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How Things Work

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A couple of things happened in Our Nation's Capital this week that caught my eye, and might be of use to you as you prepare for your Public Relations 312 midterm exams.


The first was the case of Jill Kelly who popped into our national consciousness as an outgrowth of the David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell affair becoming public. You remember all of that and I won't recount the entire thing which, as Jeff Bridges' character said in The Big Lebowski "has a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous."

Here, if you are at the top of your game as a crisis management expert, you handle this.

First, you get hired by the client. In this case the Kelly’s hired Judy Smith. An excellent choice as it turns out.

Then you come up with a grand strategy - in this case get the book closed on the Kelly/Broadwell/Petraeus/Gen. John Allen business - at least at it involved the Kelly’s.

Here's what happened.

On January 22, 2013 the an Op-Ed was published by the Washington Post signed by both Jill and her husband Scott Kelly. I have no doubt that it was not written by the Kelly’s, but I have made a pretty penny ghostwriting op-eds and letters to the editor ever since I was a young press secretary on Capitol Hill, so no harm there.

In the 717 word essay, the Kelly’s laid out what happened, what didn't happen, and why they believe their lives were turned into a Kardashian episode through no fault of their own.

Ok. Fair enough. They get to make their case and they made it.

But, that's not what makes excellent crisis management people excellent crisis management people.


On the very same day as the Kelly's piece ran in the Post, former Post media reporter - and now Washington Bureau Chief for the Newsweek/DailyBeast site - Howard Kurtz published an exclusive interview with Jill Kelly in which she more-or-laid out what happened, what didn't happen, and so on.

I occasionally write for the and am paid for having done so.

Ok. Op-Ed in the Post and an exclusive interview by a well-respected Washington insider. Pretty good.

But, here's the capper: Also on January 22, 2013 the Pentagon announced it was closing the case of Gen. Allen and the correspondence he carried out with Mrs. Kelly via email.

Three. For. Three.

And, for extra credit, the next day the White House announced that Gen. Allen's nomination to be the top military officer at NATO was back on track.

That's not just good. That's magical good.

The second example takes far less time to explain.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified on Capitol Hill about what she knew and when she knew it about the Benghazi attacks.

I am a huge fan of Secretary Clinton. I thought she was a great Senator for New York (note, please, she was not the Senator from Georgia or Texas); and I thought she presented the U.S. in an excellent light when she traveled the world as Secretary of State.

But. It was no secret that Members of the House and Senate committees have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of her testimony. That testimony was delayed when she fainted, fell down, bunked her head, and ended up in the hospital.


The Obama Administration owes Mrs. Clinton a lot for carrying its water at State. Moreover President Obama personally owes former President Bill Clinton an enormous debt for jumping into the recent campaign and (at least publicly) wholeheartedly supporting Obama's re-election bid.

So, what did the White House do to partially pay off it's bills? They had Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announce - maybe as Secretary Clinton was testifying - that he was rescinding the rule against women serving in combat roles.

As the comms people at the White House knew it would, the Panetta announcement diluted - if not completely rinsed out of the public discussion - Hillary Clinton's testimony.

The Clintons may not have burned the mortgage they hold on the Obama's, but they know there has been a serious pay-down.

As someone who has spent most of his adult life in this arena, I can only stand and shout Bravo!.

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