Why I'm Forgiving Lebron (Even Though I Told You I'd Never Forgive Him)

This morning a friend emailed me to ask what I thought of Lebron's announcement in Sports Illustrated.  (He and I worked together when Lebron announced he was "taking his talents to South Beach" and I swore I'd never forgive him.)  I don't claim to speak for everyone from Cleveland (I'm actually from a suburb of Akron) but this is what I wrote in response.  

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A few days ago my sister and I spent about 30 seconds talking about Lebron.  To be honest, I hadn't really been following "the Decision 2.0."  I'd read a story or two, but wasn't obsessed like I'd been four years ago.  My sister said the same thing.  We agreed that it just wasn't the same.  Sure, we said, it would be great if he returned to Cleveland, but we didn't think we'd ever love him the way we used to.  Some break-ups are just too painful.
 
I know it sounds silly to say I "loved" an athlete I've never met, but I think part of what made us all love Lebron was the fact that he gave Clevelanders (and those of us from Akron) something to be proud of.  

I mean, it sucks to grow up in a town that the rest of the world views as a punchline.  As long as I can remember, every time a sitcom needed an easy laugh, they'd have a character say he had to go to Cleveland (like that's the worst, imaginable fate.)  National sports broadcasters fill airtime with jokes about burning rivers.  You hear the phrase "mistake on the lake" so many times you start to think it yourself.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may be in Cleveland, but the induction ceremonies are in NYC.  Even our football team wanted to play somewhere else.  We loved Lebron because he gave us something to be proud of.....no, there's a lot to be proud of in Cleveland...he gave us something the rest of the world envied.  Other towns may have world class hospitals and universities, but they didn't have Lebron.  We did.

So, when he left, after a dramatic "will-he-or-won't-he" build-up -- in which every prognosticator (including all of my non-Ohio friends) basically said: "Why would anyone want to live in Cleveland?" -- it felt like a betrayal.  Not only was he telling all the haters they were right -- that no one with options would ever willingly stay in the cliche that is our home town -- he did it in an hour-long, nationally televised special.  It sucked and I didn't think I'd ever forgive him for it  That is, until I read his sports illustrated explanation (as told to Lee Jenkins).

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Just Putting Out a Press Release Doesn’t Get Press

If you’ve ever worked in PR or communications, raise your hand if this scene sounds familiar:

INT. YOUR OFFICE - END OF WORK DAY

YOUR BOSS/CLIENT/COWORKER enters. He reveals that he’s spent the last X number of weeks, months, maybe even years on an exciting project that is finally done.

BOSS/CLIENT/COWORKER: "I am here to discuss the rollout strategy for this very exciting project that I expect to get lots of press attention."

YOU: "Wow. I had no idea you were working on this project. It does sound very exciting. I can’t make any promises, but we will certainly do our best to get reporters to cover it."

BOSS/CLIENT/COWORKER: "Great. We need it to go out tomorrow."

Your jaw hits the floor. It’s almost five, you still have a dozen calls and emails to return and NOW you have to figure out how to deliver “lots of press” on an issue you’ve never seen before...by tomorrow???

YOU: "If you want to get press on this, I’m going to need more time."

BOSS/CLIENT/COWORKER: That’s impossible. Tomorrow’s the deadline that we’ve been working round-the-clock for days/weeks/months to meet.

YOU: "Why didn’t you involve me sooner? I could have worked with you to make sure the project was camera-ready for roll out."

Your boss/client/coworker looks at you like you’re talking a foreign language. Why would they have included you before now? They already know how the public is going to respond: They’re going to love it. And getting press will be easy (They know this because they believe that anyone who has ever read a newspaper is qualified to do your job.)

BOSS/CLIENT/COWORKER: "What’s the big deal? We just need you to put out a press release."

You resist the urge to throw a stapler at your boss/client/coworker's head.

FADE OUT

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Let's Blame Jenny McCarthy

For the record, I agree with everything Frank Bruni wrote in his recent take down of Jenny McCarthy’s role as an anti-vaccine advocate.  I hope everyone who helped give credence to the former Playmate’s medical opinions feels ashamed of themselves.  I really do. 

I, however, disagree with Bruni’s inference that the McCarthy episode is somehow unique and that our nation’s debates aren’t regularly skewed by non-expert opinions masquerading as facts.  I’d actually argue that the only thing unique about the anti-vaccinators is the current backlash against them.     

Bruni asks: “When did it become O.K. to present gut feelings like hers as something in legitimate competition with real science?”

Good question, but I’m pretty sure it’s been going on for awhile.

Right or wrong, “Gut feelings” dominate our nation’s policy debates, because they’re powerful.  

Want to energize voters?  Appeal to their gut feelings.  Validate their fears. Simplify complex policies until they make basic, gut level sense and then dare your opponent to disagree.  Trust me, they won’t, because there’s nothing harder to argue against than a gut feeling.

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Why Don't More Senators Take Pride in Being Senators?

Ben_Franklin.jpgU.S. Senator Martin Henrich’s (D-NM) strongly-worded statement this week cautioning the CIA that “The Senate Intelligence Committee oversees the CIA, not the other way around” is – in my mind – remarkable for the sheer fact that it’s remarkable.  

One of the things I have most struggled to understand about elected officials is how few of them seem to revel in the role of being an elected official.  Maybe it’s just me, but if I ever put myself through the hell necessary to become a U.S. Senator, I’d take a lot of pride in being a U.S. Senator.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d wake up every day trying to figure out how to be the best U.S. senator ever.

Think about it.  If you were a member of Congress wouldn’t you want that to mean something?  If – for example - you got to serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wouldn’t you want the Senate Intelligence Committee to be a really important and powerful committee?  If your job was to conduct oversight, wouldn’t you get ticked at the suggestion that oversight isn’t valuable or that your contributions would be anything other than worthwhile?   Wouldn’t you want your constituents to look at your work and say: “I’m proud that MY senator is the one asking tough questions.”  “I feel safer knowing that MY senator is ensuring that the intelligence community really is doing its best to keep me safe.”  Call me crazy, but I’d be furious if I found out that the NSA or CIA was hiding stuff from me, if only because it implies that they think they care more about my constituents’ safety than I do.

Again, maybe it’s just me, but if I spent my work days surrounded by statues and paintings of the courageous leaders who came before me, I’d say to myself, “Self, how can I be more like THEM?” 

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Republicans Don't Hate Obamacare

hate_obamacare_than_love_US.jpgMSNBC’s Thomas Roberts recently asked GOP Representative Marsha Blackburn if she “hated Obamacare” more than she “loved her country.”  She dismissed the question as “incredibly inappropriate.”  Personally, I don’t think the question was inappropriate as much as it was dumb.

I’m not saying Thomas Roberts was dumb for asking the question.  Quite the opposite.  By cable news standards, it was a smart move, the perfect kind of pointed, gotcha question destined to be cut, posted and shared across the Internet by the droves of Obama-fans MSNBC counts on to cheer when points get scored for their team.  Every angry click earns ad revenue for the network, inching Mr. Roberts closer and closer to liberal cable star status.

No, it was a dumb question because Republicans don’t actually hate Obamacare. 

Seriously.  You can’t hate something if you don’t know what it does and I highly doubt most members of Congress (Republican or Democrat) could give you an accurate description of what the Affordable Care Act actually does.   

But – let’s be honest for a second – they don’t care what it does.  Because – with all due respect to my Republican friends – Republicans don't view the Affordable Care Act as a law that will make it easier for some Americans (myself included) to purchase health care.  Rather, Republicans see the Affordable Care Act as a highly successful campaign message they’re loathe to lose.  

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What Convinced Obama to Reverse His Position on NSA Surveillance?

8734868513_42f8f0e4dd_m.jpgSince details of the NSA’s surveillance programs started coming to light in early June – and President Obama’s been forced to publicly answer for its activities – the president has repeatedly reminded us that he came into office with a “healthy skepticism about these programs.”  But, after careful evaluation, he determined “that on, you know, net, it was worth doing.”

Some of these programs I had been critical of when I was in the Senate. When I looked through specifically what was being done, my determination was that the two programs in particular that had been at issue, 215 and 702, offered valuable intelligence that helps us protect the American people and they're worth preserving. (From his August 9th Press Conference.)

It’s a rhetorical strategy intended to win his critics’ trust by demonstrating that he understands our concerns because he used to share them.  The message he wants us to take away is: if we had been in his shoes and saw the evidence he saw when he got into office, we would have signed off on these programs too. 

Well, yesterday we got a glimpse of some of the evidence he saw when he assumed office – at least in connection to the NSA’s collection of U.S. phone call records -- and, it begs the question, what exactly changed his mind about the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs?  What did the President see that led him to the conclusion that everything he had previously said on the topic was wrong because allowing the NSA to collect everyone’s phone call records really is a constitutionally-supported, great idea?

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