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  • “Can You Assure Us Right Now…..”

    Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, appeared on MSNBC the other day and was pressed by correspondent David Shuster to deny an allegation from the Obama camp that controversial ex-Senator Phil Gramm would be named Treasury Secretary in a McCain Administration.

    Bounds called the allegation absurd but steadfastly avoided ruling it out.

    A better technique might have been to say something along these lines:

    Our opponents are trying to make mischief by inventing false stories like this. Senator McCain, in contrast, is focused on winning the election — not on making bogus predictions about the never-to-be Obama cabinet.

    I can tell you this, however, David.

    YOU have about as much of a chance of being named Treasury Secretary as some of the names the Obama campaign are tossing around.

    If, come November, McCain wins and Gramm is nominated for Treasury, Bounds can always tell David Shuster that he was first runner-up.

    The proposed answer above assumes that the candidate is unwilling to take the issue off the table now by simply saying: “No. Gramm will not be nominated for Treasury in my administration.”

    While that answer would seem to settle the question — the downside is that it opens Pandora’s Box. Once you’ve answered that question…it is hard to duck follow-on questions: “Well, how about this person? Or that? If Gramm won’t be Treasury Secretary can you assure us he won’t be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors?” Generally, therefore, it is best to not to start answering those kinds of questions.

  • Colorful = Coverage, Dull Does Not

    Want to ensure that you get on the air? The key is making your point in a memorable way. Sounds simple but most interviewees seem to go out of their way to say the same old stuff in the same old way.

    The networks apparently all agree that if you need a good quote on a financial story, the go-to-guy is Art Cashin, the Director of Floor Operations at the New York Stock Exchange for UBS Financial Services.

    Earlier this week, CBS correspondent Anthony Mason wanted to know if there was more bad news to come following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. So he asked Cashin.

    “This is the fifth time we’ve seen this movie. And you sit on the edge of your seat and yell at whichever character it is: ‘Don’t go into that woodshed!’ But they keep going in,” Cashin said.

    The Cashin quote is about 2 minutes and 8 seconds into the CBS News video embedded below:

    Watch CBS Videos Online

  • Think Ahead

    McCain advisor Carly Fiorina made news yesterday by “committing truth” saying during a radio interview that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is not qualified to run a major corporation.

    Fiorina tried to do some damage control in a subsequent interview (see below)

    during which she said that McCain, Obama, and Biden aren’t qualified either and that the point is that running the country is not like running a company. True, but the explanation was a little late.

    When doing media interviews you have to resist the urge to answer every question. Instead you need to think ahead about how an answer may be misperceived or spun by your opponents and answer accordingly. Instead of doing damage control — interviewees need to try to do no damage in the first place.

    The correct answer to the original question of “Is your candidate qualified to run a major corportion?” would have been “That is the wrong question. Americans are not looking to hire a corporation head — they are looking to hire political leaders. And the candidates best suited for that job are…”

    When asked a question like “Is Palin qualified to run a corporation?” The interviewee is under no obligation to answer either yes or no…and either answer would have guaranteed trouble. When offered two bad options…it is always wise to go with “none of the above.”