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PR and Credibility
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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One of the worst things to befall a PR professional is suffering a loss of credibility. The same can be true for a sitting President of the United States. Bad PR can derail a sitting President just as much as a serious credibility gap. The loss of credibility concerning the Vietnam War is largely what cost Lyndon Johnson his chances for reelection; the same occurred with his successor, Richard Nixon, over Watergate.

Two recent columns in the Wall Street Journal seem to suggest that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has had that happen to him. Evidence appears to suggest that a major portion of the electorate no longer believes what Mr Obama says. In his recent WSJ article, Daniel Henninger says that continued fallout from the September 11 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of our Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans has seriously undermined the credibility of the Obama Administration and harmed, perhaps irreparably, his reelection campaign. He noted, Obama’s “clumsy handling of Benghazi, however, has opened a gap in the president's credibility. What else can explain Mitt Romney ascending in polls to equality with the president on foreign policy and terrorism before the last debate?  ...

“Among my top five events of the 2012 election will be that fellow in the town-hall debate who said, "I'm not that optimistic," and asked the president to address what he's doing about "everyday living" in America. He was asking the president he voted for why he should still believe. Mr. Obama diverted into telling him about ending Iraq and killing bin Laden. Instead of presidential assurance, he got talking points. His weird, persistent vagueness about the shape of a second-term agenda has sown doubt about the economy going forward. Only now is that agenda being revealed, more or less, with a 20-page pamphlet, ‘The New Economic Patriotism.’ A new Obama ad urges viewers to ‘read it.’"

As Karl Rove noted in a different article also appearing in the WSJ, “The Obama campaign strategy also has three elements. The first was embodied in a glossy 20-page pamphlet issued Tuesday, entitled ‘The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security.’ Mr. Obama is distributing 3.5 million copies of it nationwide but it is too late: Voters concluded months ago that he lacks a forward-looking program. The pamphlet itself is a second-rate repackaging of Mr. Obama's lackluster convention speech and has been rightly dismissed by many in the press as a PR ploy. Even an accompanying TV ad swing won't rescue Mr. Obama.”

Henninger ended his article on the credibility gap Obama faces by commenting, “It may be that voters think both candidates have stretched the truth, but credibility is the coin of a presidency. The political cost of devaluing that coin is higher for an incumbent seeking a second term and higher still for this one. Two weeks from Election Day, Barack Obama has been shown in Benghazi to be a president with feet of clay. It may well take him down.”

In less than two weeks, we will see.

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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