Sunday, April 11, 2004

Body Count 

The White House is trying to handle a devastating communication that is sabotaging every effort to get the president re-elected. That is the body count of US troops the media are keeping. Each report of a death is an announcement of another block of votes taken from the President and deposited with the challenger.

From a public relations perspective, there is nothing one can do to counter this kind of communication. The country is not united on Iraq and reports of deaths move the populace against the desires of the President. What the President is trying to do in Iraq may be right. But, that doesn't make a difference. The President has the public relations task of convincing you and you and you and you that he is right and deserves your support. By appearances, he has not done that successfully, and every attempt is met with a withering barrage calling it spin and lies.

Frankly, if I were counseling in the White House now, I would be discouraged. The US has to stop the killing first and impose a peace. Iraq needs to fall out of headlines and into the second half of newscasts or in the depths of a newspaper's first section. It has to be overtaken on Web sites with other concerns. In the last two weeks, months of work have been blown away. And now generals are determining if they should commit more troops. The Democrats are calling it a quagmire and "another Vietnam." It has similarities even though they are slim.

What this tells me is there are problems for which there are no realistic PR answers. All the "spin" in the US cannot overcome the image of a Marine with a loaded bodybag slung over his shoulder.

I don't wish to be partisan. I am interested in communications. If the White House can dig itself out of this pit and regain the confidence of the American public, my hat will be off to them for pulling off a great feat.


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