished.

Ironically, though, her remarks didn’t kill Helen’s career.
Her unwillingness to retire did. One has to know when to say when, and Helen
didn’t.

I know 89. My mom passed away at the age of 89 and my dad is
a very feisty 89. Eighty-nine is no picnic. From what I’ve seen of 89, it’s a
time in life without filters.

My mom was a great example. Up until she reached the age of
80, my mom would have qualified as a saint. She never hesitated to help others
or speak well of them. Once she hit 80, though, all bets were off. As her health
and quality of life declined so, too, did the filters. All of a sudden, people,
places and things she used to either praise or at least ignore, became front
and center for a vitriolic tirade. At the end, she was reduced to merely
registering her contempt with the sorry state of the world and the individuals
who had ruined our country (note: she would have had a field day with Tony
Hayward of BP).

My dad is different. He’s extremely sharp mentally and
physically as he nears his 90
th birthday. What’s changed, though, is
his awareness of what is and isn’t appropriate to say in public places. And,
that can cause challenges for a man whose political views make Rush Limbaugh
seem like a bleeding-heart liberal. When we take ‘pop-pop’ out to lunch or dinner,
for example, our entire family is on high alert. We never know if he’ll make a
pass at a waitress, posit his views about Brown vs. the Board of Education of
Topeka, Kansas, or just hurl invectives in the general vicinity of any TV set
near the bar.

Helen Thomas said what was on her mind. She said what had
always been on her mind. But, her internal filters had always prevented her
from say anything in public. Then, along came 89. And, it wasn’t so fine.

Knowing when to say when is critically important to one’s
image and reputation. Now, instead of being remembered for covering every U.S.
president from JFK to Obama, Ms. Thomas will instead, be vilified as the
reporter who told Israel to get out of Palestine.