We are a passionate nation. From baseball, to abortion rights, to immigration, it seems everyone has a viewpoint. And we express it loudly. All you have to do is listen to the outcry over an ump's blown call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game and his chance of making it into the history books.
Our nation is founded on the passion of the oppressed who for centuries have done whatever it takes -- including risking death -- to land on our shores and cross our borders. Abroad, we are known for our imperial and indiscriminate view that America rules the world. This is who we are.
So why, Mr. President, don't you get it? Why are you remaining calm while the nation is watching wall-to-wall coverage of this gushing underwater geyser? Especially now that we're seeing powerful pictures of pathetic birds and dolphins covered in oil.
Why haven't you told the American people that, to quote Network, a movie about tv executive Howard Beale -- 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!'" Why haven't you -- instead of CNN's Kyra Phillips -- stood on the ocean drilling rig with Admiral Thad Allen and been our messenger of anger? Why haven't you looked BP CEO Tony "I want my life back" Heyward in the eye and told him to stop his whining?
Rage is building. Your presidency is on the line. And yet in an interview with CNN's Larry King, you calmly tell us that "My job is to solve this problem and ultimately this isn't about me and how angry I am." What you say may be true, yet you are misreading the pulse of the people. We want, we crave your outrage.
You need to take a page out of your nemesis former President George W. Bush's playbook. He got it right when days after 9-11 he climbed to the top of the rubble with a bullhorn at the base of what was left of the twin towers and vowed to fight back against terrorists. Where is your bullhorn?
Your media advisers are falling down on the job. Press Secretary Gibbs said yesterday in his daily press briefing that "what the American people and the citizens of the Gulf are expecting are results. And I think that's what the President will be measured by. I'll leave emotional psychiatry to others." Really? It seems the emotional state of the President is driving news cycles -- a no-no when you are trying to get out your message that the administration is in control.
While critics say that getting mad doesn't bring us an inch closer to solving the problem, it will calm our country and give us a sense of justice. We are accustomed to and like irrational outbursts.
It's not too late Mr. President.
As a journalist, I know all too well how the media enjoys analyzing the White House tactics for managing the press. For us, it's sport. It's so obvious to us what you need to do and how you need to do it. Isn't someone, somewhere in the administration guiding you on Media Management 101?
Here's a primer from all of us in the Fourth Estate scratching our heads on the sidelines as your administration bungles its way through missed media opportunity after missed opportunity:
Number One: Get out front and center in the heart of the action and get mad.
Number Two: Repeat number one.
Number Three: Watch the video of the oil-soaked wildlife. Express human emotion at the senseless tragedy.
Number Four: Be the messenger of positive action your administration is taking. Examples: When you start a criminal investigation, get out in front of the press and tell us. Don't announce it late at night in a memo from Attorney General Holder's office. When you cancel trips abroad to deal with the crisis, tell us personally.
Number Five: Act as if the victims in the tragedy are members of your own family. Spend time with the families of those killed and those who have lost their livelihood as a result of the spill.
Number Six: Use social media (Gibbs' Twitter account?) to hammer your message to the people.
Number Seven: Take credit when something good happens. If it ever does.
We get your need to 'speak softly and carry a big stick'. But I promise you, in this instance, it won't hurt you to bang that stick against the wall.
Lauren Ashburn is President of Ashburn Media Company. She is a 20-year veteran of print and broadcast news and a former managing editor for the Gannett Company.
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