Arnold Schwarzenneger for Spokesperson of the Year

November 30, 2007

Here’s why I nominate the Gubernator: the California Wildfires and his aggressive response when the media tried to go down the tired and untrue path of finding fault with the response to the wildfires.

It was absolutely expected. Here was a major disaster with people being hurt, property damage huge and many different agencies responsible for responding. The media fully expected that the story line that played out so effectively for them in Katrina about incompetent government would be the main story again. Arnold would hear nothing of it. He was prepared. He had his facts. And when the first hint of this as an emerging story line evolved, he jumped right on it. He said, in effect, anyone who complains about the response is just complaining and they don’t know what they are talking about. As to the criticism about not enough airplanes, he said we have 90 of them, but they don’t fly in 60 mile per hour winds for safety reasons. His tone was aggressive and impatient. He anticipated their nonsense and called them on it. I half expected him to say, “Any of you who go off and write stories other than that we are doing the best possible job is just a girlyman.” Of course, he didn’t, but it was almost there.

Compare that to the run to the caves response of the Department of Homeland Defense and FEMA following the press conference. The more I learn about that (from a very reliable source) the more I see this as a story that is farther and farther from the truth and more in the line of journalistic abuse. Did the agency leaders challenge them on their name calling of a “fake news conference?” No, they ran for the hills throwing anyone they could under the bus.

What about the nonsense of Speaker Pelosi coming to San Francisco to criticize the Coast Guard for a poor response and the CG commander losing his job because of the criticism. The only reason anyone had to complain was that in the very earliest reports, the amount of the spill was under estimated. Where was Arnold to stand up and say “if you girlymen are any better at estimating a spill amount in the first little bit after a spill, maybe you better take that job. You want the best information we can give you absolutely as soon as we can get, then when we give it you with all kinds of caveats about it may be wrong, you turn around and crucify us with it. To make things worse, girlymen, you play into an obvious attempt to embarrass the administration and politicize something where politics don’t belong. Why don’t you pay attention to the competent dedicated work of those who are dealing with this mess instead of somebody who is trying to make political hay out of an accident?”

Until spokespeople start understanding the methods and approaches of today’s media which is increasingly desperate to build audiences and start calling them on their games, the trust situation in this country is going to get an awful lot worse. I hope that when Arnold leaves office (assuming no constitutional change is on the horizon) that he goes into the media training business. Because his style of media engagement is something desperately needed.

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