Political PR Blunders will increaseMy friend, we’ll call him Mike, and I were chatting and laughing about the fact that neither of us will ever be able to run for public office. No, it’s not because one of us has impregnated our housekeeper, paid off a mistress, or tweeted our naughty bits. It’s because we say and do things in private that, made public (even if it is taken out of context) would ruin our political careers.

Not that we are saying or doing anything that bad, but the off-color jokes, snark, bitter emails, or online rants to friends might not pass a critical review. Given our complex lives, interesting work histories, and massive exposure to technology, we agree that at some point in our lives we have either stated, emailed or posted something that could be used against us.

But frankly, if there is someone who is able to say that they have never said or done anything wrong would I really want them to run for office? No!

Really, I am not interested in politicians personal lives. I do not care what celebrities do in bed. I don’t even care what my neighbors are up to. Does having an affair make you a bad person? I am not sure. I once witnessed a famous wife (whose governor husband just got caught cheating) screaming at him in a yogurt shop in Santa Monica. Not all marriages are good. Some are really bad. Lying is ugly. But is it always black and white? Does stepping out on your spouse mean that you cannot do your job? Does tweeting pictures of your privates mean you cannot perform your sworn duties? Does paying your mistress to zip it make you a criminal?

Maybe, but who am I to decide where the fine line lies?

We are in a world of Too Much Information. Social media is going to expose all sorts of stupidity. We are coming to a cross-roads where we have to decide when and if publicized personal failures should become public obsessions. Men are men and women are women. If we force all of our public officials to be perfect 24/7 and skewer them for every mistake (large or laughably small), then we will be left without a single capable person in office.

I would guess that for every exposed Weiner, there are 100 people who are scared away from ever stepping up to the plate and making the commitment to work in the public eye. I reject the media crisis that explodes every time we are subjected to someone’s stupidity. I prefer to focus on making sure I am working to be a better person.

5 thoughts on “Housekeepers, Politicians & Wieners, Oh My!

  1. First, it’s awesome you’re demure and classy enough to call them “naughty bits”. Second, I’d vote for ya!

    24-hour news cycles and the rise and increasing ubiquity of social media make for a toxic stew of deadline-driven drivel, “gotcha!” reportage and pageviews as a measure of successful engagement. Definitely not our parents’ public and media relations. Not that I’m agitating for a return to the heady days of Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite dictating the terms of media engagement, but there’s something to be said for patience, fact-checking and avoiding ideologically-driven agendas when reporting so-called scandals. Indeed, these days fact-checkers are the first to go.

    There aren’t many watchdog groups around with the kind of clout necessary to hold these news organizations to account, if any exist at all. Meanwhile, publicists and PR people are slaves to the aforementioned 24-hour cycles. Sometimes people make stuff up. The increasingly codependent relationship between media creators and purveyors (when they aren’t in the same house, NBCComcastUniversal, or whatever you’re called) makes things that much more suspect.

    Leaving aside the moral implications of the issues under review here, folks in the public eye need to be savvy enough to avoid the appearance of impropriety or staff up with the kind of people best positioned to ensure they don’t screw up. Shame on ya if you’re doing something that brings unwanted scrutiny.

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    1. Ha ha…yes, I am a bit of a prude – or classy and demure, as you call it! 🙂

      OK, even though I probably mostly write my blog just so I can read your comments, I am going to argue with you for a second.

      Yes, public figures need to be savvy enough to avoid the appearance of or actual impropriety. Yes, hiring staff to ensure these things are managed is my recommendation.

      But, here’s where I think we may disagree: Who cares that he sent the pictures? It’s immature and shows some lack of judgement. Being stupid is not a crime and political figures have been caught lying since Cicero. Does lying about your lame sex life make you a poor candidate for public office? I am not sure it does. No one is good at everything. We would barely notice if our frisky neighbor sent pee-pee shots on a daily basis, but everyone freaks out when a public figure does what other people do every day.

      I get that they are special or held to a hire standard, but the truth is, they’re not. They are flawed and have messy lives and are just trying to get by like the rest of us. But why do we draw the line at sex photos, but not hiding campaign contributions? Ted Rall of the Boise Weekly said: It’s certainly not “we did find the WMDs,” a la Bush-Cheney. Who, remember, did not resign. Umm, why does a naked tweet trump WMD?

      I don’t want to get all political nutty lady on you, but many elected officials have done way worse things and stayed in office. Bad PR is a sin in my book, but we can’t have a media circus every time someone sends a snapshot of a body part or a love note. It’s going to happen too often and is simply a distraction from either looking at our own lives or the important business we need to be attending to. I shouldn’t even be writing about it. I should be reading to my kids, or walking the dog or taking care of clients.

      Oodles and oodles of thanks for being here!! ~ J

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      1. I agree with just about everything you’ve articulated here, in the main. I’m also completely comfortable with you’re “politically nutty lady” persona. I will, however, take issue with your characterization of politicians as something less than special. I’ll pose my quandary like this: do you prefer your elected officials to be regular, everyday folks, folks about whom you could reasonably say, ‘I could do what they do’, or do you prefer your congressmen and -women and senators and governors and presidents to be a cut above? For me, I don’t want to look at President Obama and see a man to whom I feel intellectually, morally, and ideologically superior. I prefer to understand him as being a cut above, human though he may be.

        It is unfair of us to idealize public officials, to hold politicians to a higher standard, but that’s part of the package. The fact that exceptions exist to the “do wrong, get caught, get drummed out of office” rule no more insulates and excerpts politicians from the heightened scrutiny attending on their offices than my being a writer and PR professional excerpts me from the consequences that might attend on my bungling a product rollout or poorly editing my work. While the spheres of influence under discussion vary widely, the effects, regardless of scale, are (arguably) the same. Whether the behaviors under discussion (1) are a measure of an elected official’s humanity and, (2) as a member of the similarly-flawed human family, should insulate them from repercussions attending on their poor decisions are almost beside the point.

        You’re right. We, as PR people, cannot police the gamut of human failings, try though we might. We can (and should) cooperate in minimizing the potential for explosively bad events, whether outright lies about WMDs, sex acts in the Oval Office or outing covert CIA operatives. Life in the public sphere is what I like to call an exercise in sustained hari-kari. Every day is an opportunity to die via self-immolation. My issue is less with the morality of Weiner’s actions than with the fact that he was foolish enough to get caught drinking while driving, metaphorically speaking.

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      2. I don’t want to feel superior to my elected officials, but I do not want to view them, as they sit precariously perched on a pedestal, looking down at me, when I know full-well that they have the same struggles, more or less, that everyone else has. My doctor, my lawyer, my accountant can be far superior to me in their skills and knowledge of their particular areas of expertise, but I do basically see us as equals. Meaning, if my accountant gets drunk, goes for a joy-ride and is arrested for a DUI, I may or may not end my relationship with them based on that very stupid, dangerous move. If my accounted is arrested for molesting children, we are done. So if my elected official takes pee pee shots and sends them to women, he still has a chance to continue as my elected official. That’s just how I role. Not every stupid move is a deal breaker to me and that extends to elected officials. If we keep them in the “special” category, we will constantly be falling apart when our unreasonable expectations are not met. In regards to Weiner, I take more issue with his hacker fabrication than the photos he felt compelled to lie about. I would like him to have said, “Yes, I sent those pictures and here’s why and I won’t do it again.” I do not think sending naked pictures is smart, but I also don’t know the context of those conversations. Maybe it was a joke. Or heaven forbid, maybe he was under the impression that women like naked pictures as much as men do. Regardless, we can’t expect every elected official to resign every time they do something stupid. Or, more accurately, we can’t expect every elected official to resign when they do something sexual that makes us all feel weird and uptight, when other, more dangerous political lies and omissions continually go unnoticed. I do not agree with the quick-everyone-look-at-the-penis-guy-so-we-don’t-have-to-talk-about-serious-stuff approach. I bet I’m beating a dead horse here now? Ok. I’ll be quiet. As always, many, many thanks for being here.

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