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Advice for the incoming Communicator-In-Chief?

With just a few days left before the presidential election it’s time to consider one of the most important tasks facing the President-Elect: taking on the role of Communicator-In-Chief.

Barack Obama and John McCain have revealed different styles, attributes and messages in a tough campaign.

How either Obama or McCain presents himself in their victory speeches, during the transition and at the inaugural speech will make a big difference in how a new admistration will be able to lead and govern. Its difficult to imagine a time when more Americans will be scrutinizing every word, nuance and gesture of a president-elect

Given what we know how do you see the communications challenges facing the winner? What advice would you give? Should they stick to what got them here, or adjust and adapt their communication strategy, tactics and tone? And what about the loser? Will boilerplate congratulations and pledges of bi-partisanship suffice, or is something more and different required in these times?



I believe that Obama’s communication style is a corrective to our images of America, not because he avoids them, but he puts them in a context that is much closer to reality. He is able to express the imperfections of American democracy, without playing them against the ideas of freedom of the founding fathers. The lens of his own life makes this possible. This is not just someone speaking about his country: he is speaking about himself and his country. I think speaks as an “everyman” to the entire free world, and all politically thinking and acting people in the world, who often seem powerless when confronted with enormous challenges. Many of them are not only clueless, but also speechless. For they use a language that is stale; it does not spring from actual life, but rather from a stilted bureaucracy.

Politics that lack clear words in decisive places and moments loses its soul, without which every political action is nothing more than pure administering. We administer crises, and pass them along to the next generation. We seem to be missing a language that is able to speak clearly about the fissures in modern civilization, a language that addresses our own contradictions and insecurities so that we might correct them.

Barack Obama has found this language. His language is an antidote to the poisonous divisiveness of George W. Bush and his polemics on the Axis of Evil. A voice that is not about specific parts of the world, but one addressed from one human being to another. Bi-partisanship is not the unifying factor, Obama directs us beyond the barriers to the common ground. Barriers produce fear, they are symbols of division and the source of conflict and war once they become walls we cannot pass through. I think Obama has huge challenges at home and away but I believe he has communicated his vision for change in such a way that the United States will be seen as and will be the “city on the hill” again. I am looking forward to what is to come, for once I believe we are the governement of the people and by the people. This is what will make us great again as nation.

Les Blatt

No matter who wins, I don’t think it’s going to be sufficient for him to “stick to what got them here.” What got them “here” has largely been rhetoric (and not particularly good or sensible rhetoric) with little or no substance. That’s not going to work for a sitting president. That infomercial, for example, was precisely that: an infomercial, clearly identifiable as such and about as substantive as they usually are: even CBS and the Associated Press called BS on it, which is odd, given the miserable job done by the media in asking questions and actually covering the campaign. Whichever candidate ultimately wins, he is going to find nearly half the nation inclined to look on anything he says as BS. That’s a very dangerous situation – and a massive communications problem that is going to need solving. The old answers no longer make sense.

Andy Gilman

Since we posted this last week, I’ve been thinking a lot more about this subject. We could all write a version of the conciliation speech and the phone call’s from loser to winner, and vice versa. The last few days of the campaign have been the nastiest, let’s hope it’s just “politics.”

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