Sep 02

Talk About the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

I rarely watch "The O’Reilly Factor" on Fox News because:

   a) I don’t care for O’Reilly’s point of view
   b) I find his manner and personality offensive.

So, as I was lazily channel surfing on Palin Day (need I say more?), I made a quick pit stop to hear what Big Bill had to say. What I heard made me stop in my tracks. Rather than leading a reasoned discussion on why John McCain had just picked an obscure, neophyte Alaskan politician as his running mate, O’Reilly was instead lambasting MSNBC for its coverage of the announcement.Oreilly_the_finger

It seems he didn’t like the words MSNBC had streamed across the bottom of the screen as Governor Palin was being introduced to the masses. To wit: "How many houses will McCain have now?"

O’Reilly was right to suggest the rival network was editorializing instead of reporting. But, he himself went far beyond reporting on MSNBC’s non-reporting. He went absolutely ballistic. He suggested the network should be ashamed of itself, called Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams "cowards" for not speaking up and implied that MSNBC’s left-wing rhetoric was being dictated by Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, MSNBC’s parent company. Puh-leese.

I dislike blatant editorializing on either side of the equation. But, for an outspoken conservative like O’Reilly to point a finger at MSNBC for its liberal editorializing is akin to the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

It’s sad to see how divided our country has become. The rich have never been richer. The poor have never been poorer (at least not since 1929), the red states have never been redder and the blue states never bluer. And we’re stuck with ersatz journalists like O’Reilly and ersatz news networks like MSNBC. Is it any wonder this country’s image has never been worse?

Aug 19

You’d Think She’d Know Better

Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and her entourage breezed into the seafood restaurant in which I was dining last night. As one might expect, there were quite a few knowing glances and a general cessation of the usual mumbles and harrumphs.

The waiter scurried up to greet Ms. Whitman. He bowed and sighed, "So nice to have you with us again, Governor Whitman."Whitman_christinetodd

The Whitman party of four was seated just behind me. How cool. But, as it turned out, I could have been sitting across the room and still heard some of her vitriolic comments.

You see, the erstwhile governor and cabinet member was not in a festive mood. I’m not sure what had set her off, but the invectives were flying faster than a souped-up NASCAR racer at Talladega.

Most of Ms. Whitman’s louder lamentations seemed aimed at the current administration. She bandied about words and phrases like "patsy" and "sacrificial lamb" to describe herself and her experiences. She also bemoaned the fact that no one from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had ever bothered to alert her in advance before "41" visited the Garden State.

Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned. And, we diners heard quite a few choice morsels from this scorned politico.

Ms. Whitman may be totally justified in her complaints. But, in this era of cell phone videos and Youtube postings, one would have thought the ex-governor would have been more circumspect. A less gentile and more enterprising Repman, for example, just might have gone for a scoop and posted the Michael Richards-like performance for all the world to see.

But, then, I’m not into the whole National Enquirer, kiss-and-tell type exposes. I thought a cautionary tale like this might be of more benefit to Governor Whitman, her handlers and anyone in the public eye who gives a lobster’s tail about image and reputation.

Jul 28

The Second Battle of Britain

It usually starts as soon as I leave the plane. Paparazzi joust with journalists, who push aside commoners, all to get a look at Repman.

"Rep, over here!" screams one photographer. "Hey Repman, will you be blogging about Britain?" shouts a London Mail reporter, "Rep, oh Rep, please sign this t-shirt for my mum. She’s a huge fan," implores a mere commoner.

I put up with the all the fuss because, well, it goes with the turf. I’m no different than most celebrity bloggers. Our lives are no longer our own. 

So, imagine my surprise this time around when, after touching down at Heathrow, there was no gaggle of adoring fans. No lines of flashbulb-popping paparazzi. No line of hoi polloi imploring the great Repster for some sort of recognition.

"What the heck?" thought I. "Did the local media not know I was coming?" And then, I glanced at one of the television screens and it all became obvious. Obama! He was in town at the same time as me. "Curse him!"_done_obamaparliament

London was the final stop on the Illinois senator’s much-heralded "world tour." And, the British press were pulling out all the stops for him (or, should I say, "Him?").

Judging by the press coverage, Britain loves Obama. And, after eight years of W, who can really blame them?

Speaking on behalf of my fellow celebrity bloggers, though, I’m not happy. I miss the adulation. Who wouldn’t? And, I’m not sure whether to blame my schedulers, press agents, advance team, the London tabloids or Team Obama for not giving me a heads-up.

They’ll regret it. No one pre-empts the Repman’s local market coverage and gets away with it. In fact, I just may write a less-than-positive blog about the Obama phenomenon, and put a rather vicious British spin on it. How’s this for a headline: "Never has so much been said by so many about someone who has done so little?"

Jul 07

There was never any doubt for T.R.

Anxious to put the bitter taste of a losing presidential campaign behind him,Trbrazil1_3  Former President Theodore Roosevelt decided to discover a new, 1,000-foot long tributary of the Amazon River. The year was 1914 and T.R. was 54 years of age.

To put things in perspective, 54 was not the new 34 in 1914. Rather, it was very close to the end for the average male, who lived to be about 60.

But, T.R. thrived on the new and different. So, along with his son, Kermit, a few specialists and about 20 local Brazilian soldiers, he set forth on what was then called the “River of Doubt.”

Three months and 55-pounds later, T.R. emerged from the wilderness. He’d contracted malaria, re-injured an old leg that became infected and watched as one of his men drowned and another was murdered. But he emerged victorious and returned to New York as a conquering hero.

I mention the T.R. story because a) it appealed to my sense of adventure and b) it struck me that none, repeat none, of our current leaders would ever contemplate such a risky trip.

T.R. lived his life in an all-out attempt to squeeze every second from it. He never walked around an obstacle but, rather, charged through it. There was no obfuscation. No flip-flopping.

What would T.R.  do if he were alive today? Impossible to say, of course. But, based upon his image and reputation, he wouldn’t let things linger in Iraq. Nor would he allow gas prices to edge ever higher. The old trust buster wouldn’t take kindly to the endless downsizings, either.

We need a T.R. in the worst way. Sadly, the lightweights we’re stuck with couldn’t find the River of Doubt, much less navigate its treacherous path. And, the River of Doubt itself? Well, it’s now known as Rio Roosevelt in honor of the first man to chart its entire course.

Jul 01

Will hope once again trump experience?

I just caught a fascinating C-Span retrospective on past presidential elections that raised an interestingBarack_and_mccain question: will the upcoming national election parallel the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon epic?

The similarities are striking.

Both battles featured a Republican candidate who played the ‘experience’ card and a Democratic contender whose message was ‘hope.’

Forty-eight years ago, Richard M. Nixon had just finished two terms as Eisenhower’s vice president, briefly ‘served’ as chief commander while Ike convalesced from a heart attack and famously ‘out-bullied’ Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the so-called kitchen debate.

Heading into the November election, John McCain can point to decades of service in the Senate, a distinguished military career and a perception of a politician who votes his beliefs as opposed to the party line.

In 1960, JFK was portrayed as an inexperienced lightweight, despite his war record and years of service in both the House and Senate.

Today, Barack Obama finds himself in a similar position, courtesy of the Hillary and McCain propaganda machines.

Nixon and McCain were the safe, experienced candidates. Kennedy and Obama offered hope, and made the case that America could do much, much better than it had in the recent past.

Kennedy won because, in face-to-face confrontations with Nixon, he projected confidence. That image, coupled with his message of hope, carried the day. Obama’s moment of truth will come in face-to-face debates with McCain this Fall.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the upcoming debates will be the most pivotal in recent history. And, it will all come down to which candidate projects the more presidential image. Will hope once again trump experience? Let the games begin. Lights! Camera! Action!

Jun 13

Mugabe Squashes a Beacon of Hope in Africa

Guest post by Joe Becker.Robert_mugabe

There’s a famous story about a impoverished man who grew up in a small town in Rhodeshia who went on to lead the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) for African independence from European colonists and then get elected as the head of government for Zimbabwe.  This man was invited to speak at the United Nations as the leader of an African nation which was seen as a beacon of success for peace, economic growth, job development, personal safety and commerce.  Not 25 years after the UN speech, which was met with universal fanfare and hope, Robert Mugabe has transformed his homeland into an example of heartbreak. 

The New York Times ran a news piece on Mugabe’s arrest of opposition party leaders being arrested for treason.  If you didn’t already follow this story, Mugabe has strong armed voters, rigged election results and harmed thousands in his quest to iron fist his role as leader of Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years. Recently he actually lost a reelection to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, getting 43% to his 47.9%.  I can’t imagine how many more people actually voted for Tsvangirai to overcome the fixed election, but Mugabe has been fighting the results and recounting votes in select areas of the country for weeks now.  Mugabe who once offered hope and peace instead invented hyperinflation, expelled tens of thousands of people from their homes and built a government of corruption and brutal repression. 

I share story because my wife studied urban and rural planning in Zimbabwe a number of years ago and speaks fondly of happy people, trusting people and a people looking for hope and reform.  I’m not entirely oblivious; I know governments and people can be corrupt, I’m just sadden that one man can temporarily destroy a country and its sprit. 

I look forward to seeing how this story and election plays out in Zimbabwe, I’m optimistic but the results to come are slightly predictable and sad.

May 09

Hillary would never make it as a timekeeper

Senator Hillary Clinton told reporters Wednesday that it ‘was still early’ in the campaign season and thatHillary_2
‘…the dynamic electoral environment’ could still swing her way.

Gimme a break. Early in the campaign season? It’s one minute to midnight and Hill’s goose is cooked. Her refusal to concede and allow the fractured Democratic Party to unite behind Barack Obama is disingenuous, deceitful and depressing.

I’ve never been a fan of Senator Clinton’s, but she’s sunk to a new low with this latest statement.

The time (pun intended) to finally step up and display some class and graciousness is now. Mark Penn and the rest of Hill’s consultants need to tell her what any public relations professional would tell a client in a similar situation. Do what’s best for the brand. And, the brand in this case is the Democratic Party.

The longer Hill delays, the more likely ’43’ will be succeeded by John McCain as our 44th president. So, look at your wristwatch, Senator Clinton. It’s later then you think.

May 05

What did they know and when did they know it?

PR Weeks’ annual agency business report provides a nice dive into the country’s top 47 firms. It’sMarkpenn_2
polished, professional and to the point. But, curiously, it leads with a questionable selection and an even more questionable word choice.

Each of the top agencies in the section, you see, is defined by a word selected by the PR Week staff. Weber Shandwick is called ‘the heavyweight.’ No argument there. Ketchum is given ‘the linchpin’ moniker. Ah, ok, if you say so. And, Fleishman is proudly proclaimed ‘the titan,’ which sounds like something straight out of Jason and the Argonauts.

But, and here’s where I wonder what the PR Week folks were thinking, they lead off their entire list with Mark Penn and Burson-Marsteller, proclaiming both as ‘the counselor.’ Ouch. Talk about bad timing.

Why lead with Penn, when he’s just been pilloried because of improper connections with Hillary (hey, that rhymes!)? A John Budd letter to the editor earlier in the very same edition takes Penn to task for his obvious conflict of interest mistake. And, yet, a few pages later, there he is in all his glory.

All of which leads me to wonder if PR Week’s left and right hands were not communicating. Or, did someone decide, ‘Hey, what the heck? It’s a nice photo of Mark and he is a counselor, a counselor whose credibility and ethics have been seriously called into question, but so what? Let’s go ahead and lead our special section with him anyway.’ Or, worse, did someone not connect the dots?

It’s all very puzzling, and leads me to ask the age-old journalism question of our lead trade journal: What did they know and when did they know it?

Mar 19

Patterson seems to be everything Spitzer wasn’t

If his speech is any indication, New York’s new governor will be everything his predecessor wasn’t. InPaterson
addition to being the first blind and black governor of the empire state, David A. Patterson appears to be the ‘yin’ to Elliot Spitzer’s ‘yang.’ To wit:

– Patterson is inclusive and reached out across party lines to ask Republicans and Democrats alike to work together. Sptizer’s pit bull tactics, on the other hand, only served to isolate and anger Albany lawmakers.

– Patterson’s manner was folksy, warm and self-deprecating as opposed to Spitzer’s argumentative and combative style.

– Patterson (and his wife) both came clean asap on prior affairs, thereby circumventing any investigative reporting and subsequent media circus on the subject. No need to compare Spitzer’s transparency on a similar subject.

Patterson has a long way to go and many hurdles to clear, but if day one is any indication, he’s off and running. Communications pros, young and old, should look at ‘the speech’ as a textbook example of connecting with an audience, inspiring confidence and setting the stage for progress. The new governor may be legally blind, but his vision for New York’s future seems crystal clear.

Thanks to Ken Jacobs for the idea.

Mar 14

Presidential candidates searching for right message

Steve and Ted sit down with guest, Gene Colter, to discuss the Presidential election and compare andRepchatter_logo
contrast the reputation and image of the three remaining candidates.

The discussion centers on the candidates and their stance on the economy pertaining to the pocket books and wallet of the general public. Are the candidates weak on this issue? Are some just focused on Iraq?

Is this one of the worst batch of Presidential candidates in American history?