Mitt Romney

What You Say in Public Is Public

What you say in public is public, whether you think so or not.

Mitt Romney's comment at a private fundraiser and Donald Sterling's private comments to his girlfriend were captured on digital devices and turned into very damaging public issues. Trying to explain away their comments by where they were uttered would be pointless and irrelevant. You said them, someone heard them and they were posted for all the world to see and hear.

The best way to avoid an embarrassing disclosure is not to say anything in an unguarded moment or outside a secure location. With smartphones everywhere and the prospect of an army of drones overhead, secure locations may be increasingly hard to find. That argues for keeping some thoughts to yourself.

If you have any illusions about keeping information or comments confidential in an open setting, get rid of them. It really is a delusion.

A better assumption to make is that everything you say is being recorded by someone — from a government spy to a teenager randomly shooting video to while away time. This assumption should chasten you to be disciplined in what you say.

Disciplined speech doesn't mean constrained, boring speech. You just need to think before you speak. You can be informative, engaging and even funny. Just not stupid or careless.

Issues Beyond Defense

A leaked audiotape threatens to turn LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling into a pariah. Actually, his long-held views on blacks are what paved his path to becoming a pariah. 

As offensive as the taped remarks are — and they could be offensive enough to force Sterling out of the NBA — the real offense lies in the viewpoint and attitude that prompted Sterling to make the racist comments.

Former Clippers player Baron Davis tweeted that the views expressed on tape by Sterling are no different than the views he displayed when Baron was on the team. 

It seems like an odd choice for Sterling to own a professional basketball team made up of mostly African-American players. If he doesn't like blacks and doesn't want them to come to Clippers games, then why own the team?

As a lot of prominent people have discovered — remember presidential candidate Mitt Romney writing off 47 percent of the electorate at a fundraiser for the elite 1 percent? — what you really feel will sooner or later surface in what you actually say.

Deeply held feelings are not something you can manage. They control you. 

Back to the Facts

Conservative commentators question whether news spinning by the likes of Fox News mislead their audience into believing Mitt Romney would win in a landslide.Expecting the truth is an important as telling the truth, as evidenced by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's apparent shock that he lost an election he thought was in the bag.

Right-wing political spin-masters convinced themselves — or chose to believe — that credible polling and poll analysis, such as provided by The New York Times' Nate Silver, was "lame stream media" misinformation. They snarked that it was foolish, based on what happened in the 2010 elections, to use polling samples showing more Democrats voting than Republicans.

They were dreadfully wrong.

Managing Mangled Moments

The word “embarrassing” pops up a lot in headlines about this year’s presidential campaign.  There are enough gaffes, awkward moments and misstatements to fill a book on “How not to get elected.” For instance, there was:

 Mitt Romney’s comment that he likes to fire people.

Or when a top Romney advisor accidentally spoke the unintended truth about the campaign changing direction after the primaries, resulting in the now famous Etch-A-Sketch comment. 

Who can forget Texas Governor Rick Perry forgetting the names of the three federal departments he’d eliminate.

And there was President Obama’s statement about the Supreme Court’s limit of authority, a statement that was softly retracted after confusing attempts to clarify.

So, there seems to be plenty of ways candidates, or anyone working in a public environment, can mess up. The question isn’t so much how did the faux pas happen, but how a person can recover, putting the awkward moment in the rearview mirror. 

First, get used to the notion mistakes will happen. It’s a human trait. Next, have a survival plan. Before continuing down the campaign trail, create a protocol — or triage — for assessing how serious the situation is and what remedies are best. And, develop the discipline to carry out the recovery steps quickly. 

The first part of the plan should be realizing what it is a speaker can do in the seconds after a misstep. If we can borrow a page from the world of music, then the advice of Noa Kageyama may apply. He’s a performance psychologist and Juilliard faculty member who has made a study of how musicians may recover from a mistake during a performance, What he says about playing music might be applied to delivering a speech.

The Law of the Frontrunner

Campaign managers never believe their guy is getting fair coverage in the news media. And for news consumers, it’s hard to cut through all the noise of campaign coverage to judge who is ahead in garnering positive stories.

That is because election news coverage always seems like a horse race. Who’s ahead? Who’s behind? Campaign media managers need to take note; the perceived frontrunner usually gets more scrutiny and may feel a little uncomfortable under the lights.

Two weeks ago the tone of the Florida presidential primary news coverage was fairly similar, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ).

“During the week from January 16 through January 22 (the day after the South Carolina primary), the two leading candidates for the Republican nomination also received a similar volume of coverage-and far more than that of any other GOP contenders,” the report said.

That week, Romney’s coverage was judged 35 percent negative and 33 per cent positive. Reporting on Gingrich was viewed as 28 percent negative and 28 percent positive.

This near-parity represents a large increase from the week before (January 9-15) in the amount of attention the media was paying to Gingrich.