Monday, June 2, 2008

Obama stacks that cheese

Obama's fundraising ability is unparalleled. The FEC and and media can't keep up with the number of donors and the amount of money he's raising. This article on talks about how Obama's fund raising ability is proof of The Long Tail theory. Simply put, The Long Tail theory states that, with internet technologies, companies can drastically increase revenue by selling more of less. The Bush campaign in 2004 "pioneered" a new way of fundraising through the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. Hillary used this model effectively as well. They both were excellent at getting the usual fundraisers to donate the max amount. Obama has in turn used the internet to blow the other candidates out of the water by getting record numbers of voters donating $200 or less. This article from The Atlantic gives great insight into the Obama model and the Silicon Valley supergeniuses that developed it for him. A must read for anyone who wants to know the future of campaign fundraising. Basically, Obama is revolutionizing campaign finance and checking more cheddar than the food inspector.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gangster of the Week: Reggie Love

This week's Gangster is Obama's "Chief of Stuff" Reggie Love. He is Obama's right-hand man and personal aide. NY Times profiles him here. He helps Obama with everything and anything (besides policy). He plays a one-on-one basketball game against Obama at noon on every primary day. The guy can ball; he played football and walked on the basketball team at Duke. The NY Times article makes reference to some not so flattering photos taken of him while at Duke. God bless Gawker for finding them [NSFW]. His most important accomplishment is introducing Obama to Jay-Z, which turned into the most gangster moment of the campaign. "'So I’ve gotten pretty fond of Jay-Z,' Mr. Obama said. 'He’s broadened my horizons in the hip-hop world.'" Reggie Love, you are SYNJK's Gangster of the Week.

I think Bush has senioritis. Somebody should call his parents.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm such a maverick

I read Jane Sample's Fun with Branding. At first, I thought it was a creative idea to show how many brands and how much branding affects everyone's life. So, I made my own list yesterday (I can email to you if you like, but I'm too embarrassed to show it here). I was throughly disgusted with myself. How have I let myself become such a corporate shill? Today, I tried to minimize my brands. I skipped over Seattle's Best for Stumptown. I left the iPod at home and read the Mercury on the bus. I walked instead of driving to my friend's house. I drank Ninkasi instead of Budweiser. While this won't be a regular occurrence (I can't live without my Blackberry or Tag), it was self satisfying to piss against the wind. I'm not going to get all Reed College on you, but think for yourself once in a while. These brands try and push an image of independence and self fulfillment, but in reality they are doing the opposite.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gangster of the Week: Rahm Emanuel

I've begun a weekly column pointing out politicians, activists, journalists, staffers, businessmen, or anyone I see fit to be SYNJK's Gangster of the Week. I know I've been given the gangsters (Carville, Obama, Colbert, Cuban, etc.) their due, but this will formalize it. For the inaugural GotW, I've chosen Rahm "Rahm-bo" Emanual, the ballerina Congressman from Chicago who brought the Dems back from the brink of existence in 2006.

I was first introduced to Emanuel by this great profile piece in The Rolling Stone. His gangster status is well documented. While working in the White House, he mailed a dead fish to a pollster he didn't like. Ari Gold from Entourage is based on his brother, Ari Emanuel (In an episode, they are sitting in Ari Emanuel's $2,000 courtside seats). It is rumored that he lost his finger fighting for Israel in Syria, but he actually lost while working at Arby's in high school (I'd stick with the Israel story). My favorite Rahm Emanuel story is how, the night after Clinton's election in '92, he stood up at a celebratory dinner and called out all the Democratic betrayers of Clinton's campaign. After each name he shouted out "Dead...dead...dead...dead..." and stabbed the table with his steak knife after each name. Bad. Ass.

This is the kind of attitude the Democrats need if they are going to remain a force in national politics. His take-no-prisoners attitude is an affront to the notion that Dems are bunch of ninnies and push-overs. He stood up to Clinton and told him that fundraising needed to be his number one priority early in the campaign. Clinton listened and you can make the argument that this won him the nomination (Tsongas, Clinton's chief rival in the primaries, ran out of money cause he had to try to outspend Clinton). His strategic thinking and unbelievable fundraising power provided a net gain of 30 seats in the House when he was the DCCC chair.

He accomplishes the tasks before him, no compromises. He is angry and brash, but that's what this party needs. He's only 48, so he will be a player in Democratic politics for a long time to come. Vice President?

Probably not.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Commercial Speech v. Free Speech

The Bulldog Reporter wrote an article about an interesting and complex issue Congress is trying to tackle, pharmaceutical direct to consumer marketing. The Democrats want to restrict the pharmas from advertising direct to consumers, like TV or magazine ads. This issue gets to the heart of the first amendment and the right to free speech. On one hand, the government has the right to protect its citizens from misleading speech that could lead to a harm. On the other hand, these pharmaceutical companies have a right to express their beliefs that their product is the superior one in the market through DTC marketing. Although the United States is one of two countries in the world (New Zealand is the other) that allow DTC marketing, I don't think that this legislation will get passed and if it does it will be vetoed or eventually struck down as unconstitutional.

If I remember my Communications Law class from last summer correctly, Central Hudson v. Public Service Commission set forth a four-prong test for regulation of commercial speech. Let's see if this proposed regulation would pass the Central Hudson test:

1. Are the ads truthful and for a lawful product?
Well, there is already regulation against truthful ads and the products are legal, so this one doesn't really matter.

2. Does the government have substantial interest to be achieved by the restriction?
Yes, but. The government wants to protect consumers from being tricked into having diseases that require medication. Think restless leg syndrome, what a joke. However, the ads explicitly tell you talk to a physician not to go out and buy the drug. So, I'd say that the regulation passes this prong.

3. Does the regulation effectively and directly advance the issue?
Yes. A ban on DTC marketing would make a physician the only people who would recommend a medication, not television ads.

4. Could a lessened restriction serve the same interest?
No. Here's where it gets tricky. There are already regulations on what can and cannot be said in pharmaceutical ads that serve this interest. I believe that a ban on all DTC marketing would not serve the interest anymore than the regulations that already in place.

I believe that the courts have been fairly direct with this issue and any attempt by Congress to ban DTC marketing would get thrown out pretty quick.

As PR professionals, we must have an understanding of the laws in place so that we do not put ourselves or our employer in a position of liability. Furthermore, with a better understanding of law and specifically commercial speech, you can know the loopholes so you can provide your client with the best campaign the law allows.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I hate Terry McAuliffe

He is the worst. He was chair of the DNC when the Dems were at their worst. He's been on the news pretty much nonstop for the past couple weeks. Talking Points Memo has an epic montage of his antics these past couple weeks...

This reminds me of someone. Oh yah...

Back on the campaign trail...

I was bored today so I decided to make a speculative list of Barack's potential vice presidents cause that's what we're all about here at SYNJK, speculation. Some other outlets have taken a stab at it (here, here, here, here).

I made a pretty exhaustive list (over 40). I cut some cause they were too old and would be counterintuitive to Obama's change message (Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Tom Harkin, Sen. Bob Graham. Gen. Wesley Clark, Lee Hamilton). Some are too new on the scene (Gov. Bill Ritter, Gov. Chet Cuver, Sen. John Tester). Some don't have enough national star power (Gov. Phil Bresdesen, Gov. Chris Gregoire). Some have too much political baggage that would distract the campaign (Tom Daschle, Max Cleland, Sen. John Kerry, Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Bill Richardson). Some have worked too closely with McCain (Sen. Russ Feingold, Gov. Janet Napolitano). Some are too conservative (Sen. Bob Casey, Tim Roemer). Some are too black (Rep. Deval Patrick, Ray Nagin). Some have explicitly stated they are not interested (John Edwards, Sam Nunn, Sen. Ken Salazar). Some endorsed HRC (Gov. Ted Strickland, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Sen. Evan Bayh). And some were just a little too out there (Tom Brokaw, Keith Olbermann, Bruce Springsteen, Tim Russert, Oprah, George Clooney).

So here is my (Obama's) short list (in no particular order):

Sen. Joe Biden - The Safe Bet
Pros: The diminutive Democrat on foreign policy, one of Obama's weaknesses. His years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee give him great self-confidence in dealing with international affairs and national security. He is very well liked in the Senate and would be a great resource in getting Obama's legislation passed. His reasoned rhetoric against neoconservatism would be a great asset on the campaign trail.
Cons: Not from a swing state, or a very populous state, Delaware, for that matter. He's a pretty cocky guy. It'd be hard for him to play second fiddle. I don't know about two Senators running together again; it didn't work out too well in 2004. His name is first on the list for Secretary of State.

Gov. Tim Kaine - The People's Champ
Pros: Populist governor from a state, Virginia, that I feel will play a pivotal role in the election. Endorsed Obama very early in the campaign. He was a Catholic missionary and is very vocal about his faith; this would be a great asset among a group that Obama is struggling with, Catholics. Notoriously tough on crime.
: Relatively conservative. He and Obama might have a tough time agreeing on some social issues (abortion, same-sex marrige, etc.). He doesn't bring anything new to the table aside from being from the South. He went to Harvard Law School like Obama and worked as a community organizer after law school like Obama. He's relatively new to politics. He doesn't bring a lot of experience to compliment Obama's lack of experience.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius - For The Ladies
Pros: Another popular governor from a traditionally red state. Endorsed Obama early. As a woman, she could quell some of this ridiculous notion that the election was sexist. She has a great record as governor (she eliminated the $1.1 million debt she inherited when she became governor without raising taxes). She is another voice for change and would effectively push Obama's message of change. Her presence will fundamentally change the electoral map.
Cons: I'm a little apprehensive of a rainbow coalition type ticket. If a black man running as president will be tough for some voters, a woman VP won't help their confidence. A lot of people are questioning her speaking skills (she botched the Dem's State of the Union response). This could be a liability during the campaign.

Sen. Jim Webb - The Fire Ball
Pros: Like Kaine, he is popular in his home state of Virginia, which would make that state easily blue. He's a decorated Vietnam veteran and his son served in Iraq which would compliment Obama's lack of military experience. He served as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. He has been a vocal and credible opponent of the war in Iraq. He's an excellent campaigner (ran a great campaign for the Senate in 2006). He got busted for bringing a gun into the Senate (instant credibility among 2nd amendment proponents). He got the highest approval percentage out of 15 VP candidates during an exit poll after the NC and Ind. primaries
Cons: He hasn't even endorsed Obama yet (or Clinton). He has also publicly stated that he's not interested in the position.

Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni - The Godfather
Pros: His military experience instantly transforms Obama's campaign. He now has a great shield against Republican attacks against his lack of military knowledge or national security. He would be a great liaison between the president an the military. Zinni is a special position because he is a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq and even said that his vote for Bush in 2000 was a mistake. IMHO, this guy would immediately undercut any inroads McCain made on national security and would propel Obama to the White House.
Cons: I firmly believe that the president should not be a former high ranking military official. The Commander in Chief is a civilian for specific reasons. There needs to be civilian control of the military. Also, many Washington insiders wanted him to be Kerry's VP in 2004, but he vehemently stated his desire to not hold public office. He is also being tossed around as a McCain VP.

SYNJK's Dark Horse Special...

Rep. Robert Wexler

Pros: He's from Florida and very popular in Florida. This would help cure the rift caused by the DNC not counting Florida's delegates. He's also popular within the Jewish community and a staunch supporter of Israel. Obama has struggled with gaining the support of the Jewish community. His personable style would be a great asset on the campaign trail. He's a voice for change within Congress and would be a great advocate of Obama's message. He voiced his support for Obama early in the campaign.
Cons: He's kind of a greenhorn on the political scene. He admitted to doing cocaine, because "it's a fun thing to do." Actually, that kind of honesty could be a pro.

I feel like any of those people would be great Veeps and help Obama win the election. Some people feel that the VP choice is overrated. I partly agree. There is no question that people vote for a president, not a vice president. However, the choice of VP can tell you a lot about a presidential candidate's character. It is public knowledge that during the 2004 campaign, Kerry wanted his old friend Dick Gephardt to be his VP, but he was persuaded by his advisers and the polls to choose John Edwards. Not to take anything away from John Edwards, but this encapsulated Kerry's entire campaign. Kerry lacked the conviction to be president. He should have gone with what he knew to be right. He wasn't going to win North Carolina. He would have been better served by showing voters that he will do what he believes in, not what the polls are saying.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Erin Burnett is the only thing of value on CNBC

The last couple posts have got me going on corporations acting all corporationy, so I thought I'd put my two cents in on investing and the stock market before I get back to other issues like Bush quitting golf as his sacrifice for the troops (not kidding). I don't pretend to know a lot about finance or the stock market, but I know a few things about what makes a business successful and human nature. CNBC and mutual funds have ruined Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange used to be a place where good businesses with good business plans and a viable position in the market could go to gain capital to grow their business. In the past 20 years, Wall Street has moved away from this model and moved towards a place where people prey on the information disadvantaged.

The moron talking heads on CNBC and the douche bag mutual fund managers sitting in their postmodern offices talk up certain stocks and the value skyrockets even though people who are intimate with the industry and the company know that the stock is grossly overvalued. They have developed sophisticated software that can show that any and all stocks will be valuable if you just "buy and hold." What a crock of shit. Everyone knows that you can manipulate any group of numbers to tell you whatever you want. They will sell you on these horrible stocks and drive the price up then either they personally or their big clients will sell it short and the mom and pop investors will get the royal screw job. Their bottom line comes first, you come second, ALWAYS.

Basically, unless you have enough money to buy enough shares that you will get the CEO's ear or you are so knowledgeable of a specific industry that you can personally asses a company's value and plan, do not bother in Wall Street. Don't listen to those blathering idiots on CNBC (Bloomberg isn't any better, just because they have British accents doesn't make them smarter) or any mutual fund manager trying to sell you stock. Be smart. Know your knowledge disadvantage and invest in bonds or a stock that will pay you dividends that are higher than a bond payout.

He's not the first person to bring this up, but O.G. Mark Cuban has more insight into this.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jonathan Schwartz is on the cutting edge of technology, but not hairstyles

For an Advanced PR Writing class, we were assigned to analyze a Fortune 500 company's blog. I chose Sun Microsystem's CEO and ponytail aficionado Jonathan Schwartz's blog. It is an interesting foray into blogging by one of the most tech savvy businessmen in the world. His blog is frequently read and cited in the media (here, here). However, I should note that I am an avid reader of Mark Cuban's Blog Maverick, which is the end all, be all of tech business CEO blogs, IMHO, and I cannot help using that as a reference in my analysis.

Overall impression: Clean layout. Not too cluttered, but enough graphics to grab my attention. Written in a conversational tone with lots of links. First impression is positive.

Ease of finding - 10: Popped up immediately on a Google search for "sun microsystems blog" and it is front and center on the Sun homepage. Sun seems to have invested quite a bit in their blog.

Frequency - 9+: Jonathan posts relatively regularly on his blog (roughly once a week). The material is fresh and he doesn't seem to "force" blog posts. He only posts when there is actually something interesting to mention. I put the plus because Jonathan's blog is just the tip of a massive iceberg that is Sun Microsystem's blogging network. Currently, there are 4,297 blogs on the network. Any employee can set up a blog about any topic with just a few clicks. It's pretty remarkable and shows Sun's commitment to community involvement in technological innovations.

Engaging writing - 7: Jonathan writes in a conversational tone, but he does not deviate from specific topics regarding the acquisitions and mergers of Sun. Granted, this is the bulk of his work, but it would be a more effective blog if he strayed from the topic and discussed issues more broadly and possibly personal issues. It is well written and gives a good insight into the rationale for many of the company's actions, but he fails to humanize himself or upper echelon of Sun's management.

Focused - 9: Jonathan gives a great insight into the actions of the mergers and acquisitions of Sun and he stays focused on that issue pretty diligently. As I just stated, he could easily veer off topic a little bit and improve his blog.

Relevant: - 8: Jonathan's blog gives great insight into Sun's corporate actions, but again if you want insight into the future of the industry or the daily life of a tech CEO, this blog is not relevant at all. However, it is very relevant for the shareholders and investors of Sun. This is a great place to understand the major steps the company you are investing in is taking. Jonathan does an excellent job of instilling confidence in Sun shareholders.

Honest - 7: I love the rationale Jonathan gives for Sun's actions, but he fails to address the drawbacks of his actions. He gives an honest account of the positives of their actions, but it would be a more effective blog if he gave recognition to people that disagreed with the company position and alleviated those concerns. Part of this is due to the fact that Jonathan does not want to present a company that is divided to its shareholders. This might cause insecurities (pun intended).

Interactive - 10: People comment frequently on Jonathan's posts, but most of the comments are by employees. As I said earlier, it is simple to create a blog on the Sun network. This interactivity shows the commitment that Sun has to OpenSource and having the entire internet community help foster innovation.

Responsive - 8: Jonathan does not respond directly to comments, but after looking a little bit he does comment on other blogs. I feel that most of the comments on his blog are positive and don't nessesitate a response.

Overall - 68/80: Again, I think that Jonathan's blog does a great job of reflecting Sun's commitment to being a transparent company, but I think that if he wants to reach out an audience besides shareholders, he should broaden the range of topics and types of posts a la Cuban or this satirical blog. Also, get rid of that effing ponytail. You look like a tool.

Here is the wiki of Fortune 500 blogs.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

After reading a recent story in AdWeek, I can't help but think of the W.C. Fields' classic, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. If these people are dumb enough to fall for this ploy, so be it. C'mon folks, you've got read everything with a critical eye, especially on the internet. I thought it was a clever ploy for this organization to garner awareness about its members' interest to stop copyright infringement. Furthermore, who got hurt by this anyway? The integrity of the fake student blogger? No. The integrity of Coach for creating awareness of the issue and increasing value to shareholders? No. The integrity of the entire blogosphere? Perhaps. But, creating some banal code of ethics will not solve the problem. It is up to the consumer to decipher who benefits from said action and if the benefactor has the means to affect the story. It is clear that the purse industry would benefit from a rally against counterfitters and they definitely had the means to make this.

Blogs are not and will never be transparent. If this fake blogger would have revealed her agenda, she would have immediately been revealed as the fraud that she is and no one would have visited her site. She was doing what she needed to do to promote her respective cause. I would argue that most traditional media outlets are guilty of the same journalistic sins. If the talking heads on CNBC revealed exactly what stocks they were personally investing in, one might second guess their recommendations too. (I'll leave my rant on CNBC for a coming post). So, we must take in what people blog about, babble about on CNBC, or write on the front page of the NY Times and critically analyze it by looking at who benefits from what is being said. And if you don't, the media and blogosphere will continue to never give a sucker an easy break.

On that note, I'd like to share with you what I feel blogs were actually put on earth for....sharing funny YouTube videos:

Friday, May 9, 2008

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.” -Edward R. Murrow

I had a serendipitous encounter the other day that gave me unbelievable strength in my convictions and at the same time made me pause and reflect on my personal beliefs. I'm going to share this story, but I'm going to make it as anonymous as possible. It was such a striking experience that I feel it needs to be shared.

While walking to lunch the other day I ran into an old boss, we'll call him "Roman." "Roman" was the manger for a campaign I interned for one summer. I worked with him all summer and loved every minute. The entire staff was great and I learned a great deal about campaigning, voters, and myself during this summer. "Roman" was an excellent manager. He is extremely intelligent and an effective manager, but to make an understatement, he enjoyed the lighter side of life. On that campaign, we worked hard, but we played hard too.

After the summer was over, I moved to DC and got a job at the national headquarters for the organization. Two weeks into my job, I was approached by the president of said organization. She was powerful player in DC with a large and respected organization in Washington. Needless to say, she had never approached me before. She said that there was a big problem in Oregon and she wanted to meet with me so we could talk about "Roman." She was flying out to Oregon and would be back the following Monday. I didn't know what to think or what she could want to talk to me about. I immediately called my friends working back in Oregon to get the scoop.

A couple days after I left, a "woman" was hired to work in the Oregon field office. She claimed that she was 19 and enjoyed flirting with the male staff members, notably 32-year old "Roman." You may have some idea where this story is going. Long story short, "Roman" and she did the proverbial "mattress mambo." A week later, she told everyone in the office about her encounter with "Roman" and that she was actually 17. This did not go over well. The entire office was out for "Roman." They completely threw him under the bus. Other women were accusing him of sexual harassment (Why didn't they say something when it happened, not months later?). "Roman" admitted to the malfeasance with the girl and apologized. She didn't press charges, but the staff was calling for his head. The president of the organization flew out to assess the situation.

The president flew back and we had our meeting that Monday. I told her my feelings exactly. By no means did I justify his action, but I thought he was an excellent manager and he was being thrown under the bus by certain people in the office who did not like him. I made the argument that because it was only two months before the election, it would be devastating to fire him at this time and hire a new Campaign Director. She asked for my opinion and I told her. She disagreed and fired him.

Years later, I run into "Roman." He is ecstatic to see me. He told me that I was the only person who stood up for him for him during the entire ordeal, which I had mostly forgotten about. He had tried to get a hold of me over the years, but he couldn't access his records from the organization. He thanked me and he didn't just offer to buy me lunch for what I did, but said that if I ever needed anything he would "go to bat for me for anything." He is now a VP at a national strategic communications firm.

This experience has had a profound impact on me over the past couple days. I am confronted with some serious life decisions in the very near future. "Roman" has confirmed my conviction that I have good judgment and sticking with that judgment may not pay off immediately, but it will at some point. At the time of my meeting with said president, I didn't think that I was doing anything extraordinary, just voicing my opinion. I didn't pander to what I thought she wanted to hear. I spoke honestly and directly. That is why I believe I will be successful.

I am reminded of a great quote from another idol of mine, Winston Churchill:

“The only guide to man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor.”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why Hillary Lost

Finally, this headache is over. I've tried to keep my criticisms of Hillary to a minimum (There are many. Try to find my anonymous blog if you want a more honest, and vulgar, opinion :) ), but I am elated that the nomination process is essentially over and Obama can no longer be "caucus blocused" anymore. There has been a little pep in my step the past couple days as I hum Obama's new campaign song, Jay-Z's "99 Problems."

In the aftermath, the pundits (here, here) have been trying to explain why Clinton lost. Here's my take:

5. Too little, too late

It wasn't until she was well into the campaign that she began making the argument that she would be the best candidate to defeat the Republicans. As of Iowa/NH, it was a foregone conclusion that whoever would be the Democrat's nominee would win the presidency. So, all the candidates were trying to position themselves as the best president, not the best general election candidate. However, IMHO, McCain was the best candidate out of the Republican field to win the general election because of his centrist views and defeating a Republican became an issue only when he won the nomination. Hillary had a viable argument that she was the best candidate to defeat the Republicans, although I disagree. If she had made a more concerted effort to initially position herself as the only candidate that would lock up a win against a centrist Republican earlier, she would have fared much better.

4. She didn't unequivocally denounce her vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

IMHO, the most prominent issue for Democrats (the general election is another story) is the war in Iraq. There was a clear definition between Obama and Clinton on this issue. She ran on a platform of experience, but she supported the worst foreign policy decision since Bush the First ate that week old sushi. Read her speech. It shows rational, reasoned thought, but no conviction. So much for her three "cojones." I remember watching that speech on C-SPAN at like 2:30 a.m. and thinking "You could have been a contender!"

3. Hubris

This word gets thrown around a lot, but it is the downfall of 99% of politicians and 100% of the New England Patriots. Hillary and her staff felt a sense of entitlement, but entitlement doesn't win Super Bowls. Ask Bill Belichick. Why would it win elections? THAT'S WHY YOU PLAY THE GAME! She loaded her staff with old friends that wound up hurting her because of their ties ties to organizations that were working directly against Hillary's positions *cough* *cough* Mark Penn *cough*. She thought she was going to have it wrapped up by Super Tuesday and had zero strategy otherwise. She basically skipped the caucus states. All these things line up to the fact that she thought she was entitled to the presidency, but we know what happens to best-laid plans of mice and men.

2. Who is Hillary Clinton?

Hillary had a terrible problem telling the truth. Why did she lie about landing in sniper fire? Why did she lie about her being named after Sir Edmund Hillary even though she was born before he climbed Everest? Why did she lie about Chelsea being in lower Manhattan on 9/11? Why did she oppose the Columbian FTA when her chief strategist's firm was lobbying for the Columbian government in Congress? People could not trust her. All politicians pander to public sentiment, but there's a clear line between saying lies that can easily be refuted and having a balanced, nuanced position that be harder to refute. My mom says my little brother says lies that he knows that my mom knows so he can get caught and get attention. The similarities between HillDog and my little bro are numerous, but I'll leave that for another post.

I feel that the only time she was really honest with the American people was that infamous moment on the bus in New Hampshire and she won New Hampshire.

1. Barack Obama is a G.
Obama was a better candidate. She may have made some mistakes in her campaign, but she did not lose this campaign. Obama won it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Two Candidates and a Sports Analogy

During Obama's Meet the Press interview, he was on point per usual. He gave articulate nuanced answers to Russert's usual rash of questions that must have kept Russert's research team up all week. Obama stayed on message and his unique message is going to drive him to victory as long as he controls the debate. Kingpin James Carvile sums it up, "He had the greatest fastball anybody had seen, and now it's 'Hey man, can you throw a change-up?' He needs another pitch in his repertoire." That ability to frame the debate, Obama's change-up, will decide this election.

George W. Bush and, specifically, Karl Rove are excellent at this. Watch Bush's appearance on Meet the Press in November of 1999 while he was running for president:

Granted, this was much earlier in the campaign, but Russert asked his usual type of questions. Bush not only answered them articulately and nuanced, but he had a simple clear message that he wanted the viewers to take away, "restoring honor and dignity to the office." He says about a half dozen times. This message resonated perfectly for the times following the Lewinsky scandals. He also did an excellent job of this in 2004. Remember "Steady leadership in a time of change"? I bet you do.

What was Obama's take away message? If someone asked me what I remember from Bush's Meet the Press interview (which I bet was exactly like every interview he did) I could tell you precisely, but if someone asked about Obama's interview I could give a convoluted series of policy positions which would probably be wrong.

If Obama's gunna strike out McCain, he's got to command the plate and you can't command the plate with just the high heat. Throwing 99mph fastballs all season will leave you with a worn out arm come time for the Fall Classic.

A Gambling Problem

A recent UnSpun post describes the struggles of working in a PR agency. I have to agree with UnSpun that agency life is not easy, but he fails to address what I feel are the main drawbacks to working in an agency as opposed to an in-house position.

Working in an agency, I feel removed from the stakes of the client's reputation. My personal reputation and my company's reputation are on the line with every one of our campaigns, but when it comes down to it, I'm playing poker with some one else's chips. I want to win the pot for my client, so I could gain more clients and grow the business. However, I always know that if I get beat, it's not my chips. I will do my job with due diligence and provide my contractual obligations, but after that what's my motivation? Motivation may be hard in an in-house position too, but agency practitioners are one more step removed.

This is kind of an elephant in the room. The agency I'm working at is a little different because we only work with socially responsible causes: nonprofits, education advocacy groups, public policy, etc. This motivates me because I believe in the social change these groups are trying to enact, but I have some clients that I could not care less about. How do you get yourself or your employees to play poker with Microsoft's or ExxonMobil's chips? (Besides a fat paycheck, of course)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

C'mon, Bubba. You're better than this.

NBC's Chuck Todd details how Bill Clinton completely underestimated the 21st century media. I know Clinton hasn't run a campaign since 1996, but he should be well aware of the internet's influence on the political scene. Lest he forget, it was was an internet "gadfly," Matt Drudge, which broke the Lewinsky scandal in 1998.

Todd outlines a series of events in the 2008 campaign that Bill could have easily avoided if he had an understanding of the new media. The one most striking to me is when Bill brought up Hillary's sniper fire comment weeks after it had mostly died in the media. This "YouTube moment" shows a critical feature of 21st century media: The news cycle has shortened considerably. At the point of Bill's speech in Indiana, Hillary had made an appropriate response and the media was already talking about "bitter" and Carter meeting with Hamas. Hillary's trip to Bosnia was still in the mind of voters, but it was fading with the lessened media coverage. (Bill also didn't help the cause by numerous factual errors in the speech). When the news cycle has passed. let sleeping dogs lie.

C'mon, Bubba. You led this country through its largest economic growth since WWII and you are the best public speaker this country has seen in decades. Please, learn from your mistakes and don't let yourself be dragged down by the same medium that tried to take you down in 98.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Top 5 Moments of this Campaign, thus far

Since this page is in some part an homage to one of the most gangster political moments of all time, I figure I should give it up for the most gangster moments of the 2008 campaign so far. I'm sure there's more to come with two pretty gangster candidates and cameras watching them at all times.

From the home office in Eugene, Oregon:

5. Mitt Romney letting the dogs out this was probably the least gangster moment, the most Brooks Brotherest candidate awkwardly using out of date "urban" references to connect with the heart of Duvall County (on MLK day). It had to make the list regardless. My favorite part is when he compliments the baby's "bling bling."

4. Bob Bauer ambushing Howard Wolfson
Obama's top lawyer, Bauer, got onto Clinton's conference call to get them to stop "attacking the caucus process." (The Clinton campaign had illegitimate lawsuits ready to discount every caucus.) Wolfson, Clinton's spokesman, was like a deer in headlights. Do yourself a favor and listen to the audio; it is hilarious. Bauer is my hero, not Jack.

3. Colbert Huckabee '08
Colbert could have all five of these spots. He has done more to discredit the right in the two years he's been on the air than the Democrats have been able to do in 30 years. Anyway, the "Colbert Bump" is real and Huckabee proved it. Huckabee was behind Duncan Hunter, Tommy Thomason, and Tom Tancredo before he went on Colbert. I would have voted for Huckabee just to see to see Colbert get at least a cabinet level position. It would have happened.

2. Carville calling Richardson "Judas"
James Carville, the Ragin Cajun, is one of my personal idols. He is a political genius. He loves college football. His marriage with Mary Matalin is proof enough that a Bipartisan agenda can be reached. Not to mention his distinguished acting career, Old School, People v. Larry Flint, The Assassination of Jesse James... I digress. What I admire most is his candor. He told the media exactly how he felt about Richardson's endorsement of Obama. Not only that, but he never backed down all while Samantha Power and Gerarldine Ferraro were back tracking worse than Mark Foley in the page changing room. Powerful lesson, don't say something if you're not willing to live with the consequences. Carville = Gangster

1. Barack Obama getting the dirt off his shoulders
Easily the most gangster moment of the campaign. Why has it taken so long for a candidate to quote the CEO of the ROC? Obama did. And I think this isn't the last song he quotes. Jigga already wrote his speech for when he locks up the nomination, "99 Prombems."


The struggles of China to quell the public relations disaster that is the Olympic Torch relay are snowballing out of control. Public Relations Rogue explains how China made some critical mistakes in understanding the 21st century media machine. This is expected from a nation that never really had to do public relations. The Chinese government controls the media in a way that the Bush Administration can only dream. Internationally, China's public relations has been "no comment" for the past 5000 years. I agree with the Public Relations Rogue in that the Chinese have no idea what they're getting themselves into with the Olympics.

After the pro-Tibet demonstrations during the Paris leg of the relay (they attacked a woman in a wheelchair, see photo), there has been anti-French protests, which the Chinese have tried to claim as radical, but as with 90 percent of stories from China, you can only take them at face value. They've been controlling the domestic media to think that the world is against them and the Chinese people believe it. Good luck welcoming people to your country with open arms in August.

Therein lies the problem. How does a nation (or any organization) gain credibility when it's been so grossly incredible for literally thousands of years?

PS: The top photo is a billboard from Reporters without Border's phenomenal anti-Olympics campaign. The imagery is great. Kudos to that marketing team. Those billboards were all over France.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Ultimate October Surprise

Jeremy Meyer has an intriguing piece on October surprises and specifically one involving an American getting arrested abroad for war crimes. In this hypothetical scenario, an American CIA agent (Not Agent Zero) on vacation in Europe is arrested for torture, a war crime under the Rome Treaty to establish the International Criminal Court. Sounds like something out of a spy movie, but the premise is not far fetched at all. Meyer points out that courts in Italy and Germany have already issued warrants for over 30 CIA agents.

Now, if this scenario unravels during the heat of the campaign it becomes a pivotal issue, if not the pivotal issue. The Bush Administration is most likely going to come out guns blazing. This is the primary reason they initially opposed the ICC. They did not want Americans being tried by a court they feel is a threat to national sovereignty.

With the Administration rallying Americans behind saving American agents from this foreign court, what would the candidates do?

IMHO, Obama could use this as a perfect example of how the Republicans have used this detained agent as a pawn and scapegoat to justify the torture authorized by the administration and supported by Republicans in Congress. Guantanamo Bay and the authorized use of torture have done more to degrade our standing in the world than any other foreign policy.

McCain has a unique position in this equation. He could toe the Bush line and rally support for this agent or, IMHO, he should use this as critical place to separate himself from the failed policies of the Bush administration. He could use his past experiences to highlight his vehement opposition to this torture policy which would triangulate the position a la Dick Morris.

Tell me your thoughts. This is a great example of how these campaigns must have clear and definite contingency plans for all "October surprises." So they can roll out with a clear,but nuanced position immediately. What other scenarios should they be planning for?

FYI: Here is a great article describing all the candidates positions on a grossly underreported issue, the ICC.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.

Welcome to my blog. My name is Nigel and I'm a senior at the University of Oregon. I've studied public relations and political science for the past four years. My interest in politics and specifically political communication has taken me many places. I canvassed all over Oregon with LCV in 2004. I worked on L St. in a environmental lobbying firm (They won't give the enviros a spot on K St.). Recently, I've started interning at a local firm that specializes in nonprofits and public policy.

With this blog, I would like to look at both national and local politics through the eyes of a public relations specialist. What are the candidates doing well or poorly? What issues are being discussed by the media and why? How is blogging and social media affecting the campaigns and politics in general? I'll also be discussing the transition from college to the workforce and the challenges my peers and I face.

Please explore, send me a comment, or start a competing blog.

BTW: If you're curious on the title, it's one of the greatest moments in political history. O.G. Lloyd Bentsen shutting down Dan Quayle during the 1988 vice presidential debate.