Stop It, For the Love of God and Humanity

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An open letter to the GOP

Dear Republicans,

Sorry, but I have to give you a little tough love right now. Please take your collective head out of your ass; I sincerely beg you.

Now, please read on.

I grew up in a very political family, in a particularly politically-charged era. Politics was what we talked about at the dinner table the way some other families might have talked about school, sports, movies, or the weather. When my grandmother died, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors adjourned – out of respect for her and the family.

My brother still deeply lives and breathes his style of politics. My father and I both held appointive office in our hometown. And I’ve been a professional speechwriter off and on since the late 1980s and have been involved in many political campaigns.

Politics, in short, runs deep in my blood and is bred in the bone.

Here’s something I believe to my core: there are both Republicans and Democrats that have served our country and the public’s interest well. In my lifetime, Republicans have tended to be the reasonable, rational party of Main Street business values, fiscal responsibility, honest and hard-earned patriotism, shared sacrifice, political moderation.

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Even though I live in a very blue city, I know a great many Republicans; I like them, understand them, respect them. I have cocktails with them regularly. I’ve even worked for them.

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All that said, I do not understand and cannot accept the currently prevailing direction of the Republican Party.

What I believe the current Republican agenda to be:

  1. Stop any and every initiative of President Obama.
  2. Use one particular (and, to my personal thinking, peculiar) interpretation of one particular religious text, the Bible, as a guide to policymaking, exclusive of all other texts and interpretations.
  3. Forestall, if not completely prevent, the dilution of white, Christian rule in America by what are certainly inevitable demographic changes. 

All three are, to recall the words of John McCain (R-AZ), fool’s errands.

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Here’s why:

  1. They hurt constituents.
  2. They’re not American.
  3. They’re irrational (And, BTW, they make you look irrational for pursuing them.).

Michele Bachmann at Rasmussen

Here’s what you Republicans really need to understand:

  1. Uncritical reactive opposition to anything is juvenile. Witness Ted Cruz. To 90% of America, Ted Cruz is a mirthless joke. Is that what you want Americans to think of you? It can’t and shouldn’t be.
  2. The Bible is a book. (‘Bible’ is Greek for book, not THE book.) There are good and patriotic American Jews and Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims and Buddhists too. And The Bible is not a book upon which our republic was/is based. Our founders were rational humanists not evangelical Christians. Read some real American history, for fuck’s sake. Nor were our founders radical libertarians/individualists. (You’re confusing real American history with John Ford western movies.) America’s founders were communitarians. By the way, Ayn Rand was an asshole. And people who use her writings as the basis of anything in the real human world are also assholes; only an asshole would try to base something as important as government on her writings. Special message to Paul Ryan, et al.: Grow the fuck up, already.  
  3. Do you not realize the potentially tremendous position you’re in? Sorry, rhetorical question. You obviously don’t. Get your head out of your ass. This could be a Republican century if only you’d realize the potential you have to organize and energize the coming wave of Americans. You can virtually own entrepreneurship and economic opportunity, two critical reasons people come here in the first place, if only you’ll leave abortion rights, guns, Obamacare, marriage and employment equality, equal voting rights, and the rest of the so-called ‘values’ issues alone. They’re not what the majority of Americans believe, not even the majority of your ‘real’ Americans. They’re just the way to quick death. (Besides, see above, they also make you look like irrational, ignorant idiots.)

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Please?

Your Democratic friend,

Brent

 

Leak!

I was amused no end by the latest news about Michele Bachmann; she has, apparently, held dual American-Swiss citizenship since her marriage in 1978. For anti-intellectual Tea Partiers (i.e., Bachmann’s political base), a presidential candidate with dual citizenship, even Swiss citizenship, was anathema. It meant divided loyalties. And the disclosure was blood in the water.

It’s funny enough, of course, that self-conceived uber-patriot Bachmann, who is a singularly hilarious combination of willful ignorance and inspired lunacy, found herself coming under the same right-wing fire she had lately trained on her competitors.

But, for me, the real joy came in understanding why this story came to light at this particular moment.

It’s clear to me that Bachmann was being seriously considered as a vice presidential running mate by the Romney campaign, that the fact of her dual citizenship was uncovered during the process, that someone in the campaign didn’t want her to proceed in the process, and then had to find a reason to dump her that didn’t get the GOP’s right-wing enraged at their presumptive nominee.

Et, voila. So are leaks to the press born.

The real question is whether it is more disturbing that Romney’s campaign was considering Bachmann as his running mate or that there is a well-placed leaker on the inside who might hurt the campaign next time.

Call the plumbers, Mitt.

PR Disasters – How Not To

Crises happen and communicating through them successfully is hard work. Here are some examples of crisis communication done the wrong way. Read. Learn. Avoid.

Netflix

Netflix has often had troubles communicating with its customers. This year, the CEO’s announcement that he was going to split the company in two puzzled everyone – there was no clear plan or even the slightest hint at a reasonable rationale for the move. Share value plunged, and the announcement was rescinded a mere 23 days later. Analysts wonder if Netflix will regain its previous status as the dominant market player.

News International

The worldwide reputation of News International and CEO Rupert Murdoch took an enormous hit when its newspapers in England were accused of bribing police and illegally wiretapping celebrities, politicians and crime victims. Early denials had to be retracted as more and more evidence proving long-standing patterns of truly horrible behavior made its way to the public.

Lowes

If you’re a home improvement retail chain, here’s something you would pretty much likely want to avoid – having your company name invoked again and again in a political controversy  over Islam in the month before the Christmas shopping season. Lowes pulled ads from a TLC reality show called “All-American Muslim” after receiving Florida Family Association (FFA) demands that it do so.  The FFA asserted the show was really undercover “propaganda that riskily [SIC] hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” Lowes denied the FFA demands had anything to do with its decision, but could not and did not offer a clear explanation as to why it stopped advertising.

Sony 
Over 77 million PlayStation Network accounts were shut down by Sony after the company learned it had been seriously hacked. After many initial refusals to be open about the breaches, Sony contacted customers with mild recommendations for improved Internet safety and a promise the problem would be corrected within 2 weeks. New security problems and breaches pushed that date back again and again. Customers were left to wonder about whether, and to what extent, their own data had been compromised. Cost to the company was estimated at $24 billion in expenses and lost revenue.

Penn State

[My personal thoughts about Penn State and Joe Paterno are here.]

Sexual abuse cases are pure poison for educational institutions. The case involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky (photo, above) not only brought down his former boss, the beloved Joe Paterno, and the university’s president, it significantly damaged the reputation of Penn State. The university tried to cover up allegations and evidence of abuse by Sandusky for years before finally admitting wrongdoing and its complicit silence.

Congressman Anthony Weiner 

Weiner sent a college student a photo of his erect penis via Twitter. When the photos quickly circulated the Internet, as Twitter photos are known to do, and landed in the hands of mainstream news organizations, Weiner denied vehemently they were of his member.

When a second person came forward with photos Weiner had sent her, the congressman was forced to call a press conference and admit he’d engaged in the behavior. Soon after, he resigned his seat in Congress.

Durex South Africa

More Twitter stupidity.

Posted on the official DurexSA (condom maker) Twitter account: “Why did God give men penises? So they’d have at least one way to shut a woman up.”

Really funny, huh? Especially in a country that has a serious problem with sexual assault and rape. The company might have issued an apology and the story might have died there. But to lengthen the story and compound the problem the same account posted a defensive whine: “We have posted many jokes, see our timeline… And they not violent against woman! Re-read it!!!!!”

The company eventually apologized, but not before ruining its reputation.

MF Global

In October, after MF Global declared bankruptcy $1.2 billion in customers’ funds were discovered missing.

MF Global CEO Jim Corzine resigned but refused to disclose the disposition of his former customers’ accounts. In sworn congressional testimony, Corzine, the former New Jersey governor, insisted he had no idea what happened to the money and wasn’t aware of the missing funds until MF Global filed for bankruptcy.

Republican Presidential Candidates 

Politics and party aside, these public figures were in a class by themselves. One wonders about the level of campaign staff professionalism.

  • Herman Cain – Cain self-destructed with a lethal combination of ignorance and confidence. He was hit with multiple allegations of extra-marital affairs, always difficult for a “values” candidate, but it was really his poor staff work that finished him off. This interview at a major newspaper’s editorial board revealed his complete lack of preparation for both in the meeting and the job of president.
  • Michele Bachmann – Bachmann has been prone to gaffes throughout her career, so her presidential campaign proved to be an apt moment for opponents to find and disseminate her “greatest hits.” Rather than claiming many were taken out of context, or that she’d evolved her positions as she grew on the job as a member of Congress, Bachmann most frequently chose to either reiterate her indefensible positions or make even more confusing and ignorant ones.
  • Rick Perry – Perry’s entry was much anticipated; he achieved almost instantaneous front-runner status. Almost immediately, however, Perry displayed a complete lack of focus and preparation. Rumors, supported by viral videos, swirled that he’d made campaign appearances drunk or high. His inability at a nationally-televised campaign debate, to name the three federal agencies he wanted to close sealed his political fate.