Nov 18

Jim Morrison’s still lighting fires after all these years

51035SWwRmL._SL500_AA300_ I was heartened to read that Governor Charlie Crist of Florida is pursuing a posthumous pardon  for two criminal convictions handed down to the legendary Jim Morrison of the Doors after some questionable stage behavior at a 1969 Miami concert. (Jim Morrison Is Candidate for Pardon in ’69 Arrest)

Having researched the court ruling, Crist says, “The more that I've read about the case and the more I get briefed on it, the more convinced I am that maybe an injustice has been done here.” How about that? We still have one politician who can read and who actually wants to do the right thing.

Naturally, though, right-wing, god-fearing conservatives, vehemently disagree with Crist. And the resulting debate has sparked a mini Florida firestorm that would no doubt amuse the man who sang, 'Light My Fire.'

Claude Kirk, Florida's governor at the time Morrison was convicted on misdemeanor charges of profanity and indecent exposure, was annoyed to be asked by the Times reporter about Governor Crist's efforts on Morrison's behalf. “There's a lot more important things to think about than that,” he sniffed. Well, yes, but if Richard M. Nixon can receive a full pardon for ordering and then covering up the Watergate break-in, why can't Jimbo catch a break?

Adding insult to injury, Florida's state attorney of Miami-Dade County, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, huffed: “It's not worth the time.” Nice. I'll bet Morrison wouldn't love her madly or two times, for that matter.

I see the Morrison conflagration as yet another example of our country's acute polarization. Bible-thumping Tea Party types view Morrison (and his liberal, left-leaning successors) as the epitome of evil. The latter, meanwhile, would like to right a past wrong and allow Morrison's name (if not his spirit) to rest in peace.

If former New York governor George Pataki could pardon Lenny Bruce and former Enron chairman Ken Lay's conviction can be annulled, why can't Florida do right by Morrison? As Jim sang, people are strange (and are becoming even stranger every day).

Although my vote doesn't count, here's hoping Crist can 'break on through' and get Morrison's minor offenses expunged after all these years. It would certainly give new meaning to one of my favorite Doors' songs: 'The End.'

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.