Would a Timeout Work in This Election Season?

1-time-out-timer-stoolTime for a timeout?

Yes, the presidential candidates are not children getting cranky or refusing to share.  Yes, they are adults.  But recent actions and behavior in the long and uber-crazy primary season lead to only one conclusion.

Hill, Bernie, the Donnie, Teddy-Boy and John-John need to go sit in their respective quiet spots for a while and think about how they are behaving.

Hill’s playmate, New York Billy de Blasio, needs to find a corner, as well.

This past Sunday, Hill and New York Billy appeared at a political event and tried to impress the crowd by laughingly employing a scripted comedy sequence.

And why not?  These are funny people, right?

Noting that the mayor took a long time to give the former New York senator his endorsement, Hill said: “Thanks for the endorsement, Bill.  Took you long enough.”

Inexplicably, and with extreme tone deafness, New York Billy replied: “Sorry, Hillary, I was running on C.P. time.”

The audience reaction underlined the offensiveness of New York Billy’s remark, given that “C.P. time” not only is a racially insensitive abbreviation for “colored people’s time” but also is a remark that many had hoped had faded from use.

“The controversy couldn’t come at a more inauspicious time for Clinton,” writes Adam Howard on the NBC News website.  “… Bill Clinton has been in the hot seat this past week for public, racially charged clashes with Black Lives Matter protesters. Both Clintons have been increasingly under fire for the past vociferous support for a 1994 crime bill which has not been faulted for sky high incarceration rates, which has disproportionately impacted African-Americans.”


And then there’s Bernie, who was blasted last week by former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for his claim that Israel has killed more than 10,000 innocent Palestinians in Gaza.  On Sunday, when being interviewed on CNN, Bernie dismissed the criticism, but showed — surprisingly — that he didn’t know who Oren is.

“Who is Mr. Oren?” Mr. Sanders said after being asked about the criticism.



This came atop their earlier “qualified/unqualified” squabble that was reminiscent of two kids screaming in the street.

Did so!  Did not!  Did so!  Did not!

They questioned each other’s bona fides to be president.  Bernie wondered about Hill’s integrity and Hill suggested that Bernie is not a “real Democrat.”


As for the Donnie: he is getting very cranky because he doesn’t like how others are playing.  He’s probably hungry or needs a nap.

“You saw what happened in Colorado,” he whined after his most recent defeat.  “It’s a fix. … It’s a rigged, disgusting, dirty system.”

And then there are the other kids with whom the Donnie hangs.  Noted Kirstan Conley in the New York Post: “Trump was introduced by Jennifer Crisafulli, who was fired on ‘The Apprentice’ and lost a job in real life after being criticized for comments about ‘two old Jewish fat ladies’ who she said were ‘jaded old bags.’”


Teddy-Boy, meanwhile, the self-described outsider with whom no one wanted to play, has become acceptable because … well, just because.  “If they gave out a report card for first-term senators, Cruz would get an F for ‘plays well with others’,” writes Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times in a column titled “Ted Cruz isn’t Donald Trump, so he’s good enough.”

Goldberg notes the irony that Teddy-Boy spent years building his reputation as the guy who wants to tear down the system, “and now it’s the system, not necessarily the voters, that may put him over the top.”

And now Teddy-Boy has accused the Donnie of threatening delegates; this was part of his response to the Donnie’s claims that Teddy-Boy used “gestapo” tactics to win in Colorado.

“That is a tactic of union thugs,” he said during the interview with Glenn Beck, reports ABC News.  “That is violence. It is oppressive. The idea that Donald is threatening delegates, we’re seeing that pattern over and over again. Donald needs to understand he’s not Michael Corleone, Donald needs to stop threatening the voters. He needs to stop threatening the delegates. He is not a mobster.”


John-John, meanwhile, is getting punchy because he has been talking – and saying nice things – for months, but no one is listening.  So he’s decided to go in a new direction.

“The Ohio governor’s speech at the Women’s National Republican Club in New York had all the trappings of a presidential affair, with ‘Hail to the Chief’ piped into the room and American flags prominently placed behind him,” wrote Eliza Collins in Politico.

And John-John was very critical of his opponents … for the first time.  “Some who feed off of the fears and anger that is felt by some of us and exploit it feed their own insatiable desire for fame or attention,” he said.  “That could drive America down into a ditch, not make us great again.”

He also said the other kids (ah, adults) are not playing nice and suggesting “disturbing” solutions and behavior, including religious tests for immigration, targeted neighborhood surveillance, draconian tariffs, and a dramatic rethink of NATO.

“I have stood on a stage and watched with amazement as candidates wallowed in the mud, viciously attacked one another, called each other liars and disparaged each other’s character,” he said.  “Those who continuously push that type of behavior are not worthy of the office they are seeking.”


But wait, the experts aren’t certain about the value of timeouts.

“Next time the need for discipline arises, parents might consider a ‘time-in’: forging a loving connection, such as sitting with the child and talking or comforting,” write Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne, Bryson, Ph.D., in Time magazine.  “Some time to calm down can be extremely valuable for children, teaching them how to pause and reflect on their behavior.”

Talking and comforting?  Maybe we can work that into the upcoming debates.





Sharing the Observations of My Mentors

x10593035A recent invitation to address senior public relations majors at Pepperdine University provided an interesting opportunity to review multiple nuggets of advice I had been told over the years from various mentors.  With more than four decades in the communications business – as a journalist, internal communications executive, external consultant, university instructor and in-house marketing professional — the review was pretty extensive.

And it brought back some fond memories of those who graciously shared their experiences with me.

In no particular order, these are the ones I discussed with the students.

Courage. Campaigns – presenting them, executing then, staying loyal to them – require courage.  Don’t hide from your advice.  Don’t devalue it.  Management consultants don’t … attorneys don’t … investment bankers don’t … but communications professionals sometimes do.  Too many offer their advice – written and verbal – wrapped in an apology.  Don’t do that.  Embrace it.  Defend it.

Honesty. Of course, being honest makes it that much easier.  Best piece of advice I ever heard given to a client:

At least once in your career, you will need to make a difficult decision because your prospective client — or your internal colleague – will not understand that he or she has a “problem” … and it isn’t a PR problem.  But he or she will want a PR solution.  You will need to tell this person or group of people the truth.

Another issue relating to honesty: Statement, truths, assertions, denials — all can have a short shelf life. So, consider carefully what you are saying today. Best practice? Stick with “real-time truths” that aren’t dependent upon gimmicks. Stay away from “snapshot true,” “de facto true,” or “aspirationally/ prospectively true.”

Elevate. Don’t dumb down your communications.  Instead, aim high.  Don’t confuse this advice with developing clear, easy-to-understand communications – I am not disputing that maxim.  But I am making the point that you need to give stakeholders – and your client or employer – the benefit of the doubt and provide them with you best effort.  And that means your best thinking.

And then you need to own it.  Every document you write, including early drafts, has your name on it. Your professional brand is being created or altered. An artist doesn’t sign a painting until it is as good as he or she believes it can be. You should apply the same standards to any piece of work that has your name on it.

Identify the Decision-Makers.  Who are you talking to?  Either in writing on in person?  Who are you pitching or presenting that campaign plan to: banker, CEO, marketing head, PR head, business-unit leader, another consultant?  Sometimes we know.  Often, we do not know.  And yet we need to hit the bull’s-eye.

With a written proposal: is your written voice the appropriate voice?  Are you hitting the right hot buttons for the decision-maker?  Are you hitting the right hot buttons for the implementer, who may in fact not be the decision-maker?  Do they even have the same hot buttons?  And, if this is an in-person presentation, how do you play the various persons in the various seats around the table?  How do you make eye contact?  When do you direct one section of your presentation to a particular person?

Understand Their Reality. Step inside their situation and circumstance to see the challenge or opportunity more clearly and accurately.  Don’t just apply “outside-in” thinking … take your thinking and apply it to their perspective. Walk in their shoes for a while so your campaign can become a blend of your expertise and their reality.

Make It Easy.  Look, you want to get hired, or you want your proposal to be selected.  Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be.  You have the power to make their decision easier by drawing clear distinctions.  Remember: they don’t always review your proposals with an uncluttered mind … if they are going through your proposal in four unconnected readings, you better make sure that it isn’t War and Peace.

Alignment.  We are all communicators.  But we need to remember that our clients or employers have a commercial business they are trying to run.  Understand the business rationale.  Remember: the business can get ahead of communications from time to time, but communications can never get ahead of the business.  Understand the business/commercial objective … then develop a communication strategy that aligns with it.

Focus.  Communications planning can be complicated … but sometimes it can be simpleMany factors go into the funnel of the meat grinder.  Make sure far fewer come out the other end as recommendations.  Do a few things well, with impact and the ability to be measured.  And make sure they link together.

The Fork in the Road.  A communicators is not always a strategist.  And I underline the following: we don’t always want to be an implementer.  But, a lot of the time, we need to be both – to get hired, to get a campaign approved or to get the job doneThe balance is critical – there’s a push and pull.  And it’s never is the same from one client to another.  That’s why those who tell you this is a “template” business are all wrong.  Stay as far away from them as possible.

Visualize.  Your mind’s eye is a valuable tool in this business.  You can train it to be very helpful because you need to visualize just as much as you need your client to visualize.  Take the time to visualize execution and results.  You’ll be surprised how much you’ll be able to run a quality-assurance test on what you are recommending.  Oh, and if you are presenting, try to get your prospective client to visualize – or help the group along with a show-and-tell that demonstrates what results might look like.

What-Ifs.  In addition to visualizing strategy, approaches and outcomes, you should also scenario-plan how your recommendations will be received.  Prepare for the questions and inevitable push back.  Ask yourself how you would receive the recommendations you are making.  Biggest mistake: recommending something they already are doing or that has failed in the past.

Observations Without Implications.  You are going to write and present programs and campaigns filled with observations and conclusions.  If I am your boss or prospective client, I will not consider you for a moment if those observations don’t also include implications.  It doesn’t matter how you present them, as long as they are in there, are clear and are compelling.

Sequencing.  Linear thinking may help you analyze the situation and develop your program.  But linear thinking doesn’t always track when laying out a strategy to an executive with a short attention span or who is reading your proposal in fits and starts.  Readers, listeners and especially clients are impatient. A linear structure makes them wait. Don’t make them wait. Tell. Explain. And then tell again.  Remember that inverted pyramid you learned about years ago?  In addition to working in news stories and news releases, it’s helpful in your presentation structure as well.

Messaging.  Our business is built upon several cornerstones, including messages that connect, clarity of thought and connecting with audiences.  To me, messages are the most interesting aspect of what we do.  Messages.  Messages.  Messages. You won’t go wrong if that mantra repeatedly races through your head in your professional career.

And remember: Messages are not boilerplate phrases. They are not slogans. They are not bumper stickers. Instead, they are the key themes that enable you to touch your audiences in a way that resonates personally with them. Develop them carefully.  Employ them consistently.

Clarity.  Insist upon it—in your thinking, in your writing, in understanding your role.  Think in bullet points.  Talk in bullet points.  Write your bullet points first, even though they may belong in the middle of the document.  You can listen in bullet points, too. Teach yourself to translate the talk around the room into bullet points before your process it.

Windows, Not Mirrors. An effective PR program communicates “through a window” — that’s where the audiences and stakeholders are, right?  In contrast, “mirror communications,” which is practiced far too frequently, means you are speaking to yourself. You might enjoy it, but it doesn’t work.

Keep a Key Point in Your Pocket.  This is especially true in face-to-face presentations.  Save something you can use at the right time.

  • The A to the tough Q
  • The killer anecdote
  • The name drop that will seal the deal
  • The instant win you can achieve

The Hairy Arm.  This legend began with art directors in advertising agencies before making its way over to public relations.  It can be helpful, both with your boss and your client because, in either case, they want to find at least one thing wrong with your idea, your document or your train of thought.  And you, of course, don’t want to see any of your ideas get killed.  So put in a “hairy arm” that can be called out and removed (or, in the PR rendition, a redundant or over-the-top concept that is 100% certain to gain the notice of your boss or client).  Both sides will end up happy and you won’t lose anything from your proposal.

That’s it.  Use at your own discretion.  Those who came before me will thank you.

They Are What We Thought They Are

Republican DebateIowa’s behind us. And the New Hampshire GOP primary is on the doorstep.

Some clarity is emerging. As are some confirmations of earlier thoughts. Throw in some random observations.

And here we are..

Donald Trump’s winner “record” is littered with quits and walkaways. Stay tuned! This guy could take his ball and bats and go home at any time.

His history defies what he says about himself. He penchant for saying “forget about it” remains a wildcard.  Writes Ben Schreckinger of Politico Magazine:

Like many successful businessmen, the real estate developer and GOP pack leader – who often espouses his disdain for “losers” — does not see every venture and contest through to the bitter end. Throughout his career, Trump has demonstrated wild enthusiasm at the start of big projects, and ruthlessly pursued a profit agenda that, in many cases, has led him to ditch the deal when the risks, whether financial or reputational, start to outweigh the prospective reward.

From a casino in French Lick, Indiana, to a dispute with condo owners in Panama and even in renewing “The Apprentice” reality show on NBC, Trump has time and again spotted the point of diminishing returns and quit.

Ted Cruz is a shameless chameleon.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Frank Bruni vividly tells us how Cruz easily shifts from one position to another. In particular, he cites Cruz “supporting” Carly Fiorina’s attempt to be included the GOP primary in that state.

Noting that New Hampshire has a female governor and two female senators and that it would be a safe bet that “women will play an especially consequential role” in Tuesday’s vote, Bruni writes:

In the end Fiorina failed in her bid, but Cruz succeeded in presenting a version of himself that I’d not yet had the pleasure of meeting: the knight in sliming armor.

Marco Rubio is Johnny Cale, the Ralph Macchio character from the The Outsiders.

Remember Johnny, smaller and slighter than the rest – always hustling to keep up? Always wanting to prove himself to the bigger guys? Here’s a portion of the character’s description from IMDb website.

If you can picture a little dark puppy that has been kicked too many times and is lost in a crowd of strangers, you’ll have Johnny. He is the youngest .. and the smallest. He has big black eyes in a dark tanned face. His hair is jet-black … He is the gang’s pet and everyone’s kid brother.

We thought Jeb Bush was a general-election candidate, not a primary candidate.  Now we know it.

It isn’t complicated. It didn’t work in his own party, which is interesting because you have to believe his centrality is made for a general. Patricia Murphy of Roll Call tries to explain what the end of the campaign looks like.

But the men and women going out to see Jeb in New Hampshire weren’t ready to say goodbye yet. They defended him the way you’d defend an old friend, calling him “honest,” “decent” and “a good man.” His no-frills approach could play well among New England independents on Tuesday and more pragmatic Republicans in South Carolina. Jeb promised that’s where he’s going next this time with his brother, George, along.

Republican voters continue to miss the fact that John Kasich is, and continues to be, the adult in the GOP room.

The Ohio governor has bet the farm on his showing in New Hampshire, not unlike the other two governors (Bush and Chris Christie) who are trying to stake out the establishment lane – if one still exists — in the Republican Party.  Write Julie Pace and Thomas Beaumont of The Washington Post:

Kasich has prided himself on avoiding direct criticism of his rivals during the campaign, and kept up that strategy both in the debate and as he campaigned Sunday. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could win being positive?” Kasich said on Fox News.

Still, one has to ask: Does Kasich’s centrality and moderate tone make him a walking-talking anachronism? Mark Z. Barabak writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Win or lose, John Kasich will go down in New Hampshire as something of an anomaly in this most aggrieved political season.  The Ohio governor has campaigned for president on a message of relentless optimism, shunning the dark rhetoric, apocalyptic vision and slashing style of many fellow GOP hopefuls

Chris Christie’s really not a Jersey guy.

First of all, Jersey guys don’t tell you they are Jersey guys. Instead, they intentionally bump into going through the men’s room door or they stick their middle finger out the car window as they race by you. They also don’t root for the Dallas Cowboys instead of the Giants.

Jersey guys also don’t wait until this late in the campaign to chew up another candidate with attacks and sarcasm. A real Jersey guy would never have stood at that podium on the far side of the stage for this long.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight points out that Christie also didn’t take on Trump and allowed him, instead, to be the big dog. And that’s not Jersey.

But for Christie, whose yard signs boast of a candidate “telling it like it is,” the biggest problem of all might be Trump. Trump has usurped the Christie brand of being the unrepentantly loudmouthed alpha male who will tell you the truths that other candidates avoid.

Ben Carson … how in the world has he lasted this long?

What was interesting – and worthy of a few Google searches — in the beginning soon became bizarre and inexplicable.

David A. Graham in The Atlantic notes that Carson not only defied much of the conventional wisdom about how long his campaign would last, but that he also spent a lot of money doing so.

The surprise for Carson is perhaps not that he is fading as the race reaches the actual voting stage — it’s how it took so long. In a cycle when pundits’ many predictions have been proved wrong, it was actually fairly easy to guess that Carson, a first-time candidate with a great personal appeal but mixed-up policy positions, would end up near the back of the pack. The question is how he managed to rise and then fall back to earth.

Carly Fiorina is the GOP’s Martin O’Malley — and vice versa.

It’s all been an audition for either the vice presidential nod, or at least a role in a future Republican administration – or, much like Carson, to help promote a book. She’s already denied it, as Rebecca Leber of the New Republic wrote last year, but … c’mon!

Her latest book, Rising to the Challenge, came out the same week in May that she announced her candidacy. Many believe Fiorina is vying to be the vice presidential pick (she’s a long shot for that, too), which she denies.

So, at the end of the day, we are left quoting ex-Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green:

They are what we thought they are.

What Trump Might Say If He Loses Iowa

GTY_donald_trump_iowa_fair_2_jt_150815_16x9_992So, maybe the most intriguing thing isn’t whether Donald Trump will lose in Iowa.  To me, it’s what he might say to explain away a caucus loss.

He is, after all, the man who once told The Wall Street Journal that defeat is not an experience he has ever had.

“I’ve never lost in my life.”

That assertion, of course, is debatable (oops!), depending on how one views bankruptcies, failed football teams, defunct airlines, marriages and any number of other endeavors. However, if Iowa (or some other early decision state, for that matter) delivers a loss … well, it’s a safe bet we would hear a lot about “morons,” “losers” and “overrated” competitors, commentators, writers, systems – and who knows what else.

“Third-rate” might also find its way into his comments, given what he had to say about Megyn Kelly on Tuesday while first telling us that he wasn’t going to participate in Fox’s Thursday night GOP debate.

“I’m not a fan of Megyn Kelly.  I think she’s a third-rate reporter.”

Setting aside Trump’s view of Megyn Kelly, this whole Fox thing is interesting from another standpoint. Well, from a purely hypothetical standpoint, that is.  One could posit that, in boycotting the debate, Trump actually is cleverly hedging his bets on Iowa and setting up Fox and Roger Ailes as potential objects of blame if he comes up short in Iowa.

At midweek, Trump was saying the organization caused him to bail on the debate, not Kelly herself.

“It was the childishly written & taunting PR statement by Fox that made me not do the debate, more so than lightweight reporter,”

So, in the event of an Iowa loss, here’s how it might sound: “Fox, Ailes and this third-rate bimbo Kelly have been trying for months to stop me.  And, incidently, this has been very clear to me and people all over the country who back me.  What they did with that stupid debate cost me here tonight in Iowa.  These morons are losers – and, I can assure you, they are vindictive.”

Sound feasible?

Apart from the outright insults, however, there are hints in Trump’s history that may portend other messages he could convey on Monday night if the caucus-goers don’t line up in his favor. Surprisingly, he actually has been quite reflective from time to time in the past when discussing the concept of failure.

“What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate.”

“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”

So, if he chooses to go in that direction, those quotes suggest that he might emphasize his record as a winner and inform all of us that he not only is going to re-double his efforts, but that he’s also going to employ super-tactics that only he has available to him.

It’s also highly likely he will try to claim victory through some re-imagined look at the numbers, or simply spin defeat into victory by characterizing his performance as a win “when you factor in A, B, C and D.”

Let’s step back to 2004, when Trump faced his third corporate bankruptcy. His Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts was in trouble – and this was big.  The company controlled the Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza and Trump Marina (formerly Trump’s Castle) casinos in Atlantic City, as well as a riverboat casino in Indiana.

To Trump, the bankruptcy was “really just a technical thing” that affected only a minimal fraction of his net worth. As he told the Associated Press:

“I don’t think it’s a failure, it’s a success.”

Footnote — Trump needed to inject $72 million of his own money to help keep this successful restructuring intact.

And then there was Trump Mortgage, which very few of us remember. When it hit the skids, Trump noted that he didn’t have an ownership stake in what amounted to a mere licensing deal.

“The mortgage business is not a business I particularly liked or wanted to be part of in a very big way.”

Let’s get ready for the political version of this statement – “I never really thought I would get this far. I entered the campaign to make some important points, not to be elected president. I’m too busy making billions of dollars. Let these losers waste their time on this.”

Two other possibilities also loom large.

The first is that Trump will simply flip out, a scenario laid out recently by FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten.

“The question is whether a campaign all about ‘winning’ can take losing. Trump hasn’t lost yet, and the few times he’s gone down in the polls, he’s gone bonkers.”

The second scenario, from the The New Yorker, is that he might just get to the point where he is bored with the process and the people he’s hanging with.

“In the first debate, Trump’s presence on the stage with ‘real’ politicians elevated him, but at this point the setting would diminish anyone. The debates are no longer what Trump might call a classy venue.  Fox’s announcement of the lineup, shortly before Trump stormed off, likely didn’t help. Rand Paul, who had been excluded last time because of low poll numbers, made it back onto the main stage, for a total of eight participants. In a well-run reality show, the field is quickly winnowed down. This one is getting bigger. And so Trump went off to look for a more exclusive club, at his own rallies in Iowa and, soon, everywhere.”

We can only hope.

Our 2016 Candidates: Is This The Best We Can Do as a Country?

democrat-donkey-republican-elephantFor a moment, let’s step back from Hillary vs. Bernie, and Trump vs. … well, Trump, and address what might be the more important question – at least as it pertains to all of the rest of us.

Are the 20 candidates who started this presidential-election process the absolute best we can come up with? Or, as one friend recently said to me: “We’ve having a presidential election and the roster of candidates is worse than the Lakers’ roster.”

There are quick, talking-point answers to that question, of course: For the Democrats, the prospect of the Clinton coronation was proffered as a foregone conclusion and likely tamped down expectations. Understood, in theory. Maybe not so much in reality.

And, cutting across both parties, there’s this other interesting phenomenon – namely, that the candidates generating the most excitement and attention as well as significant support – Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – can easily be seen as “primary candidates” only. You know, intriguing “diversions” who could never get elected in a national election.

A momentary aside: Despite the fact that many commentators link these three to voters’ “never-before-seen” disdain and disgust with the status quo, the respective manias we’re experiencing with each aren’t necessarily new. Think Gene McCarthy …

From the Los Angeles Times:

Sanders’ ideas have stirred the ideological fervor of old progressives and young millennials, just as Eugene McCarthy once did when those old progressives were young students protesting a war.

… or George McGovern, Ronald Reagan (the first time around) or Howard Dean and others.

From USA Today:

Dean himself has jumped into the comparison game.

“There’s certainly an insurgency,” Dean said of Sanders in a recent Washington Post article. “An attractive candidate is basically calling out the Democrats, much the way I did in 2004.”

But, stepping back, one (at least this one) still can’t get away from the fact that the weakness of the overall field is startling in a country of 320 million-plus people. (Look, Canada, with its population of less than 40 million, now has Justin Trudeau and … uh, never mind.)

Moving back to the U.S. …

On the Democratic side, we’ve addressed the Bernie phenomenon above. As for Hillary, short and sweet might be best – damaged; defensive; feeling of entitlement; doesn’t connect with a large proportion of people … including those who probably will end up voting for her.

From The Hill:

“Her challenge remains the same as it always has been — show voters who she is and reveal the person beneath the candidate,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public policy at Princeton University. “To win people’s trust and to generate enthusiasm, she has to let some of her character come out.”

“She has so many qualifications: experience, knowledge, partisan skill,” Zelizer said, adding that the likability factor “is what she needs to work on.”

And then there’s Martin O’Malley. Could O’Malley have been a more-compelling figure, given that he’s been angling for this opportunity for eight years? Or is Martin O’Malley, unfortunately, simply who we always thought he was – and nothing more?

Are Gavin Newsom, Deval Patrick and Andrew Cuomo simply too damaged?

Is Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the self-described “recovering geologist now on loan to public service,” unfortunately John Hickenlooper, the self-described “recovering geologist now on loan to public service.”

Is it too soon for Corey Booker and either of the Castro twins from Texas?

Did Jerry Brown shed his Gov. Moonbean  too late in life?

From the Los Angeles Times:

To watch Jerry Brown is to marvel at just how many political lives he can squeeze into his years on stage.

This Brown, who Thursday put on a conservative suit and tie to read his speech, was inconceivable in 1992 when he was storming the country in a black turtleneck — his ranting and ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign spurred by anger and little else.

On the GOP side, the dearth of candidates was not a problem. But, similar to the Democrats’ issue, the Bush coronation that many expected got derailed because the candidate has warts – or simply was doing something he really didn’t want to do.

Quickly, working through most of the group: Ben Carson leveraged his 2013 National Prayer Breakfast evisceration of President Obama into a presidential run that mystifies many; Marco Rubio is doing well at times but still seems as if he’s on the stage four years too soon; Cruz is busy being Cruz, and arrogantly believing his shtick will translate into a national campaign; Bush is flummoxed; Carly Fiorina quickly rose to prominence and then quickly disappeared; Chris Christie and John Kasich, representing the GOP’s grown-up lane, are at the respective edges of the stage screaming and trying to get attention; Rand Paul is not understanding that his attention-getting antics on the Senate floor were years ago and he isn’t being noticed. (I’ll leave out those who sat at the kiddie table at the debates. Nothing new to say about that other than George … George Pataki?)

So a vacuum was created and Trump was more than happy to jump into it, full throated and with a clever strategy in his pocket. The strategy: play to people’s emotions with bumper-sticker proclamations, jingoistic talking points worthy of the old No-Nothing Party.

From The New Yorker:

He is the latest representative of an anti-immigrant, nativist American tradition that dates back at least to the Know-Nothings of the eighteen-forties and eighteen-fifties. On the other hand, Trump is a twenty-first-century celebrity politician who ruthlessly exploits his fame and his insider knowledge of how the media works to maximum effect.

He also possesses a dedicated avoidance of real issues. All of this buttressed by a vapor-like debate strategy that emphasized the message that he is positioned at the center of the stage because his poll numbers are the best.

(Another aside: One can’t help but wonder when poll numbers became a credible substitute for credentials, as in, “Of course, I’m qualified, my poll numbers are higher than anyone else on the stage.”)

And, so, we move forward with the expectation that Iowa and New Hampshire will start to bring us clarity. Unfortunately, as things become clearer, all we will find out is that the final two unfortunately came from the original list of 20. And, unlike the Lakers, we won’t even get a draft choice or be able to sign a free agent.


Christie’s “Denial Habit” Runs Amok


Chris Christie has a problem.  No, not that.

His problem is that he’s in a constant state of denial, brought about by the whole Bridge-gate thing. He’s gotten so used to denying things that now he is denying that he will announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination on Tuesday at the high school he attended in Livingston, N.J.

The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post and a slew of other publications tell us he does plan to announce.  Even Fox News is reporting that a Tuesday announcement is imminent.

But reports from CNN and others say he’s not going to announce.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie refuted reports that he has made the decision to run for president during a radio interview on Thursday night.”There’s been absolutely no final decision made by me,” he said during his monthly “Ask the Governor” radio appearance on NJ101.5. “There’s lots of people who speculate lots of things, and I can’t be held to account for every bit of speculation that’s in the press.”

The fact is, Christie has been on a pretty long “denial streak.”  This is a guy, remember, who even denies hecklers the right to heckle.

Only one active politician has a comedian’s disposition when it comes to hecklers. Lucky for us, he’s announcing for president next Tuesday. “Sit down and shut up,” Chris Christie told one heckler last fall. When campaigning with Meg Whitman in 2010, he interrupted a heckler who was harassing her, saying, “You want to yell, yell at me.” “Either sit down and keep quiet or get out of here,” Christie told a protester last spring. “We’re done with you.” Just four months ago, after being heckled in Iowa, Christie so cheerfully acknowledged that the jeering was a plus that you almost wonder if the hecklers were planted. “My people follow me everywhere…it’s fabulous,” he said. “I’m magnetic.”

And denies earlier positions.

Gov. Chris Christie’s shifting positions on education, immigration reform and other policy issues as he contemplates a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination are supplying fodder for critics, who accuse the second-term governor of being a flip-flopper.

And acts as if obvious problems don’t exist.

Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has said little in recent months about roads and transit even as his own transportation commissioner, Jamie Fox, has forcefully called for revenue for the state’s depleted transportation trust fund. Despite the governor’s relative silence, the troubles of the state’s transportation agencies have emerged as a grinding issue for him, including the scandal involving his appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the growing backlash over his decision to halt construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

There is one thing Christie hasn’t denied or said no to, however.  No, not that.It was Sandy relief funds from the federal government.

Yes, the Democratic Long Shots Are Talking, but Is Anyone Listening?

k1610354Candidate-talk is filling up the talk shows and online and old-school news pages.  The Republican nomination is up for grabs, so GOP candidates naturally are receiving more extensive coverage. Over on the Democratic side, however, it’s a different story.  All Hillary.  All the time.  Or so it seems.But the fact is Bernie Sanders is being noticed and, in some polls, there is a meaningful increase from what was, admittedly, a low starting point.  And that’s good, because he deserves to be heard, and we deserve to hear what he says.

Other Democratic hopefuls are talking, too.  And it’s at least somewhat worthwhile to pay a visit to the bottom of most polls where three men — Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee — collectively hold about a 6% position.

O’Malley, the former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor, has been trying to get noticed for weeks — make that months.  Not surprisingly, he embraced the gun control issue this week.  He probably was drowned out, however, by the bigger names.

He kicked off what his aides describe as a “major push” on the issue last week with an email to supporters where he declared he was “pissed” by the mass shooting in South Carolina.Gun control has long been something of a political lightning rod and President Barack Obama suffered one of the biggest defeats of his administration when he made a major push for a package of gun control legislation following the Sandy Hook elementary School shooting in late 2012. While some politicians have been reluctant to confront guns, O’Malley campaign spokeswoman Haley Morris told Business Insider he has been “fearless” on the issue and plans to make it a prominent part of his 2016 platform.

“Governor O’Malley was fearless in taking on gun control in Maryland and ­standing up even to members of his own party to get results. This is an issue you will be hearing more about from him,” Morris said.

O’Malley sent an email to his supporters and said he was frustrated some people wait for “the appropriate moment to say what we’re all thinking” rather than “jumping to act.””This is not the America we want to be living in,” O’Malley wrote. “I’m pissed that we a€™re actually asking ourselves the horrific question of, what will it take? How many senseless acts of violence in our streets or tragedies in our communities will it take to get our nation to stop caving to special interests like the NRA when people are dying?”

Meanwhile, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who has not announced his candidacy, decided to underline the complicated history of the Civil War€ when he chimed in on the Confederate flag issue.  His comments were more than the generic talking points used by many others.

œ”This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War,” Webb wrote in a post on Facebook.

“The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades,” Webb said.  “It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.”Webb also took the time to dig more deeply into the issue.

“We should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.””This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect,” he said.

Meanwhile, there’s also former Rhode Island Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee. The ex-Republican is the only Democratic candidates to actually do an interview with The Skimm. More important, he tells is in another interview he isn’€™t worried about losing to Hillary Clinton.In a recent interviewwith Jorge Ramos, Chafee was asked if he believes Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War disqualifies her from running for the White House.

“Yes,”€ Chafee answered. “€œIt’€™s a huge mistake. $6 trillion, over 4,000 dead Americans. I think it’s a disqualifier.”Chafee was in fact the only Republican senator to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein in 2002. “€œI did my homework, I didn’€™t vote for it. I didn’™t see the evidence of weapons of mass destruction.”

Ramos reminded Chafee that though he stands confident against Clinton, the numbers say otherwise: “I’€™ve seen the polls, and you’™re dead last. What’s your plan to win the Democratic nomination?”

“Well my premise has been that Secretary Clinton is not going to be the nominee,” Chafee asserted. “Then it’s down to Governor Chafee, Governor O’Malley, and Senator Sanders. And I’ll compare my record, my character, and my vision for the future very favorably. Even with Secretary Clinton, if you put her in the mix.”

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