Oklahoma Politics, People and Issues

 

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Rip or Drip?

By Dr. Pat Meirick May 24, 2017

Director of the OU Political Communication Center and Associate Professor of Communications

 

When it comes to taking off a Band-Aid, there are two types of people. Some painstakingly tease the bandage off millimeter by millimeter, follicle by follicle, over the course of an evening. Others simply rip the Band-Aid off all at once.

If we were to judge by how they handle crisis communication, we’d have to assume that politicians are still walking around with Band-Aids that date from their childhoods.

Political consultants and crisis PR practitioners almost universally say it is best for scandal-plagued politicians to come forward with a heartfelt apology and release all damaging information at once. Not only is it perceived to be less damaging if the information comes from you than if the news media uncovers it themselves, but getting it all out allows politicians to “move on” and “put it behind us.” The other main advantage of coming clean is that it avoids the appearance (or reality) of a cover-up, which often ends up being a worse offense than the one it was attempting to conceal.

However, many politicians are resistant to this advice. Some think they can ride it out and keep the truth from emerging. They try to stonewall the press, offer futile denials (“I did not. Have. Sexual. Relations. With that woman. Miss Lewinsky.”) from which they later have to backtrack, or make partial admissions accompanied by justifications and finger-pointing. This leads to a “drip, drip, drip” of damaging revelations as journalists slowly uncover and confirm the information concealed by politicians.

Such a strategy plays into the hands of political opponents, who prefer that scandals dribble out slowly. They may even temporarily withhold some damaging information about their opponent. When the Bill Clinton campaign in 1992 learned that “Bush/Quayle” signs were being printed in Brazil, Clinton campaign manager James Carville called CBS to offer them the story.  George Stephanopolous offered to find out who -- the Bush campaign, the Republican National Committee (RNC), or a subcontractor -- paid for the signs. Carville stopped him, saying, “That’s tomorrow. ‘Cause see, who got the contract, what guys have lobby things with Brazil -- there’s no sense in this thing being a one-day story. I don’t believe we got to, I think we ought to just ease this thing out a little bit.”

From a game theory perspective, it makes sense to try to ride out a scandal only if 1) the offense itself is bad enough to end your career and 2) you really think you (and everyone else who knows it) will keep the secret. Condition No. 1 may not apply until the cover-up kicks in. Watergate began as a “third-rate burglary” and the Lewinsky affair began as consensual hanky-panky, neither in themselves high crimes. If Donald Trump colluded with Russia to tamper with the 2016 election, that would qualify as big enough.

But maintaining secrecy has been difficult in past presidential scandals, and it appears to be especially so for this administration. It is a massively multiplayer game of prisoners’ dilemma, and if just one person sings, you lose.

Back For The First Time

By Michael Carrier

Director of Communications & Outreach

5.9.17

         We’re back for the first time, and it’s going to be fun.

         For more than a year the University of Oklahoma’s Political Communication Center website has been "up" and “down” as the computer brainiacs describe it.

         We were the victims of a vicious hack that disabled our website and tried unsuccessfully to break into the Julian P. Kanter Political Commercial Archive’s treasure trove of historical campaign ads.

         We like to joke that it was the Russians (just kidding…kind of).

         No matter who the culprit was (Putin, I’m coming for you), it gave us time to ponder.

         We decided to use the opportunity to accomplish two goals: redesign the website with the desire to make it the premiere website for political, government and campaign news and information in Oklahoma, and to make the archive more easily accessible to students, faculty and the general public to use in their educational and research endeavors.

         Today, we blasted off, or as they say in website lingo, a.k.a. “launched."

         All of us at the PCC and Kanter Archive are pretty happy. We may not be the flashiest piece of jewelry in the internet’s gigantic trinket box, but we are cute and simple, functional, easy to browse – and filled with news about the PCC, the archive, our professors, government at all levels, and politics and elections in Oklahoma and around the nation.

         Most importantly, we aren’t going to be boring. We promise.

         Of course, we have everything here a major university departmental website needs:

         Mission statement, contact information, faculty and staff bios and photos (God, I need to lose weight), all the important disclaimer lingo at the bottom of the page, links to our other internet sites, Facebook, Twitter, yada, yada, yada.

         Everyone also can go to the archive from our website and search our roughly 175,000 political ads that date back to the late 1920s. Yes, we are the largest collection of political campaign, election commercials in the world. What most of you don’t know is we also collect some political speeches, short films and videos related to campaigns.

         And, no, you can’t copy an ad without our permission.

         We do provide a primer on how to use the archive – all from our shiny new website. After all, we ARE an institution of higher learning.

         One part of the website we are really excited about is our new blog Communication Breakdown.

         The blog will be the world’s opportunity to read really smart, pithy, funny, serious, and educational stuff from a bunch of really smart, pithy, funny, serious and educated people, all of who are smarter, more pithy, serious and educated than me – but not as funny.

         I will be providing my share of posts, however. You’ll be able to tell it’s me by the byline at the top of each post and from the wailing from my bosses on the Norman campus every time I hit the SEND key.

         We are glad to be back in the world of the living. We hope you enjoy what we have to offer in the coming years and that you will share our website link with all your friends, whether they want you to or not.

         And you can also catch us on Facebook and Twitter at…Ok, no… I’m not closing like that.

         Happy, thought provoking, interesting reading!

         Boomer Sooner!