republican candidates

A New Use for “The No Asshole Rule”

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runnersNine years ago, Bob Sutton, a professor at Stanford University, published a book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.  The premise was pretty straightforward: don’t hire/surround yourself with assholes but, if you do, here’s how to survive.

As we move into the general election season, it’s a read that is well worth revisiting.  While his observations go to corporate and organization settings, it doesn’t take much effort on the part of the concerned reader to apply them to the 2016 presidential election.

So, without any additional setup, let’s revisit his work …

Sutton starts with a given: assholes typically are bad for other employees who work for and with them, and for the company or organization that enables them to exist.  Yep.  What makes him great, however, is his position that yeah, sure, sometimes assholes even are successful – but life is too valuable and too short to put up with them.

(By the way, Sutton has written several other books and his blog, which makes for a fun and informative read, is at bobsutton.typepad.com/…)

Sutton also puts forth two tests to determine if that person in question is an asshole:

•     Do people feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person in question? In particular, does he make them feel worse about themselves?

•     Does the person aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful and not at those who are more powerful?

Now, to be sure, Sutton recognizes that everyone acts in these ways from time to time.  But he asserts that “certified assholes” have a different pattern.

“A person needs to display a persistent pattern, to have a history of episodes that end with one ‘target’ after another feeling belittled, put down, humiliated, disrespected, oppressed, de-energized, and generally worse about themselves,” he writes.  “Psychologists make the distinction between states (fleeting feelings, thoughts, and actions) and traits (enduring personality characteristics) by looking for consistency across places and times – if someone consistently takes actions that leave a trail of victims in their wake, they deserve to be branded as certified assholes.”

Or, perhaps, in this presidential year, as a “branded” asshole.

Sutton also says there are a dozen everyday actions that assholes utilize.  A few of them are worth citing.

  • Personal insults
  • Invading one’s “personal territory”
  • Threats and intimidation, both verbal and nonverbal
  • “Sarcastic jokes” and “teasing” used as insult delivery systems
  • Withering e-mail flames
  • Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
  • Public shaming or “status degradation” rituals
  • Rude interruptions
  • Dirty looks
  • Treating people as if they are invisible

Sounds like we just revisited the primary season.  But don’t despair.  Although Sutton doesn’t believe assholes always are avoidable, or can be eradicated, he does offer a survival guide of sorts to help us cope.  A couple of his tips follow.

  • Reframing: Change How You See Things.  “Learning when and how to simply not give a damn isn’t the kind of advice you hear in most business books, but it can help you make the most of a lousy situation,” he writes.
  • Develop Indifference and Emotional Detachment.  Sutton writes: “Passion is an overrated virtue …, and indifference is an underrated virtue.  As Walt Whitman said, ‘Detach whatever insults your soul.’  I think this is a lovely, compact summary or the virtues of developing indifference to demeaning jerks in the workplace, or anywhere else for that matter.”
  • Look for Small Wins.  “If you can’t win the big war against the creeps, start looking for small battles that you can win, as the sense of control you gain will sustain your spirit,” Sutton advises.  “And if one minor victory after another begins to pile up, who knows – you might start a movement … where the pro asshole rule is slowly but surely replaced by the no asshole rule.”

And I’ll add a final one.  If you are writing about an asshole, don’t actually type out his name.

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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.

Christie’s “Denial Habit” Runs Amok

new-jersey-governor-chris-christie

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.

GOP Bloviators Go Silent on Middle Names

2016Candidates-GOPRepublican-Attrib-Flickr-DonkeyHotey-15812860637-640x360So, remember that whole kerfuffle two campaigns ago about the presidential candidate whose middle name was Hussein?

Those who were worked up about Barack Obama’s middle name – and what they said it told us about the real nature of his character – certainly were loud. Time after time, they transparently included his middle name is any and every discussion about him. It did, they told us, prove a good many of the assertions they were making about him.

Fast forward nearly eight years, and those same “middle-name” evaluators have gone silent. Even as the 2016 presidential campaign begins to take shape, it’s interesting to note how the loud voices of the past have gone mute.

Despite all they could work with …

Ted Cruz (full name Rafael Edward Cruz) – Rafael? As in Rafael Trujillo, El Jefe himself? Yes, the same Dominican strongman, who ruled that country for 30 or so years. During that period, estimates are that more than 50,000 people lost their lives to his barbaric regime. By the way, Rafael translates to “God has healed.” Meanwhile, Ted, the name he chooses to use (Ted Bundy, anyone?), means “wealthy guardian.” Interesting.

George Pataki (full name George Elmer Pataki ) – Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr. is a convicted American serial killer, currently serving six life sentences in a Texas prison. Elmer was convicted in 1974 for his role in a series of 1970-1973 murders (the “Houston Mass Murders”), in which at least 28 teenage boys were abducted, tortured, raped and murdered by another man, Dean Corll. Many of the victims were lured to Corll’s home by Henley or another teenage accomplice. When Henley was 17, in 1973, he shot and killed Corll. And let’s not forget the fictionalized Elmer Gantry created by Sinclair Lewis in 1926. The tent-revival preacher formed his own church and radio empire. Must be a Republican thing.

Mike Huckabee (full name Michael Dale Huckabee) – We’ve got William Dale Jennings, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the earlier (founded in 1950) gay rights organizations in the U.S. And then there’s Dale Christopher Cregan, a convicted British drug-dealer doing life in prison. He was convicted of four counts of murder – including killing two police officers – and three separate counts of attempted murder. Among other things, in September 2012, Cregan made a hoax emergency call to the police. When two officers arrived, Cregan shot them and threw an M75 hand grenade at them. Both officers were hit by at least eight bullets as Cregan fired 32 shots in 31 seconds.

Marco Rubio (full name Marco Antonio Rubio) – So, Antonio Gransci was an Italian Marxist theorist who has his own commemorative plaque – at Mokhovaya Street in Moscow. The inscription reads: “In this building in 1922-1923 worked the eminent figure of international communism and the labor movement and founder of the Italian Communist Party ANTONIO GRAMSCI.” While Gransci might not be a famous name to you, you probably are familiar with Antonio Raimundo “Tony” Montana, the murdering fictional character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 film Scarface.

Ben Carson (full name Benjamin Salomon Carson) – The corrupt Solomon Pross, a character in Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” steals from his sister, becomes an informer in England, and later shows up as a spy in France. The Bible, meanwhile, tells us that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. The foreign wives apparently pulled Solomon toward idolatry because they worshiped other gods. The Hebrew Bible depicts a visit to King Solomon by the queen of Sheba and tells us that, when Solomon gave her “all her desire, whatsoever she asked,” she left satisfied. Hmm.

Lindsay Graham (full name Lindsay Olin Graham) – Olin is a Swedish name (wait, isn’t Sweden a socialist country!!!) Oh, and it means “to inherit,” which, I suppose, makes it OK. And then there is Nelly Olin, French Minister of Environment. (French!! France!! Environment!!). From 2004 to 2005, Olin was the Minister-Delegate for Social Security. (Social Security!!! She!!)

Jeb Bush (full name John Ellis Bush) – Fittingly, we need not look beyond Jeb Stuart Magruder, who was convicted of conspiracy in the Watergate affair. But there’s also Ruth Charlotte Ellis, the African-American woman who became widely known at 100 as the oldest surviving open lesbian and LGBT rights activist. And Walter E. Ellis, also known as the Milwaukee North Side Strangler, who was an American serial killer who raped and strangled seven women in Milwaukee between 1986 and 2007.

And, lastly, we the Donald, Mr. Trump himself. Middle name John. Not much there. But, in the past there have been multiple bankruptcies involving someone by that name, so maybe … wait a minute, it’s the same guy. Oops. Never mind. Let’s just skip him.

So, wail away, all you talking heads. Treat this next batch the same way you treated that skinny guy with the middle name of Hussein, which, of course, translates to “good,” “handsome” or “beautiful.”

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