Former US VP Cheney Opens Up in “Heart”

 Former US VP Cheney Opens Up in Heart

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to former US Vice President Dick Cheney.

How do you revamp the image of someone accused of being heartless? Show that he has a heart – literally. Former US Vice President Dick Cheney’s new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, was published this week. Cheney, who served for eight years under President George W. Bush, kicked off the media on CBS’ 60 Minutes and continued on to the major morning shows.

Cheney is something of a cardiac miracle: he’s suffered five heart attacks and has had surgery to place stents, a pacemaker, and a pump. Finally, in 2012, he had a heart transplant.He waited 20 months for a new heart, nearly double the waiting time of most transplant recipients. No special treatment there.

The book has also provides interesting tidbits about Cheney’s tenure in the Bush White House. For one, his health history prompted him to sign a resignation letter in advance should he ever be alive but incapacitated. His cardiologist also had Cheney’s pacemaker altered so it couldn’t be hacked by a would-be assassin.

But the book serves another purpose. In the twilight of their lives, politicians have been known to contemplate their legacies. Heart shows that the now 72-year-old Cheney, whose nicknames include Darth Cheney and the Dark Lord, is, indeed, human – flesh and blood, just like the rest of us. At least, that’s what the book says.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to former US Vice President Dick Cheney. Nobody wants to go into that good night known as Dr. Evil.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: (Almost) no one is beyond redemption. When public figures open up about personal struggles or admit to fears, it can often blur the edges of a sharp character or reputation. Perhaps it’s through a memoir (safe but labor intensive) or on Oprah’s couch (riskier, but with a wider audience). In that sense, Cheney is lucky: His bad ticker has given him rich material to mine for such an effort. But can one book soften so many years of harsh criticism? That’s a tall order, and not one for the faint of heart.

Will She, Or Won’t She? Hillary Gets Coy

 Will She, Or Wont She? Hillary Gets Coy

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was so determined to succeed in her run for president, there were doubts that cooperation between her and the man who would be President, Barack Obama, was even possible. Vice President was out; would she even accept Secretary of State, or would she pack up her toys and go home? Everyone knows the answer to that one, as this week Secretary of State Clinton leaves her post having logged more flight miles than any of her predecessors. Now that her consolation prize post is over, is she setting her laser-beam sights again on the big chair?

There are no indications coming from her directly, though there are enough indications swirling around her to give political pundits much to speculate about. First came a positively chummy interview Sunday past, with Hillary and President Obama on 60 Minutes. When asked if she was considering another run in 2016, Clinton replied, “I don’t think either [Obama] or I can make predictions about what’s going to happen tomorrow or next year.” The interview was seen by many as an endorsement, despite the president’s attempt to laugh that off.

Clinton was more direct during an interview with CNN yesterday, during which she said she had “absolutely no plans to run.” A forthcoming memoir may provide a few more interesting clues – or not. For now, the former First Lady and outgoing Secretary of State will keep everyone wondering whether she’ll try to add the ultimate title to her resume.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Hillary Clinton. Altogether more intriguing than any other politician.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep people guessing, and you keep people thinking about you. Clinton knows when to give, as she did during her very real testimony on the attack on the American consulate in Libya. She also knows when to withhold, with a blithe smile, as she does whenever she’s asked about another attempt at the presidency. Hillary Rodham Clinton has become a master of giving and withholding information, ensuring that the public, love her or hate her, will snap to attention whenever she speaks. Give a little . . . but not too much, and you’ll get the lion’s share of attention.

The Romney-Ryan Tango

 The Romney Ryan Tango

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) so far for Paul Ryan.

How do you PR package 42-year-old Paul Ryan for vice president?  And what’s the PR dynamic for his running with Mitt Romney? Father-son? Teacher-pupil? Firebrand-moderate? Or just great pals? This choreography will be more carefully planned than the finals of Dancing With the Stars.

Both political sides are excited by the Ryan announcement. Ryan rouses fiscal conservatives – at last, said the commentators,  a candidate who has built his reputation on fiscal discipline. Democrats, on the other hand, think they have been handed a political gift. “The man who wants to end Medicare” is now their political rallying cry.

A generation younger than his potential boss, Ryan has the charisma and energy to appeal to voters. His positioning is that of the Young Turk brimming with ideas, energy, and conviction. Romney may find himself playing second fiddle to a younger deputy with stronger, more headline-grabbing ideas. Where does that leave Romney: agreeing with Ryan on all matters, or being the more moderate, generational elder? How can the  younger, pushier brand, Ryan, compliment and not overshadow the more seasoned brand of Romney?

The PR Verdict: ”B” (Good Show), so far, for Paul Ryan and his opening salvos. His youth, vigor, and ideological commitment seem to have energized his party. The PR work is now to position both candidates as being not only on the same page but having the same level of firepower and conviction.

The PR Takeaway: Brands need space. Ryan has captured the headlines with some radical views, and his brand is becoming clear. For Romney, his own brand positioning needs to reaffirm who is running the show – a public tango where Romney needs to be seen in the lead at all times. Romney’s faux pas on the day of the announcement, when he introduced Ryan as the “next President of the United States,” could be a portent of a potential PR problem. Romney, for the sake of his own candidacy, needs to make sure that he is seen as being in charge of the ideology, as well as the campaign.

Is Paul Ryan a wise or radical choice for Romney? Give us your PR Verdict!

Rice for Vice? Condi Cancels Her Date with Mitt (Nicely)

 Rice for Vice? Condi Cancels Her Date with Mitt (Nicely)

The PR Verdict: “A” for Condoleeza Rice.

Condoleeza Rice for vice president? Maybe, just maybe . . . But then, NO. What started as a news item on the Mitt Romney-friendly website The Drudge Report  went quickly mainstream. Would Condi make the move? But two days later the general consensus was, “Let’s call the whole thing off.” Case closed.

Rice was always a long shot. If Romney’s PR problem is that he is considered too remote to galvanize the grassroots, then adding Condi Rice would have made a tough campaign even tougher. Besides, given that Romney has tried to steer clear of the Bush legacy, having a stalwart of the Bush years as the Number Two on the ticket would be walking into a host of problems.

Cynics have suggested that Rice was put in the headlines to take news editors minds’ off Romney’s tax filings and his leadership of Bain capital. As a PR strategy, this has merits. But no campaign can have brides publicly rejecting the ring. This had to be limited to a quick diversion. As for Condi, the PR dilemma was this: How do you decline a proposal without offending?

The PR Verdict: “A” for Condoleeza Rice turning down an unofficial vice presidential proposal politely. No one likes rejection, but this issue needed to be cut short before it gathered too much steam.

The PR Takeaway: Dating rules apply in PR. Condi took a leaf out of the old breakup book: It’s not you, it’s me. Publicly turning down the Republican Presidential candidate could seriously impair his campaign and make the next person who accepts look like an also-ran. Without commenting directly, her flaks reiterated her previous comments that she prefers policy over politics. Campaigning for public office is not for her, they said, while Condi herself was nowhere to be seen. With such an elegant TBNT (Thanks, But No Thanks), Romney felt no rejection, and the door remains wide open to a potential candidate. Would that more politicians could handle things so nicely . . .

Did Condoleeza Rice handle rejecting Romney well? Was the rumor of her being asked to consider the VP slot a PR diversion away from his tax issue? Tell us your PR Verdict!