Jun 01

The empathy gene


June 1
I
happened to catch The Bill Maher Show the other night and overheard a
discussion about President Obama's handling of the Gulf disaster. Regardless of
one's perception of how well or poorly Obama has done, Maher said, he lacks
'the empathy gene.'

I
found the observation particularly astute. Obama does lack the empathy gene and
reminds me of what I've read about President Woodrow Wilson. I've just
completed a book entitled, 'George, Nicholas and Wilhelm' by Miranda Carter. It
details the three royal cousins and grandsons of Queen Victoria whose
dysfunctional relationships and management helped precipitate World War I.
According to Ms. Carter, there were very few things all three monarchs agreed upon.
One, though, was Wilson, whom Wilhelm described as an 'unmitigated, academic
bore.'

Indeed,
Wilson's highly-documented intellectual snobbery and near-total lack of
compassion contributed to his failure to convince Congress to agree to join the
League of Nations (the U.N.'s predecessor). That, in turn, set in motion the
chain of events that eventually led to World War II.

Obama
is a modern-day Wilson. He has shown a complete lack of empathy towards the
Gulf disaster and its inhabitants. Sure, he's held press conferences and made a
visit or two. But, where's the tearing eyes of a Ronald Reagan or the
hysterical sobbing of a William Jefferson Clinton? The country in general, and
the Gulf Shore in particular, desperately need to see some empathy from 44.

The
missing empathy gene got me thinking about how the various presidents in my
lifetime might have demonstrated empathy in the midst of the Gulf calamity.

Here's
what I came up with. See if you agree:


Obama: Cool, calm and collected to a fault. Zero empathy.


W: He'd be curled up in front of the tube watching a Texas Rangers game,
totally oblivious to the disaster. When finally informed, he'd defer to Cheney,
who'd laud BP for its rapid response.


Clinton: His tears would rival the number of gallons of oil spilled to date.
The man would be beside himself (and probably cozying up to a comely Alabama
intern to help him deal with his own, inner demons).


41
: I think George H.W. Bush would have paid multiple visits but, lacking the
vision thing as well as any understanding of the common man, would probably
register low on the empathy gene scale.


Reagan: He'd know exactly what to do. He'd shed a tear or two, make us proud of
the relief workers and remind us that America's gotten through bigger crises in
the past. It would be one of his very, best roles.


Carter: Jimmy, Roslyn and Amy would not only be on-site full-time. They'd be
dressed in overalls and fully immersed in picking up debris and building protective
barrier reefs.


Ford: A genuinely good guy who had a degree of empathy. I think he'd say and do
the right thing.


Nixon: Forget it. A blue serge suit doesn't work well in those humid Gulf
temperatures. Plus Nixon would blame those nattering nabobs of negativity, the
press, for making a mountain out of a molehill.


LBJ: A Texas native and someone who looked like he was in constant pain, I
believe LBJ would have risen to the occasion and demonstrated the right
combination of empathy, sympathy and pathos.


JFK: He was all about his own image as The Cold Warrior. Displaying any sign of
weakness was a sure sign to the Soviets that JFK lacked the spine to fight a
nuclear war. No tears on the Gulf for this short-lived king of Camelot.


Ike: He was the guy who first warned us about the military-industrial complex
(think: Goldman Sachs and the Securities & Exchange Commission and BP and
MMS). Ike also managed the D-Day invasion. He'd find the fastest solution, but
he'd do so in a cold, dispassionate manner.

Questions?
Comments? Issues? Top-kill alternatives?

Apr 29

Drill, baby, drill has its consequences

Sarah Palin, John McCain and their Tea Party/Measuring Up brethren have been chanting 'Drill, baby, drill'  for some time now.


April 29 Wrapping themselves in the American flag, pro-drill Republicans say it's critical we plumb the oil reserves lying off the U.S. shoreline. To do otherwise, they argue, is to keep us held hostage by the Middle East oil cartel. But, at what price?

The horrific BP oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico is just the latest example of what will happen if we continue to recklessly drill, baby, drill. Five billion barrels of oil are pouring daily into the Gulf's waters and slowly, but surely, making their way towards shore. The carnage to wildlife and pristine shorelines may be catastrophic (and, New Orleans may once again bear the brunt of the damage). Making matters even worse, BP can't figure out how to cap the sunken oil rig's three separate leaks.

Republicans paint domestic drilling opponents as unpatriotic tree huggers. Maybe so, but the more companies such as BP are given free reign to drill into America's continental shelf, the more we'll see environmental disasters like the one unfolding in the Gulf.

It's time for even more significant investments in alternative energy sources such as nuclear, wind and solar. Nobody wants to be held hostage by the oil cartel, but right wing hawks like Ms. Palin need to wise up. Otherwise, her multiple children and grandchildren will not only be able to see Russia from their front porch, they'll be able to walk across an oil-caked Bering Sea to get there.

Apr 26

From colostomy bags to Sarah Palin

RepChatter co-host Ted ‘Ludacris’ Birkhahn and I recently played host to Andy Sullivan, creator of bluecollarcorner.com and one of the founders of Tea Party 365.

Andy proved to be a worthy foil to Ted’s far left wing, pro big government sentiments as he made a solid, if somewhat disjointed, plea for a return to the way we were. As you’ll hear, Andy waxes poetic on everything from the peace-loving nature of Tea Party members to a prediction that Sarah Palin will fool everyone and waltz into the Oval Office in 2012. I’m not sure what inspired him to insert walkers and colostomy bags in the discussion, but the bluecollarguy promised a no holds barred chat and certainly delivered.

I hope you enjoy the podcast. Do me a favor and post your thoughts and/or follow-up questions for Andy. Andy, in turn, has promised to forward the link to the Tea Party universe, so this could get very interesting. One final note: Andy has agreed to do another RepChatter podcast on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections. We’d like to match him with a more knowledgeable and strident liberal spokesperson than Ted and would welcome your thoughts.

Apr 21

The S.S. RepChatter sails into unchartered waters

Since its origins a few years back, RepChatter, the bastard podcast offspring of RepMan, has bravely sailed through turbulent waters to examine such controversial issues as:

– The relevance of the Catholic Church (with guest Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League)
– The very existence of God (with guests Darryl Salerno and Dawn Lauer arguing nay and yay, respectively)
– Toyota’s self-inflicted wounds (with a top Fordham professor)

First Officer Ted ‘Ludacris’ Birkhahn and I have navigated these controversial and often heated discussions with our usual combination of bluster, bravado and complete ignorance (we’ve also ducked and covered when things have gotten totally out of hand. Listen to the Salerno v. Lauer podcast and you’ll know what I mean. But, Ted and I must admit to a certain trepidation in anticipation of our upcoming podcast with Andy Sullivan.

April 21 Andy, you see, manages public relations for bluecollarcorner.com, and is one of the Tea Party’s 365 founding members. To say that Tea Party members are outspoken is like saying the Rolling Stones occasionally tore up hotel rooms in their heyday. The S.S. RepChatter will be sailing straight into a Category Five hurricane named Andy.

To prepare for the epoch-making event, I’ve boned up on the Tea Party and studied the recent CBS News/New York Times poll. As most of you know, the Tea Party’s goal is to reduce the role of the federal government in our lives. That I knew. What I didn’t know was their make-up. The average Tea Party member watches Fox News (Surprise. Surprise). Most are men. Nine in 10 are white. Half describe themselves as middle class. Three in four are age 45 or older. Nearly three-fourths consider themselves conservative (another ‘no duh’) and 39 percent identify themselves as evangelicals (So, I have to believe they aren’t fans of Darryl Salerno’s P.O.V. on God). They despise Obama and the current Congress and adore W and Sarah Palin (although most don’t think the erstwhile Alaska governor should run for president). Last, but not least, nearly 60 percent keep a gun in their households (which is why we’ve asked Andy to join us by phone as opposed to in-studio).

I plan to ask Andy a whole range of questions, including:

– How come you dig Sarah, but don’t think she belongs in the Oval Office?
– What’s with all the guns?
– Is Fox News really ‘fair and balanced’ as advertised?
– Describe the ideal society
– Do a bunch of middle-aged white guys really represent the views of the average Americans (Some 84 percent of Tea Party members say they do)

I’ll have other questions based upon Andy’s responses. And, I’m sure the Ludacris one will weigh in with his usual few non sequiturs. But, what about you? What questions would you like me to ask Andy? Let me know and I’ll be sure to represent my constituents. As for now, it’s full steam ahead. First Officer Birkhahn: be on the alert for icebergs.

Oct 19

Too much of anything….

October 19 - information-overload
I think most Democrats and Republicans alike would agree we see far too much of President Obama. He’s here. He’s there. He’s everywhere. As a result, voters tend to suffer from Obama Fatigue. I simply don’t want to see the guy anymore.

Too much of anything is a bad thing, especially for a brand. Case in point: I’m on the e-mail distribution of a certain law firm. Back in the good old, snail mail days, I looked forward to receiving their timely, thought provoking tips, trends and analysis reports.

Now, though, I’m continually bombarded by this very same firm. I must receive a new thought leadership article at least once a week, if not more. At times, I equate the law firm to the Allied invasion fleet and me as the defending German Army hunkering down on the beaches of Normandy as yet another salvo speeds my way.

It’s a shame, because I’m sure the content is relevant and important. But, in an information overload world, too much is, well, too much. I think it’s important for any and all communications to strike the proper balance between ‘just enough’ and Obama Fatigue. As for the law firm’s missives and me, I’ve adopted a Pavlovian response. As soon as I see the incoming article, I reach for the keyboard and hit ‘delete.’

Marketers should be constantly gauging the impact of their communications programs. It’s easy to do and will enable the organization to dial back the frequency and intensity of their outreach. To do otherwise is to court the bane of any communications program: indifference.

Sep 14

Here, there and everywhere

He's here. He's there. He's everywhere.

He, of course, is President Barack Obama. And I, for one, am suffering from Chronic Obama Fatigue Syndrome (C.O.F.S.). Hey, the acronym could be used in his Health Care pitch!

I am sick of seeing this man I admire EVERYWHERE I turn.

September 14 My personal breaking point came Saturday morning with the arrival of the October issue of Men's Health, which is typically adorned with some 20-something hunk's abs of steel. Not this time, though. This time, despite non-stop, wall-to-wall, post-Health Care Speech coverage, who do I see staring back at me from the cover? Barry!!!!!!!

Help! I can't get away. In fact, I feel positively stuck inside a Twilight Zone episode. No matter where I go or where I look, THE ONE is there! Be gone, Barry! Be gone!

Don't get me wrong. I'm into photo ops as much as the next PR guy. So, I naturally cut Barry some slack when he was 'caught' draining three's on the roundball court. And I looked the other way when he drained a pint or two in the Rose Garden with the prof and the policeman. But, ever since his inauguration, it seems that Obama has personified the word 'ubiquitous.'

The man is badly overexposed. Whoever is responsible for managing the Obama brand has done a god-awful job. And, if I'm starting to burn out on Barry so, too, are other erstwhile supporters. While that may not immediately bode ill for '44,' it could wreak havoc on his party in the upcoming midterms.

From an image and reputation standpoint, Obama did everything right in his run for the White House and everything wrong since. In fact, I do believe he's become the Narcissus of politics.

Barry obviously digs being on all 500 cable channels simultaneously, appearing at town hall meetings in hamlets so small ever the locals can't pronounce the name and appearing on the cover of inappropriate national magazines.

W. hibernated his way through eight years in the Oval Office. Perhaps, in response, Obama has decided to rock star his way though his first nine months. I sure hope his ego has been sated though, because if he doesn't stand down soon, he'll be standing down permanently come 2012.

I've contracted a nasty case of C.O.F.S. I know I can recover if given a chance, but I'm less than sanguine that Barry & His Beltway Boys will give me the opportunity.

Aug 21

Can I get you a drink?

Guest post from Alyson Buck

August 21 - obama beer We’re a few weeks out from the beer summit between President Obama, Professor Henry Gates and Sgt. James Crowley. The meeting was an attempt to smooth over the subsequent PR aftermath of the racial firestorm that ensued from the Cambridge arrest. Admittedly, the meeting was a pretty significant maneuver by the president to take it upon himself to address such a major issue head on. However, the significance of the meeting was overshadowed in the media by the beer choices of the participating parties. Yes, our president decided to solve a major social issue over a cold brewski.

Begs the question — has #44 made himself too accessible?

During his run for presidency, Obama embraced Twitter and Facebook, making himself more accessible to a younger generation. He stood toe-to-toe to Stephen Colbert and did the late night circuit in an effort to show that he’s a likeable guy in touch with reality and eager to address middle-class average Americans’ needs. And in a time when the current president couldn't have been more out of touch, it was just what the country ordered. Like Bill Clinton's MTV sax solo before him, this approachable demeanor is arguably one of the main reasons Obama was able to secure a seat in the Oval Office.

I dig a president that's in touch with his country. I can get behind a guy that understood the value of social media (Full disclosure: He embraced Twitter long before this Millennial). But the role of president comes with serious responsibility and serious cache. The man is CEO, head honcho, top dog — yet he's settling what's turned into a major race dispute over a Bud Light. I've known many a dispute to be solved over a drink (probably more were started but who's counting) but is this the way we want our country’s leader to solve complex social issues that stretch back centuries?

I'm torn. On one hand I want Obama to be in touch with Americans and bring a fresher perspective to the White House. On the other, there are complicated issues — socially, economically — that need serious attention. Unfortunately I'm not sure they can be solved over the King of Beers.

Jul 13

Hell hath no fury

July 13 - woman The alleged murders of erstwhile sports stars Steve McNair and Arturo Gatti have given new meaning to the old phrase, 'Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.'

From what I've been able to piece together, McNair and Gatti both shared a fondness for the ladies, but made the mistake of two-timing the wrong ones. McNair was the apparent victim of a murder-suicide while Brazilian authorities say Gatti's wife is the lead suspect in his slaying.

McNair's assailant had purchased her murder weapon just days before, again pointing to the need for more stringent gun control laws. I'm not sure what Mrs. Gatti used to deliver the final knockout to her ex-pugilist hubby, but the odds are good she bought it recently.

Weapons of choice aside, what's with the sudden rash of cuckolded concubines committing the ultimate crime of passion? I'm sure there are myriad societal factors involved in each, not the least of which is the pro athlete's belief that he can do or say anything and get away with. And, I'm sure Mrs. Gatti's defense team is already preparing a case of justifiable homicide as the rationale for her actions.

Whether it's easy access to guns, sports stars who think the rules don't apply to them or criminals blaming society for their heinous actions, something has gone badly awry.

The same society that vilified Michael Jackson now worships him. Sarah Palin, despite delivering a rambling, nonsensensical resignation speech, remains beloved by seven out of 10 Republicans. And, now it looks as if the Bush Administration deliberately withheld classified CIA information from Congress. What's a reasonably rationale blogger to make of all this?

It all comes down to one word: accountability. The rules have changed and the guilty are no longer being held strictly accountable. Black is now white and white black.

If nothing else, aging and randy sports stars should study the McNair/Gatti massacres and think twice about their next liaison. In a society gone mad, mad women are feeling more empowered than ever.

Jun 08

Was Lincoln the first crackberry addict?

June 8 - blackberry-guy-and-lincoln I'm in the midst of reading a real page-turner, entitled, 'Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails.' It's written by Tom Wheeler and concerns our 16th president's real-time use of an emerging technology to help win the Civil War.

The Civil War is often called the first modern war because of multiple, simultaneous advancements in technology (everything from fast-moving trains to transport troops to the battlefield and ironclad ships to observations balloons and the smooth-bore rifle). In fact, it took generals on both sides most of the war to figure out that new technology had made most previous forms of military strategy basically obsolete. As a result, trench warfare was born.

The telegraph was another novel technology that had a profound, if almost totally, overlooked, impact on the war. It had been invented a few decades earlier but, aside from railroads, had not been adopted for any practical use. Then, along came Lincoln and the Civil War.

It didn't take the Great Emancipator long to build the White House's first telegraph office and have his cot moved in. He literally ran the war from that office. Lincoln would converse with his generals in near real-time (especially the less inept ones). He'd question their decisions, overrule the more absurd ones and literally bang out prototypical 'Dear John' telegraphs relieving incompetent field officers).

Continue reading

May 26

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

Despite the best-intentioned efforts of our crack IT Manager Kel Q., Russian spammers continue to fool our Anti-Spam Filtering Service by constantly changing their point of origin.

Russian I'm routinely peppered with all sorts of Russian spam, which to the best of my limited Eastern European language skills, seems to be much the same as the crap I receive in English. Am I angry? Nyet. Am I interested in a ceasefire and possible rapprochement? Da.

Kel tells me that, even though he blocks these digital Russian ICBMs as soon as I forward them, some sort of nefarious Dr. Strangelove-like supercomputer immediately finds another way through our firewall.

So, in the tradition of Glasnost and Perestroika, I'd like to offer my Russian spammer friends some sort of SALT II-type arrangement: you stand down on the non-stop spam invasions and I'll find ways in which to highlight Messrs Putin, Gorbachev, Brenhzev and other legendary former and current Communists in my blogs. I'll bet there are plenty of positive image and reputation angles if one merely looks below the surface. For example:

– How about the impact on the image of shoes after Kruschev used his to pound a table at the U.N. and vow to bury capitalism?

– Or, how about one on Iceland's tourism trade in the immediate aftermath of the Reagan-Gorbachev tête-à-tête?

– What about one on Leon Trotsky? Was his assassination in Mexico City the precursor of that country's drug wars?

I'm open to a thaw in my virtual Cold War with Russian spammers. Comrades, let's tear down this virtual wall.