Monday, January 07, 2008

Getting to know you

Roger Simon describes what it's like to interview Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Fred Thompson. "Some people have asked me what I thought of them personally. I don't have much to say about that, since the amount of social time around these interviews would total up to about ten minutes. These men are clearly scheduled down to the second ... But back for a second to the personalities of the candidates."

I was impressed with all of them as men and politicians. They all seemed informed and, as I noted, enjoyed what they were doing, which makes it fun for the interviewer. Regarding Thompson, I am puzzled by the lack of voter support. I saw no evidence of the laziness charge and he appeared a prepared and knowledgeable candidate. Perhaps this is a media myth that has been adopted by the public.

The Thompson 'laziness'. "Perhaps this is a media myth." The media myth. One of the most interesting aspects of watching TV is that the viewer gets the impression he understands what's going on. And to some degree media coverage conveys real information. But the contrast between the actual persona and the media image is one which probably strikes anyone who has met a public figure in the flesh. We know this and are consequently curious to know what Roger Simon thinks of the candidates in person.

Why do we uncover new information when meeting someone in person? Probably because nearly all of us have developed the skill of judging people by their body language and responses. When we meet public figures they react to us and since we have become adept at interpreting those types of reactions we get new information that is unavailable from merely watching them on TV. We "ping" them. Active sonar is to meeting them in person what passive sonar is to viewing them on a screen.

Personal and unscripted encounters, even of a limited kind, allow us to interrogate the candidate in subtle ways. The information available on the personal channel and the information yielded through it may have spelled the doom of Hillary Clinton's candidacy. Her candidacy was buoyant for as long as voters had access only to the media information channel. It is sinking now. The conventional wisdom is now that "the more you see Hillary, the less you like her". What that really highlights is the information differential between the personal encounter and the media coverage channels.

Some will argue that there are varying degrees of "personal" encounters. Robert Shrum, a strategist formerly on the campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry, asserts that Hillary's problem is with the middle distance. The public hasn't seen Hillary closely enough. "Contrary to the caricatures, Hillary Clinton is a real person, often funny in private, with engaging qualities that have been well-hidden in this campaign. ... So it's a long shot, with one and only one possible road to recovery: Let Hillary be Hillary." In Shrum's view to know Hillary, to really know Hillary, is to love her. It's something to think about.


Blogger Nomenklatura said...

In Shrum's view to know Hillary, to really know Hillary, is to love her.

I'm finding this difficult to reconcile with the string of abusive profanities which reportedly issue routinely from her mouth, directed at whatever lesser mortals are both in range and unable to talk back.

The criteria one applies at close range are different, but they don't disappear.

1/07/2008 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Cris said...

In Shrum's view to know Hillary, to really know Hillary, is to love her.

He's the guy, who, in the words of Matthew Yglesias, thrice saved us from a Democratic presidency, so his views will surely be proven right.

1/07/2008 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

The waiter rule
The CEO who came up with it, or at least first wrote it down, is Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. He wrote a booklet of 33 short leadership observations called Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management. Raytheon has given away 250,000 of the books.

Among those 33 rules is only one that Swanson says never fails: "A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person."

Swanson says he first noticed this in the 1970s when he was eating with a man who became "absolutely obnoxious" to a waiter because the restaurant did not stock a particular wine.

"Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with," Swanson writes. "Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles."

1/07/2008 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Watching Thompson in the debates, I can understand the "lazy" charge.

He is not lazy. But lacks energy to forcefully respond to questions, or interject, or speak quickly and clearly at the issue at hand. Too often he channels Arthur Branch, his Law and Order character. Too much ruminative Elder Statesman.

His schooling of Huckabee stands as an example. He did not demand or make Huckabee be quiet while he corrected him on the issue of Gitmo and expanded rights for AQ prisoners moved to the Continental US.

1/07/2008 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

More and more I see an idea Republican ticket as being Rudy for Prez and Fred for VP. I like Fred and I think he's well-informed and not lazy. He just doesn't strike me as having the streak of vicious and ability to pay-back that I want my President to have. But I think he'd spin the anti-American Yurps and Arabs and moonbats at DC cocktail parties, and that would be fun to watch.

And if Fred and Rudy were plotting and planning together I think even the CIA might sit up and play straight for a while.

1/07/2008 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

I was involved peripherally in a newsworthy event (largely positive news) over the holidays. And the press reaction and reportage was as I've found in the past, the main points make it thru the filter but there is an additional fraction which underwrites some establishment (at times counter establishment) conviction and a surprising amount of error. Where in-person contact with reporters seems to reduce the error and increase bias, or perhaps any and all reporting has always served multiple goals, including using the attention any article draws to re-emphasize the of memes of the day.

Still, I’ve learned to think that getting it 50% correct should be considered success - i.e. when asking someone who knew nothing before reading an article what happened they can recall 1 or 2 of the 5 facts, and (only) 1 or 2 misstatements or downright errors.

1/08/2008 04:20:00 AM  

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