Mark Sanford Plays Deaf | Obama On Syria | In The Doghouse
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 phrase 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.’”
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.”
I like the mini-story format, when it fits, though I also like when you drill down on topics worthy a more in-depth analysis.
I don’t think Obama’s phrase is by any stretch “administration defining” unless we indeed end up in a full-scale war as a direct result of this one comment in one press conference. The whole episode seems more inside baseball to me. He didn’t say, “We’ll send in troops if . . .” He simply said such an egregious act would factor into future decisions, which is a logical observation.
The response is worth mention, and somewhat telling. But I question the extent to which this one comment would be seen as defining administration policy.
First, thank you for your feedback on the mini-story format. It’s never going to be the most-used format on the blog, but I like having the flexibility of doing a round-up piece on occasion for the stories that might otherwise slip through the cracks.
Regarding the “red line,” I believe it could be used by President Obama’s opponents as an easy hook to point out what they perceive as his international weakness. It’s an easy line to be used to mock the President as someone who continually draws “red lines” but fails to follow through on his threats. (Many liberals would concede there’s something to that, based on some of his failed negotiations with Republicans, in which he gave up some of his key policy goals before the negotiations even started.)
We’ll see if it becomes defining in any long-term way. I’m not certain it will be, but wouldn’t be surprised if it does.
Thanks, as always, for reading and leaving your thoughtful perspective!