What the Romney Campaign Should Have Said
Matt Rhoades, Romney’s clever campaign manager, responded to insinuations that the Republican presidential candidate is a felon:
“President Obama’s campaign hit a new low today when one of its senior advisers made a reckless and unsubstantiated charge to reporters about Mitt Romney that was so over the top that it calls into question the integrity of their entire campaign,” Rhoades said. “President Obama ought to apologize for the out-of-control behavior of his staff, which demeans the office he holds. Campaigns are supposed to be hard-fought, but statements like those made by Stephanie Cutter belittle the process and the candidate on whose behalf she works.” He added that we need to “turn the country around.”
Reading Mr. Rhoades’ statement, I knew how Jurassic Park Doctors Grant and Malcolm felt when the T Rex severed the electrical fence and began destructively stomping through paradise. Somewhere in the Romney campaign, a writer with big feet is lumbering about.
It’s time to analyze the debris field left by Mr. Rhoades’ literary T-Rex and issue an “alternate press release,” indulging my dream that Mitt and Matt somehow read it and weep with remorse. They put Rex back in the paddock and install the Bat Phone in my home for the proverbial 3 A.M calls during which they beg me to draft responses to Jon Stewart and Ron Paul.
Okay, back to reality. Let’s start with the plethora of platitudes. In only three sentences Matt’s tyrannosaur managed to write five:
“Hit a new low”
“Over the top”
“Calls into question the integrity of the entire campaign”
“Demeans the office” (of the Presidency)
“Belittles the process”
The first effect of these platitudes is to make the hearer seasick. In the space of five seconds Rhoades goes from “a new low” to “over the top” and finishes turning the country around. Stop! I want to get off!
Platitudes should be banished from all political communication because they either mean nothing or they are used so frequently that they instantly cause the listener or reader to disengage intellectually.
Platitudes disrespect listeners because they are devoid of intellectual content. Do not bother voters unless you have beneficial ideas. Platitudes confirm you have nothing of substance to say, but persist in speaking. This is obnoxious and rude and makes people wish you would go away, not a good thing if your goal is to move in for four years.
When a politician says, “The campaign hit a new low,” it stimulates the same synapses that process emails with the subject line, “Please help me bring Nigerian fortune to Baton Rouge.” Fatigued with “new lows,” we shrug. And yawn. No matter how significant the “new low” is, when preceded by “hit a new low,” the value of your opponent’s stooping falls by 75%, on a good day.
“Over the top” is like “outside the box.” Its novelty has been depleted. “Over the top” is lazy-speak for excessive. Say excessive.
“Demeans the office” and “belittles the process” are, pardon me, horses ready for Elmer. In this case they are also not true. Richard Nixon using the presidential powers to punish rivals or cover up his criminal behavior demeaned the office. Obama bowing to everyone but the White House Party Crashers demeans the office. A silly campaign staffer uttering trail trash doesn’t demean the office. When everything demeans the office, nothing does.
“Belittles the process.” Almost every negative exchange between campaigns can be said to “belittle the process.” This should not be the case, but it is. Because so many politicians used this expression, it provokes nothing more than a cynical snort.
The dire tone of Rhoades’ statement is too extensive, too intense for the mindless slashing in question; inaccuracies quickly proven false by simple fact checking. The Romney campaign should reserve this level of anger for attacks leveled by the President himself and later in the campaign. T-Rex has his boss pounding about for nothing. The campaign manager for the next President must not flail, but be surgical and elegant.
My last suggestion is more tactical than technical. Dishonest politicians are not newsworthy, they are expected. Rather than trying to extract indignation over this, Rhoades should use the incident to dispel the myth of Obama and his administration’s intelligence.
Instead of demanding that the President of the United States apologize to Romney or “calling into question the integrity of the entire Obama campaign,” Mr. Rhoades should have calmly pointed out that this is one more proof that Obama is not a good manager. He picks stupid people to work for him. This is problematic when one is CEO of the free world. Imparting this core concern to voters illustrates that you are intelligent. If you are intelligent and Mitt Romney picked you to speak for him, this makes him a good manager and therefore, a better leader than Obama.
Platitude-Free Press Release – What Mr. Rhoades Should Have Said
“Everyone knows Obama’s campaign to re-elect must focus on discrediting Mitt Romney. The staff needs to distract voters from the President’s Carteresque record during these final months of his term in office.
Ms. Cutter’s confused accusation is not so much evidence that Obama’s advisors are dishonest, but rather that they are ignorant.
Obama’s senior campaign strategists are clearly oblivious about the most routine practices in successful private-sector business. Perhaps they never witnessed a temporary delegation of authority when a boss’s economic and organizational expertise is requested to resolve a national crisis.
Governor Romney didn’t pretend to leave Bain in 1999, he asked others to run his company while he salvaged the Salt Lake Olympics. By misunderstanding standard office procedure, Obama’s team exposed again its utter ignorance of how profitable companies accommodate requests for real talent.
Mitt Romney isn’t concerned about having Ms. Cutter apologe to him, but hopes she and those hired by the President educate themselves about daily procedures in functioning American businesses.”