So, “No”, Then

“Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack? That’s a very important question and it’s in the national interest that we find out what went on so we can better respond,” the president said. [qtd. in Facility Owners Charged As Deaths Hit 423, Associated Press]

It’s amazing how much — and how little — Mr. Bush packed into these two sentences. In some ways, it’s like a PR master class.


  • The first rule of PR is “answer the question you wish you were asked.” Bush goes one better by punting the question altogether, basically just agreeing it’s “a very important question” but not answering it.
  • Note the use of what “went on“, as opposed to what “went wrong“. PR types never like to admit that anything went awry, ever. This goes double for most Republicans, as I’ve said before.
  • The word “better” is another marketing favorite — because it allows for sentences such as “What was great is now even better!” It’s also marvelously vague: rather than giving any concrete, measurable metrics, or even specific verbs like promising to “fix” the problems or “speed” the aid, we get an empty promise.

Bush is hardly inventing these techniques, though. This is merely corpo-speak writ large. But in this time of national tragedy, of war and calamity, don’t we deserve more? Don’t we deserve…this:

But if the president really wants to turn around the perception that he’s failed, he has a better option than belated hyperactivity and spin: Bush should put his own prestige on the line by appearing in an unscripted public forum to answer questions about the government’s response to the disaster. He should schedule a press conference, or, better yet, a town hall meeting with residents. The directors of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security can join him onstage, if they’d like, but this president who likes bold action should promise that he will be the one doing the talking. [from “Political Hurricane” by John Dickerson]

You bet we do. But I’m not holding my breath.

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