Channeling Calvin Coolidge

In the bizarre echo chamber that is today’s public space, the media are pounding on President Obama to express his inner rage about the gulf oil spill.  Pollsters then ask the American people their opinion about the president’s demeanor.  Looking up from their smart phones in mid-text just long enough to answer the question, the American public affirms that the president should be expressing more empathy.

The families of those killed in the explosion and gulf coast residents deserve much sympathy but the widespread perception that President Obama is going down because of his refusal to act out must surely be a high water mark of the media’s obsession with the “get it” factor.  We have generally applauded the increasing frequency with which CEOs in crisis have tried to show their human side but we may be reaching a turning point at which terseness and brevity on the part of senior executives will convey a bracing honesty amid the deluge of fawning faux apologies with full orchestration.

In crisis communications, as in most things, there is a fashion cycle and the empathy/transparency moment may soon be shifting in another direction.  If it does, we will all become students of Silent Cal, that great master of opacity, who said “I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.”  And he meant it.


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One Response to “Channeling Calvin Coolidge”

  1. Return of the Nattering Nabobs « Disturbing Conventions Says:

    […] Return of the Nattering Nabobs By Peter Hirsch Clive Crook, writing in today’s Financial Times, rightly warns the British commentariat against complaining about the perceived anti-British tone of criticism of BP. Let us hope that his advice is taken to heart, in contrast to the switch in tone taken by President Obama’s administration last week in response to media criticism that he was failing to express the appropriate outrage (see last week’s post, Channeling Calvin Coolidge). […]

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