Whether governmental officials like it or not, the American media is a sound byte driven industry playing to an audience with an instant message mindset. Public people - - especially members of a presidential administration - - must speak with simplicity, clarity, and brevity, or the message gets muddled.
The current communication problems in Washington by no means begin and end with Mr. Chertoff; the Bush administration has suffered with such problems for most of it’s second term. This has been a disappointing surprise, given the performance levels of Mr. Bush and his team during his first presidential campaign, and his first four years in office.
When running for the presidency, then-Governor Bush sold Americans on his Reagan-style tax cutting proposals with a simple metaphor: “The American people have been overcharged, and I want to given them a refund” he said. With education, he campaigned on a platform of increased school accountability so we would “leave no child behind.” And after the terrorist attacks of 2001, President Bush pin-pointed the nation’s goal to “hunt down the terrorists and bring them to justice.”
But arguably since early 2005, the administration’s “message” has not been so successfully managed. In March of that year, at an engagement in Arizona wherein he was poised to unveil his immigration reform proposals, an undisciplined President Bush veered off topic and on to the subject of Terry Schiavo, the disabled woman who had her feeding tube removed and was dying in Florida.
The President’s “pro-life” remarks were admirable. Still, his statement about Ms. Schiavo, “it’s best to err on the side of life,” made headlines for months afterward, and the introduction of his new legislative agenda was completely overlooked in the press.
Many Americans - - especially many conservative Americans - - insist
that a focus on public rhetoric is merely a matter of image, style, and form, and prefer to focus on “substance” instead. But in a world such as ours, a President loses the ability to advancehis “substance,” (his agenda) if the “form” isn’t adequate.
Let’s hope the present administration gets their “form” back on track, before the problem becomes costly to the troops, and the nation as a whole.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.