When Candidates Don’t Get Video and Audio Tape

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Barack Obama for CNN“BARACK OBAMA REPORTING FROM CAPITOL HILL” – Every politician will run afoul of evil video or audio tape. The good ones will get the hang of it and mostly stay off the Daily Show, the bad ones will get virtually bludgeoned on the evening news.

Six years after noted grifter and late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens showed his impeccable technology credentials by likening the Internet to a “series of tubes”, our erstwhile Presidential nominees struggle with the most basic pre-21st Century gadgets. Gadgets like cameras and audio tape. This is a disturbing trend for a gaggle of walking egos intent on becoming the most audio and video-taped person on the planet.

Them’s the Breaks

No candidate is totally consistent in their speeches, especially when their life is one extended press junket. We expect our candidates to have positions on every imaginable issue, but that’s simply not possible. There are far too many and some are too complex for your average Tea Bagger to hear above the “Death to the Obamunist” chants. Questions come by the bushel and candidates sometimes take an on-the-fly position to fill the dead air with something that turns out is wrong, indefensible, and inconsistent with dozens of other stands they take. When you talk for a living, them’s the breaks.

A candidate will repeatedly be excoriated as a flip-flopper if this happens, and there are only two ways to deal with it. If, like Romney, you change positions like a hummingbird with a nectar jones, you claim you never made the statement or were “misquoted”.  Let’s call this the Romney Method. Or, the Gingrich Method, in which the candidate simply labels the questions “stupid” and refuses to answer when they’ve talked themselves into a corner.

But, both methods have a critical technological fault – video tape.  Let’s call this the Jon Stewart Effect.

Misquotable Quotes

Since candidates are publicly paraded like prize ponies it’s likely that when they change course an inconvenient camera or live mic will catch it.  Suddenly the Jon Stewart Effect kicks in. Jon will make a joke accompanied by some video, and then tell another joke accompanied by video showing a 180 degree spin – a move that even the most talented Olympic figure skaters can’t manage.  It’s hard to defend a flip flop or “misquote” when you’re right there on unedited tape flipping and flopping or proving that your “misquote” was really just a “quote” – one that’s undeniably verbatim.

Newt’s method is no better. He can refuse to answer the question, but chances are he’s already on the record facing in a different ideological direction. Invariably, Jon will pick up on it, or worse, the lamestream media – these days, the right wing media – will hand him his ass on a platter. If video technology doesn’t get him, displaying his monumental hubris will reveal him to be the vicious little prick he is. Not a winning strategy, unless he wants to piss on everyone – including current and ex-wives –  often enough they will do anything possible to ruin his self-declared moment in the sun just for shits and giggles.

Campaigners, here’s some advice: Assume every word, thought, and deed – from pillow talk to Iowa pork belly prices – is on tape somewhere. Assume that any contradictions will show up at the most inopportune time. When it does, be prepared to explain in simple words – and this is important…once and only once – that it was an honest change in view of new facts. After that, you said it, you own it, and you better stick to it. There will be no more opportunities to back out on something you’ve clearly said on the record, because, urm, you are ALWAYS on the record. Handle the impact of audio/visual like a technological problem and no one can contradict you, other than you. You can’t compare and contrast a position if there is nothing to compare it to.


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