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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Breaking the Rules of Crisis Communication

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governingThe 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

At WP, Carolyn Y. Johnson and William Wan write that Trump is breaking the rules.
Spokespersons allow the public to put a face to the act of responding to, investigating, and resolving a crisis. How a spokesperson handles public and media inquiries, in addition to what he or she says, helps establish credibility for an organization. It also contributes to the public’s transition from the crisis stage to resolution and recovery stages. An organization should carefully choose the personnel who will represent it. The selection should be based on two factors: 
  • The individual’s familiarity with the subject matter 
  • His or her ability to talk about it clearly and with confidence
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has provided sound information. But he is just one of multiple voices in the executive branch. Trump is the loudest.  Vice President Pence nominally heads the task force, he he has no expertise in the subject. Other administration voices have been just plain wrong.  On March 6, Steve Benen reported:
At a surface level, there's nothing wrong with a prominent White House official discouraging panic and trying to reassure the public that an ongoing problem is being addressed. But just below the surface, [Lawrence] Kudlow -- who has a notorious track record for being wrong -- went a bit further this morning that he should have.

According to CNBC's report, for example, the National Economic Council director said the economy "looks sound," which was vaguely reminiscent of John McCain insisting in 2008 that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong," even as the system crashed around him.
But more importantly, Kudlow added this morning, "[R]egarding the containment issue, I will still argue to you that this is contained." CNBC's report went on to quote Kudlow saying, "We don't actually know what the magnitude of the virus is going to be. Although, frankly, so far it looks relatively contained."
As the virus spreads, and the death toll rises, there just isn't any reason to look at the public-health emergency and see a virus that's "relatively contained." And yet, Kudlow's odd comments come on the heels of his recent assertion, in reference to the coronavirus, "We have contained this. I won't say airtight, but it's pretty close to airtight."