Political Scoundrels: Managing Political Scandals
The Live with Dan Abrams show on MSNBC also discloses the top five dirtiest tricks pulled in the current presidential campaign to date. Selecting the accusations by the Vietnam Veterans of Senator John McCain’s nominal collaboration with the enemy during his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, as number one of the top five dirtiest scandals currently.
The program, The Political Scoundrels: Managing Political Scandals speaks to the methods in which presidential candidates can employ to manage pesky rumors and scandals while keeping the spin in his or her favor. The program incorporated guest speakers, Craig Fuller, a public relations expert, who served for eight years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for cabinet affairs and then as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush and is currently the executive vice president of APCO’s International Advisory Council in Washington, D.C., and Rick Pearson, a political reporter for Chicago Tribune and an award winning journalist, who in 2000 and 2004 extensively covered George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns.
Craig Fuller in discussing political scandals in the current primaries talks about the dirty tricks or scandals that are common in political campaigns. These generally involve secretly leaking damaging information to the media or trying to feed an opponent's team false information hoping they will use it and embarrass themselves. He doesn’t assert whether he approves or disapproves of these tactics but he does affirm that he thinks it fair for candidates to compare and contrast their opponent’s credentials via ads; he calls it ‘Comparative Advertisement.’ Fuller contends that in “managing scandals, candidates before running for the presidential election need to think deep about what might be exposed and plan how to handle the question if it is exposed.” He also notes that it is judicious for Candidates to get the accurate facts of the scandal that was reported and resolve it as soon as possible. He gives the example of Former Vice President to George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, the Vice Presidential nomination scandal and how they managed that scandal and came out on top.
Rick Pearson, on the other hand, compares the GOP presidential today's primary scandal in South Carolina involving Sen. McCain to the running scandal in 2000 of Sen. John McCain supposedly fathering an illegitimate child. Pearson also discusses how the new media has advanced via the internet and how candidates have to be very careful in addressing and managing those types of scandals; he confers the “Barack Obama is a Muslim email.” Pearson also states that most often, the attempt to cover up a scandal by the candidate becomes the real scandal.” He notes that in managing scandals, “the best way for candidates to handle pesky rumors or scandals is for the candidates to respond quickly and accurately to the accusations and get in control of it.”
A great deal of the discussion involved Craig Fuller and Rick Pearson discussing the significance of giving a ‘spin not a lie’ to reporters. Fuller offers the example of Vice President Dan Quayle scandal; when a reporter asked Fuller, “If Quayle should be dropped from the Vice Presidential nomination ticket due to the scandal that surrounded him?” Fuller answered with a spin, stating that “Vice President has not considered it.” Fuller states that, “you can choose what to say, but you better chose carefully or it could cost you….”
Pearson and Fuller then responded to the question on whether this process of electing a president in the United States serves our society well… how do American citizens make the intelligent decision in choosing the right president when the media relies less on the substance of the candidates and more on scandal. They both answer by stating that voters can choose a candidate by the way the candidates handle the issues or rumors and the perceptions they get from the candidates. They both note that substance matter less in comparison to the way candidates handle things.
Pearson emphasizes retail politics as providing voters with substantive candidates who speak about substantive issues. He notes that retail politics involves more of an interaction with voters and less on how much money you have. He offers the example of Huckabee winning in Iowa due to the retail politics that was involved in Iowa.
Craig Fuller and Rick Pearson conclude by stating that the compression of the primaries and caucus allow fewer opportunities for the candidates to be more substantive… that when the field narrows, candidates would then be able to discuss issues that concern voters the most.
The program was delightfully pleasant. I enjoyed and learned a great deal at my first event at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum!!!