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Running With The Bull

Hillary_conventionIf you've been reading this blog for a while, many of you know, despite my longstanding conservative bent, I believed firmly Hillary Clinton was the best pick for president.  I've moved past my disappointment in the Democrats for choosing Barack.  It's still fun to watch as the candidates have dangled hints their VP choices in front of us for weeks.  As Letterman said of the Biden pick the other night, "Nothing says change like a 35-year veteran of the Senate."  But on the other side:  if McCain wants any shot at the White House, his VP pick will almost have be a minority or more necessarily a woman to lure the disenfranchised Hillary supporters who are on the fence over these two mediocre candidates; to have "two white males" on the ticket sets the Republicans up for almost certain failure in November.  (I don't suppose there's any chance Hillary would switch parties last minute to become John's running mate... oops... forgot to turn on my "inside voice" filter... sorry.)

Sigh.  So many office politics applications.  So little time.

But I wanted to take a moment to talk about Hillary's speech last night.  Some of the traits I admire about Hillary are her ability to turn a phrase to her own gain.  I was telling a friend of mine this past week, "All Hillary has to do is deliver a speech that makes herself sound good and will have both sides arguing about what she really meant."

Congratulations, Hillary!

She reaffirmed my reasons for thinking she was the best person for the job.  After all, the President of the United States needs to be skilled in oratory skills - not just making pretty speeches, but in letting each audience member come away with his or her own interpretation.  Reagan was a master of that.  It was entertaining on multiple levels to flip between the talking heads on Fox News and CNN last night after her speech was complete.  Wow!  One would wonder if they were talking about the same speech delivered by the same person.  Let's face it, the hosts on the talk shows on both sides are sheep; none showed much critical thinking ability in truly dissecting the speech objectively.  Last night I heard the following:

  • She only mentioned Barack 9 or 10 times.
  • She mentioned him more times than Kennedy mentioned Carter in the 1980 Convention.
  • She merely said not to vote Republican.
  • She unified the party.
  • Her description of McCain was more personally glowing than her description of Obama.
  • She's a strong Barack supporter now.
  • She never talked about Barack's character or leadership; she could have delivered that same speech about any of her Democratic opponents.

(Just for fun, would you like to match the above comments to CNN or Fox?)

Now to the professional applications:  When we communicate a message - especially a really tough message - how much time do we really spend on things like word choice, tone, and voice?  Do we expend much effort on our audience's interpretation of our communication, or do we just spit out what we want to say?  Do we read body language of our audience to tell if we're connecting with them (by the way, someone needs to teach Michelle Obama how to smile when listening to somebody she loathes... that scowl on her face during Hillary's speech was something neither party could miss).  Whether we're communicating remotely or in person, do we do some research on our intended audience to figure out what their hot buttons are and what they want to hear?  Are there times when you need to communicate something by saying absolutely nothing?  To summarize, when we communicate, are we asking ourselves what we want to say, or are we asking ourselves what we want our audience to hear?

I'm not really looking for a political debate on this.  After all, if the talking sheep on CNN and Fox can't agree, why would a little ol' blog have anything new to add.  Believe it or not, I'm still relatively in the undecided camp, and I'll probably make up my mind when I'm casting my ballot in November.  But until then... Wow - it's going to be a fun nine weeks until the election.

I am, however, looking for a good communication debate.  What have you done in the past to communicate your message effectively... on your own terms?  Did I assess the Hillary speech correctly?  What has been your most impactful communication you've delivered?


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Jeff Hutton

Tim, you're quite right ... Hillary did exactly what she needed to do with that speech. If Obama does not win in November, it's Hillary in 2012 and she'll win.

Timothy Johnson

Great assessment, Jeff. Her wording was so perfect for achieving what she needed to accomplish.

Now if Obama does become a 2-termer, Chelsea will be old enough to run in 2016. :)


I am secretly hoping that when the do a roll call tonight, she wins the first ballot.

Rush Nigut


Hilary Clinton does not believe Barack Obama is qualified to be president. She said it over and over and over again throughout the campaign. She also said John McCain was qualified. Because of this the speech rang hollow for me. It was not genuine and that it critical in effective communication.

Your post, however, is very good. You should run for president.


Timothy Johnson

Actually, Rush, I don't think there was a hollow word in that speech... it was carefully worded enough to allow her to express her true feelings (i.e., I despise Barack Obama) without coming right out and saying it.

Rush Nigut


Thanks for making my point exactly. (i.e. She hates Obama and didn't mean a word she said).

But this is still a great blog post despite the fact we disagree. I really mean that.


Timothy Johnson

I like to disagree agreeably, Rush. And thanks for the kind words about the post. We'll have to see what the Sarah Palin VP pick does for McCain. After all, nothing says Republican like a mom with a moose burger and an automatic weapon.

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