Edsel. Buckner. Ishtar. And Obamacare?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on October 21, 2013 – 3:01 pm

The Ford Motor Company introduced a new model with great fanfare in 1958: The Ford Edsel. It was a spectacular failure and was pulled from the market within three years. The dud cost the car manufacturer a whopping $350 million—more than $2 billion in today’s dollars.

Red Sox fans watched in horror in 1986 as their first baseman, Bill Buckner, allowed a ball to dribble through his legs. His error cost Boston the World Series title.

Movie executives probably thought a Warren Beatty-Dustin Hoffman comedy was a sure winner. But 1987’s “Ishtar” became one of film’s most notorious flops, barely grossing $14 million against a $55 million budget.

Today, all three of those words—”Edsel,” “Buckner,” and “Ishtar”—stand as single-word reminders of spectacular failures. The question now facing the Obama administration is whether the term “Obamacare” will join their ranks, not in reference to the policy itself, but rather to its botched rollout.

President Obama, aware of the poor rollout’s seriousness and the resulting threat to his namesake legislation, addressed the nation this morning from the White House Rose Garden.

He directly addressed the problems with Healthcare.gov, the website on which people were supposed to have been able to purchase their health insurance at the beginning of this month but which has been plagued with major technological problems. As a result, many people—some estimates suggest hundreds of thousands—have been unable to complete their applications.

From a crisis management perspective, he succeeded only partially. His upbeat message, which sought to put the website’s failure into a larger perspective, will provide some balance to the news coverage he receives.

But the event itself played more like a political rally, complete with “real people” standing behind Mr. Obama as he spoke. Instead of focusing primarily on the website’s dismal performance and his administration’s plan to fix it, he spent the majority of the event touting the Affordable Care Act’s virtues. Those virtues are an important part of the story, yes, but must be paired with credible information about what health insurance shoppers can reasonably expect, and when.

Even after the presidential speech, we still don’t know: How many people have successfully gotten health insurance through the online exchanges? How many have tried and failed? Will the exchanges have enough people in the insurance pool to make them work? When will insurance companies get accurate information about enrollees? And critically, when will the new system be up and running?

By failing to address those basic questions, viewers were left with an unmistakable impression that the numbers are bad—and that the administration doesn’t have a good idea when the website will be at full speed.

 

The 1958 Ford Edsel

 

Given that, here’s the question: Based on its poor rollout, will the term “Obamacare” eventually become another term to symbolize failure, alongside the Edsel, Buckner, and Ishtar? Perhaps a more fitting analogy will prove to be Broadway’s Spiderman, which was plagued by poor reviews, cast injuries, and set problems—which led to the longest preview period in Broadway history—but is now heading toward profitability and commercial success. 

Note: This analysis extends solely to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and does not comment on the merits of the policy itself.

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President Obama’s Latest Syria Surprise

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 1, 2013 – 8:33 pm

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.” – President Barack Obama, August 2012

With those comments—now known as Obama’s “Red Line” remarks—President Obama appeared to remove any ambiguity about his foreign policy. If Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad uses chemical weapons, he seemed to say, we will respond.

Obama’s advisers were surprised by his choice of words. According to a May New York Times article, the phase “red line” was used “…to the surprise of some of the advisers who had attended the weekend meetings and wondered where the ‘red line’ came from. With such an evocative phrase, the president had defined his policy in a way some advisers wish they could take back.”

President Obama Press Conference 2011

His phrase was a classic seven-second stray, albeit one with greater consequences than most. It was unscripted and unplanned, memorable and definite. With those words, Mr. Obama placed himself in a geopolitical box, reducing his number of palatable options.

Fast forward a year to last Friday, when Secretary of State John Kerry offered a rather unambiguous statement: “After a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war,” Kerry said. “Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility.”

With those words, Kerry sent a strong message on behalf of the Administration: The red line has been crossed, and the United States is prepared to act. Kerry’s message was so clear, in fact, that Saturday’s media coverage reflected the inevitability of military strikes.

 

Washington Post Syria Front Page

 

But then on Saturday afternoon, President Obama changed his mind—or “flinched,” as some pundits called it. During a walk with his chief of staff the evening before (and after Great Britain’s parliament voted down military action), Obama changed his plan. Before ordering military strikes, he would ask Congress to authorize military action against Syria.

His abrupt about-face surprised his senior team once again, confused and angered allies, and potentially emboldened opponents.

Mr. Obama’s handling of this issue leaves him in a dangerous place. If Congress fails to authorize military action, President Obama will either have to follow through on his “red line” threat without legislative approval or respect Congress’s “no” vote and break his promise. If Congress does authorize military action, he may be forced to engage in a military action he appears to be at least somewhat ambivalent about.

To be clear, I’m not criticizing Mr. Obama’s end point. Consulting with Congress might have been the right move all along. But by telegraphing something entirely different—only to change his mind at the last minute—he risks looking indecisive, at best, if not outright rudderless.

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New Data: How Twitter Is Changing The Way We Speak

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on June 6, 2013 – 12:01 am

During the final presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney in October 2012, you may remember that Mr. Obama uttered this memorable quip about his administration’s military readiness: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.”

That memorable line was likely pre-planned—and, according to Twitter, it became the most tweeted-about moment of the night.

I’ve written before about the need for media spokespersons to create “tweet-worthy” sound bites prior to their interviews and speeches. (Click here to read that post and to learn the four elements all “tweet-worthy” sound bites should have.)

President Obama seems to have taken that lesson to heart. Two reporters from Yahoo! News looked at the data this week, and had this surprising finding: “Of the 50 major [Obama] speeches Yahoo news analyzed, in every case at least half of the lines were under 120 characters.”

The following pieces of data illustrate the rising influence of Twitter during President Obama’s tenure in office:

  • 69 percent of the sentences in President Obama’s first inaugural address—delivered when Twitter was far less influential in January 2009—contained 140 characters or less.
  • Mr. Obama’s remarks to a Joint Session of Congress in February 2009 were also 69 percent “tweetable.”
  • His 2013 State of the Union speech was up a few percentage points to 72 percent tweetable.
  • “His commencement address to Morehouse College in mid-May [2013'],” the authors write, “was 82 percent.”

 

It’s always been a truism of speech writing that short sentences are better than long ones. But that truth is magnified in the age of social media, when your audiences may take one of your lines and share it with thousands—or millions—of other people.

So before your next media interview or speech, ask yourself these questions: What are my tweet-worthy phrases? Do too many of my sentences exceed 140 characters? And if so, can I make my point more memorably with some strategic trimming?

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May 2013: The Worst Video Media Disaster

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on May 31, 2013 – 7:13 am

The mayor of the fourth largest city in North America was accused of smoking crack cocaine by three journalists who viewed an unreleased video earlier this month. Not just any mayor, but Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, long known as a bombastic loudmouth who isn’t afraid to go on the offensive.

But in this case he didn’t go on offense for several days. His lack of doing so was noteworthy since it was inconsistent with his previous actions—and it led large swaths of the public to reach the conclusion that he’s guilty of at least something.

Here’s the story: On May 16, journalists for an American website and a Canadian newspaper said they had been shown a “secret” video of Rob Ford appearing to smoke crack. The next day, Ford faced reporters and issued this uninspired denial:

If you were falsely accused of smoking crack, wouldn’t you issue a stronger denial? Eight days later—on May 24—Ford finally spoke to the media again to issue another denial. But trucks could have driven through the holes in his vague statement:

Notice specifically what he said at the beginning of this statement: “I do not use crack cocaine. Nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.” He used the present tense (“I do not use…) rather than the past tense (“I have never used…”), a Clintonesque and lawyerly verbal construction that guilty people frequently hide behind. Nor, for the record, had anyone asked whether he was an “addict,” making that statement downright bizarre.

The vacuum caused by Ford’s lack of a solid response led to other charges, including a possible connection to murder. His administration is a mess. His chief of staff, press secretary, and deputy press secretary have all resigned. It will be interesting to see if Ford can survive this scandal—and if so, whether he can get anything done. True to his defiant nature, Ford has pledged to seek a second term.

A note about the Obama Administration’s IRS scandal

The other leading candidate for the worst video disaster of the month was the scandal involving the IRS and its targeting of Tea Party-affiliated groups. The particular moment worth citing was when Lois Lerner, the director of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt organizations office, disclosed at a meeting that her office had indeed been guilty of such targeting.

In addition to other reasons, that moment is worthy of mention because of the ham-fisted way she tried to disclose the scandal. Instead of notifying the press, disclosing everything she knew, taking responsibility and appearing forthright, she tried to slip it out casually during an otherwise routine meeting of the American Bar Association. Worse, she planted the question by arranging for it to be asked by an attendee at the meeting.

Attendees at the meeting were shocked by her bombshell disclosure. Those meetings are usually uneventful; several attendees remarked afterward that it seemed like an odd venue to bring it up.

From a PR perspective, Ms. Lerner used one of the worst possible techniques to disclose damaging information—and in so doing, she diluted her own trustworthiness while increasing the public’s suspicion. This was never going to be an easy scandal for her—or the Obama Administration—to manage. Ms. Lerner made a difficult task even harder.

Rob Ford photo credit: Gawker

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Mark Sanford Plays Deaf | Obama On Syria | In The Doghouse

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on May 7, 2013 – 6:02 am

Today’s post looks at three recent media events that are worthy of mention.

1. Congressional Candidate Mark Sanford Plays Deaf

Remember Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina Governor who had to resign as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, after admitting he was having an affair with an Argentinian woman? You may recall that he infamously went missing from his gubernatorial post—even his aides had no clue where he was—and that he claimed he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail,” a unique metaphor for “sleeping with your mistress.”

Well, he’s trying to become a congressman from South Carolina, and his opponent asked him about his indiscretions during a recent debate. Here’s the exchange:

Sanford declined to respond to the charge, and continued his answer as if he really didn’t hear his opponent. By pretending he didn’t hear the question, Sanford only served to create more headlines that reminded people of his misdeeds. He should have offered a nonheadline-worthy answer instead, such as: “I’ve already discussed that matter in detail, and I think the people of this district are much more interested in hearing about how my leadership would be better for their lives…”

 2. President Obama on Syria

Last August, President Obama declared during a news conference that, “Moving or using large quantities of chemical weapons [in Syria] would cross a ‘red line’ and ‘change my calculus,’” according to The New York Times.

The phrase “red line” appears to have been improvised, according to aides who had attended strategy meetings about Syria. The phase was used “…to the surprise of some of the advisers who had attended the weekend meetings and wondered where the ‘red line’ came from. With such an evocative phrase, the president had defined his policy in a way some advisers wish they could take back.”

“’What the president said in August was unscripted,’” another official said. Mr. Obama was thinking of a chemical attack that would cause mass fatalities, not relatively small-scale episodes like those now being investigated, except the ‘nuance got completely dropped.’”

President Obama Press Conference 2011

It appears as if the President uttered a seven-second stray, one of those phrases that can define an administration—or at least its foreign policy. Mr. Obama should have known better than to use such loaded language in a press conference, which reminds me of President Bush’s dangerous “Bring ‘em on” quip.

The two words “red line” may haunt him. As The Times said in its lead paragraph, Mr. Obama “now finds himself in a geopolitical box, his credibility at stake with frustratingly few good options.”

3. American Kennel Club In The Doghouse

A couple of readers sent me this recent clip from The Today Show about the American Kennel Club (AKC). The group’s inspection program has come under fire recently, with accusations that several AKC-registered operations are mistreating, malnourishing, and abusing dogs.

Those are the kinds of accusations that can destroy an organization’s reputation—so you’d think that the AKC would have been ready to respond. But watch the AKC’s Communications Director, Lisa Peterson, in action:

She lacked answers to basic questions and looked defensive, likely reassuring few viewers. When asked how many inspectors the AKC has, she said nine. When asked whether that was enough, she avoided the question by unhelpfully saying, “That’s the number that we have.”

She failed to set an adequate frame. She should have repeatedly said something such as: “All of us here are passionate about dogs, and we’re disgusted by these reports. Most of our AKC-registered breeders are as passionate as we are, but we will do everything in our power to make sure that no AKC-registered breeder can ever get away with this type of mistreatment again.”

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The Ten Worst Video Media Disasters Of 2012

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 13, 2012 – 6:02 am

2012 was an election year, so it’s no surprise that politicians consistently committed the types of gaffes that took their campaigns far off message.

This year, we heard about the “47 percent,” “tacos,” and “chains.” But it wasn’t just politicians in trouble–an executive, a football coach, and three broadcast personalities also made the list.

Without further ado, here are the ten worst video media disasters of 2012!

Honorable Mention: Kathie Lee Gifford: How’s Your Dead Wife?

In May, Today Show host Kathie Lee Gifford committed an embarrassing gaffe when she asked comic Martin Short how his wife was doing. The problem? Mr. Short’s wife, Nancy, died two years ago. It’s not that she made a mistake. It’s that her question, asked in that typically “insider” show business way, suggested a much more intimate friendship with the Shorts than she clearly had.

 

10. Joe Biden: “Republicans Will Put You Back in Chains.”

When speaking in August, Vice President Joe Biden used an unfortunate choice of words that instantly triggered accusations of racism. He told the crowd, in which many African Americans were present:

“Romney wants to let the–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put you all back in chains.”

Biden denied that his comments had any racial context, but all politicians should have learned to avoid such rhetorical traps from Ross Perot’s infamous 1992 “you people” remark.

 

9. One Mayor’s Pledge to Eat Tacos

When four police officers in East Haven, Connecticut were indicted on charges of beating Hispanic residents, a reporter asked the town’s mayor, Joseph Maturo, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?”

Mr. Maturo’s shocking response—“I might have tacos when I go home”—led to him being blasted by members of the community, the governor, and the media. The rest of the interview wasn’t much better. This may only rank ninth on the year-end list, but it’s my personal favorite of the year.

 

8. Democratic Consultant: Ann Romney “Never Worked”

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen caused a stir during a CNN interview in April when she said that Ann Romney “has never worked a day in her life.” Many women were offended at Ms. Rosen’s assertion, especially given that Ms. Romney was a stay-at-home mother who raised five boys.

Rosen’s comment, which helped Republicans neutralize the “war on women,” quickly drew condemnation from within her own party. Within days, President & Mrs. Obama, Vice President Biden, White House Spokesman Jay Carney, and Campaign Communications Director David Axelrod all condemned her remark. 

 

7. Football Coach Offers Cash for Injuring Opponent

In a remarkably violent and vulgar audio tape released in April, former New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was caught offering players money to injure members of the opposing team before a 2012 divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. About one player, he said:

“We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head…we want his head sideways.” About another player, he said, “we fuckin’ take out that outside ACL.”

Mr. Williams’ disgusting rant earned him an indefinite suspension from the NFL. May he never spend another moment on a professional, college, high school, or youth football field.

 

6. Clint Eastwood Hijacks Mitt Romney’s Big Night

On the final night of the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney accepted his party’s nomination to become the Republican presidential candidate. He proceeded to deliver a fine speech. Unfortunately, actor Clint Eastwood–who took the stage minutes before him–stole many of the headlines Romney had earned.

Eastwood took the stage accompanied by a bar stool. For 11 painful minutes, Eastwood addressed the bar stool as if it was President Obama. It was off message, bizarre, and embarrassing–and the news media spent precious minutes discussing Eastwood afterward instead of Romney.

 

5. Rush Limbaugh Calls Student a “Slut”

Bombastic right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh isn’t known for mincing words – but his vicious attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was extreme even by his own loose standards. 

Ms. Fluke testified before a Democratic House panel that Georgetown–a Jesuit university–should be required to provide contraceptive care as part of its health insurance plan. Mr. Limbaugh responded by asking if she was a “slut” or “prostitute” who is “having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk.”

He didn’t seem to understand that the cost of a woman’s contraceptive care doesn’t correlate directly to the amount of sex she’s having; nor did he factor in the many health reasons women use contraception. But his advertisers understood, and they fled his show in record numbers.

 

4. Susan G. Komen Founder Blows Crisis Response

Susan G. Komen founder Nancy Brinker appeared on MSNBC after her organization cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, allegedly because Planned Parenthood provides abortion services. The resulting crisis was a disaster for Komen that threatened to destroy in a matter of days the favorable reputation it had built over decades. 

Ms. Brinker bombed the interview, during which she claimed that “the responses we’re getting are favorable,” seemingly oblivious to the firestorm around her. She edgily blamed her critics for not “bothering” to read more about their decision and failed to express any reassurance to her supporters who felt betrayed by the decision.

The group’s fundraising took a major hit, with fewer women participating in Komen’s annual races. In Washington, DC, 40,000 women raced in 2011; only 26,000 did in 2012. Similar drops were reported in several other U.S. cities.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

3. The First Debate and the Other Barack Obama Gaffes

From “The private sector is doing fine” to “If you have a business, you didn’t build that,” President Obama offered his opponents plenty of fodder for negative attack ads.

But it was Mr. Obama’s shockingly lackluster performance in the first presidential debate that may have been the biggest surprise, leading to an immediate decline in his poll numbers and a collective freak out by his Democratic supporters, who wondered how badly he really wanted a second term.

During the debate, Mr. Obama responded to Mitt Romney’s attacks without any discernible passion, instead making meandering points full of “uhhhs.” The video below is an edited compilation of some of Mr. Obama’s more than 200 “uhhhs.” It’s emblematic of how hesitant and unfocused he was throughout the debate.

 

2. The “47 Percent” and the Other Mitt Romney Gaffes

Whether saying “I like being able to fire people,” criticizing London about its Olympics preparation during a trip to the U.K., or boasting about his wife’s two Cadillacs, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney couldn’t get out of his own way all year. But it was his comment about the “47 percent” that may have sealed his fate:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it….My job is not to worry about those people.”

The video was a disaster for Mr. Romney’s campaign, taking them far off their desired messages just two months before Election Day.

 

1. Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape”

Missouri’s Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin, caused an uproar when he used the phrase “legitimate rape” during an August television interview.

But it was what he said immediately afterward that was both scientifically false and terrifyingly ignorant. Speaking about the possibility of a woman getting pregnant after being raped, he said:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin’s comment served as a perfect example for Democrats pushing the theme of a Republican “war on women.” Republicans, aware of the damage Akin’s comment would have on the rest of the party, quickly begged him to quit the race. He refused. And Democratic incumbent Clare McCaskill beat him by a whopping 15 points in a race that favored the Republican challenger in many early polls. 

Although Akin wasn’t alone in these types of comments–Indiana’s Richard Mourdock and Joe Walsh swam in similar waters–his was the most high-profile.

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Barack Obama: The Most Charismatic Candidate Always Wins

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on November 7, 2012 – 11:01 am

CNN went on the air in 1980, ushering in the era of the 24/7 media age.

For the past 32 years, Americans have gotten to know their presidential candidates better than ever before, with the hopefuls on their television screens seemingly non-stop.

There have been nine presidential elections in the age of around-the-clock media, and one thing has remained true in all nine: the more charismatic candidate has always won. 

Photo credit: Win McNamee of Getty Images

Consider these nine elections:

  1. In 1980, the more charismatic Ronald Reagan defeated dour incumbent Jimmy Carter.
  2. In 1984, Reagan crushed Walter Mondale.
  3. In 1988, George H.W. Bush—never accused of being the most charismatic man in the room—defeated an even less charismatic Michael Dukakis.
  4. In 1992, the super-charismatic Bill Clinton defeated the more patrician George H.W. Bush. He was re-elected in 1996 by beating Bob Dole, a candidate fond of asking crankily, “Where’s the outrage?”
  5. In 2000, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore. Although that election was contested, I’d argue that Bush’s edge in charisma allowed the race to be that close in the first place. And in 2004, Bush won re-election by beating the more patrician John Kerry.
  6. In 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain, who almost defined the word “cranky.” And in last night’s Election 2012, Obama won re-election by beating the less charismatic—and yes, more patrician—Mitt Romney.

The last time I posted an analysis of this sort, another pundit complained that my analysis was superficial since “N=8.” In other words, he argued that eight points of data weren’t enough from which to form any conclusions.

With last night’s election behind us, “N” now equals nine. The trend is holding.

Why is that? The more time candidates spend beneath the media spotlight, the more time voters have to decide whether or not they like the (usually) men running for office. That may seem like a superficial way to choose a president. But it also makes sense that voters want to elect the candidate they’d rather spend the next four years looking at in their living rooms.

Whatever the reason, one thing is undeniable: voters have elected the more charismatic candidate every time.

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October 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on November 1, 2012 – 5:30 am

It’s little surprise that October was quite a month for media disasters.

Weird things happen in the final weeks of election season, and this month was no different. From the memorable presidential debates to a politician discussing rape to a California primary fight that almost turned violent, October was a month to remember.

Here, without further ado, are the five worst video media disasters of October 2012!

5. Al Gore Blames Altitude for Obama’s Bad Debate Performance

Democrats were left scratching their heads after President Obama’s dreadful first presidential debate in Denver. What caused his lackluster performance, they wondered? Was he tired after four years in office? Distracted due to the debate night occurring on his 20th wedding anniversary? Did he just have an overall disrespect for the value of debates themselves?

Whatever the reason, no one had a more outlandish excuse for him than former Vice President Al Gore, who suggested that Denver’s altitude was to blame. My favorite part of this clip? That his sycophantic co-hosts gave his idea some credence.

 

4. Two Democratic Opponents Almost Come to Blows

A California House race nearly became violent as two Democrats locked in a primary battle—Brad Sherman and Howard Berman—almost came to blows. It got so heated, their exchange had to be broken up by a nearby police officer.

The Jewish Journal reported that, “The inciting incident came after Berman, for the second time in the debate, took credit for authoring the DREAM Act.”

 

3. Mitt Romney’s Libya Moment and His “Binders Full of Women”

Mitt Romney had two buzz-worthy moments during the presidential debates.

The first came in the second debate, when—with menacingly arched eyebrows—he denied that President Obama had called the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi an “act of terror” the day after the attack (in fact, he did use the term “act of terror” in a statement on Libya the next day).

Although Mr. Romney may have been right on his larger point, he was wrong on the specific point, allowing the President (with the help of moderator Candy Crowley) to win the exchange.

Mr. Romney’s second memorable moment occurred during the same debate, when he explained his commitment to gender equality by sharing an anecdote about looking through “binders full of women” as Massachusetts governor to consider them for job openings.

Sure, that phrase was inelegant. But the more important question many women were asking afterward was why, after so many years in business, Mr. Romney knew so few qualified women to consider for those positions in the first place.

 

2. Senate Candidate Steps on Rape Landmine

During a debate earlier this month, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock worded his position on abortion in the case of rape as follows:

“Life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”

 

Critics pounced, accusing Mourdock of saying he believes that God intends rape to happen. Mourdock bitterly complained that his words had been taken out of context; he and his supporters explained that he didn’t mean that God intends for rape to occur, but rather that the life itself is a gift from God.

Based on my reading of his comments, I’m willing to give Mourdock the benefit of the doubt. But his imprecise word choice left him open to attack. And it’s not like he didn’t have ample warning to prepare a less ambiguous statement on this topic—any Republican running on a similar platform this election cycle should have improved upon Todd Akin’s awful example.

 

1. President Obama’s First Debate

First, let’s get this out of the way: this was not a “gaffe” in the traditional definition of a gaffe. But in terms of sheer political impact, President Obama’s performance during the first presidential debate is impossible to ignore. As a result of his lackluster performance, Governor Romney immediately surged in the national polls and closed the gap in several vital swing states.

If President Obama loses next Tuesday, historians will cite this debate as a major reason why. If he wins, it will be a lot closer than it otherwise could have been.

The video below is an edited compilation of some of Mr. Obama’s many “uhhhs.” It’s emblematic of how hesitant and unfocused he was throughout the entire debate.

 

Bonus #1: Mitt Romney Surrogate John Sununu’s Racist Statement

If you’re white, you’re almost certainly voting for Mitt Romney because he’s white, too. Right?

That was the logic behind a statement made by former New Hampshire Governor (and current Mitt Romney surrogate) John Sununu. After General Colin Powell—who served as George W. Bush’s Secretary of State—announced his support for President Obama, Sununu shamefully reduced Mr. Powell to merely being a black man who casts his vote on racial identity alone instead of being a person whose votes are based on actual thought.

 

Bonus #2: Joe Walsh: Women Don’t Die Due to Pregnancy Anymore

Did you know that women don’t die during childbirth anymore?

That, according to Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL), who says “life of the mother” exceptions to abortion laws are no longer necessary since medical technology makes such cases non-existent.

If only someone could share that news with American’s uncooperative women, who occasionally lose their lives due to complications of pregnancy.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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