by Beverly Eakman
October 26, 2012
Okay folks, this is a test—and no reading ahead. For those who read last week’s article on this site, “It’s About ‘Perception Management’, Stupid!”, and who also tuned into Monday night’s final presidential debate: Name an example of “perception management” that was woven into this last match between the two candidates. Hint: It is not among Barack Obama’s or Mitt Romney’s spoken arguments.
To refresh your memory about the tactics of PM: “[P]erception management combines truth projection, … cover and deception, and psychological operations.”
Still can’t find it?
Mitt Romney is 6’ 2” and almost 200 pounds. Barack Obama is 6’1” and between 170-180 pounds. When shown full-length—for example, shaking hands, side by side—Mr. Romney is clearly the larger man.
Now look at the debate close-ups of the two talking heads, while they were actually debating. Who appears larger? Which man filled up his half of the screen, and then some?
Answer: Barack Obama.
It’s a small thing. One could easily shrug it off. Or maybe just give the networks the benefit of the doubt in trying to select the most flattering close-up camera angle to accommodate the two-candidate debate format.
Yet, in an era of morphing technology that allows experts to take, say, Tom Cruise’s head and place it convincingly upon Leonardo DiCaprio’s body, the chances of this “perception” tactic being accidental are slim. Because larger bodies (not fat, of course) carry a psychological advantage for men (why do short actors wear shoe lifts, after all?), portraying Mr. Obama as roughly 20 percent larger than his challenger conveys a “perception” of strength and energy, thereby providing a small edge.
Perception management 101.
The same perception management practiced by front groups on a national scale is also the domain of candidates’ political managers, called “handlers.” Professional “handlers” figure the public is too stupid to recognize ambiguity, inconsistency, twisted facts, and poor analogies. They think the viewing audience will forget (or not bother to look up) what candidates actually say versus what TV pundits and analysts claim the candidate said immediately following the debate.
“Immediately” is the key word here. Whenever a pundit uses a phrase or comment that appears to closely resemble comments expressed by a candidate, the last thing listeners hear is what they generally believe.
As it turned out, Mr. Romney failed to even mention, much less challenge, several of President Obama’s foreign policy gaffes and exaggerations. Governor Romney could easily have sidestepped the small disadvantage imposed by any surreptitious camera shenanigans or a TV pundit’s after-commentary. He even had golden opportunities to establish some sort of “Romney Doctrine.” Yet, he did not.
In fact, some network commentators said that Gov. Romney had made a conscious decision ahead of time to avoid countering the President on most foreign policy issues and, rather, go with his strengths—which Mitt Romney supposed to be the economy and jobs. It sure looked that way. Gov. Romney made frequent returns to well-worn sound-bites about his five-point economic plan and unemployment statistics whenever he could fit them in. These were his “talking points,” not foreign policy. Consequently, Romney sounded scripted; his expression looked pained.
Even when he did manage to turn the subject toward jobs and global competitiveness, he gave Barack Obama a free pass on the education front. Why didn’t Mr. Romney's handlers insist he bone up on the President’s poor track record? Programs like the Early Learning Challenge and his phony-baloney Common Core of Standards: Both are nothing more than renamed, failed programs—modeled on the Effective Schools Movement of the 1970s; Mastery Learning in the 1980s; America 2000 in 1992; Outcome-Based Education in 1993; Goals 2000; and the late Teddy Kennedy’s brainchild, adopted by George W. Bush, No Child Left Behind in 2002. The reasons for their collective failures can be boiled down to the fact that (a) early childhood programs are aimed at government-subsidized day care, and (b) so-called “standards” don’t focus on hard knowledge.
To his credit, Gov. Romney mentioned, in passing, the benefits of state, over federal, control of education. But he missed an opportunity to emphasize privatization and the phasing out of the monstrous Education Department, which has contributed to the decline of America’s intellectual, moral and ethical structure.
Even if Mr. Romney hadn’t the stomach to tackle the U.S. Department of Education, he could have seized upon a virtual laundry list of foreign policy blunders. The President left himself wide open on a number of issues; among them:
• Mr. Obama’s repeated announcement of a withdrawal date from Afghanistan (2014). Gov. Romney had previously criticized this pull-out timeframe as allowing terror organizations—specifically Al Qaeda—to regroup and wait us out. But in Monday night debate, he let the comment slide, making it appear he had given up that line of reasoning.
• The President’s support—including direct taxpayer-subsidized monetary backing—of the Muslim Brotherhood (and of Mohamed Morsi, specifically) in Egypt. Gov. Romney could have asked Mr. Obama if this was the President’s idea of “stability in the Middle East.”
The background on this was revealed in a shocking piece by Frank Gaffney in the Washington Times last summer: He wrote on June 25 that Barack Obama had “transferred $ 1.5 billion of our tax dollars in a lump-sum payment” to the Muslim Brotherhood. “For him to do so,” wrote Gaffney, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had to waive congressionally imposed restrictions” because of “justified concerns about the nature and direction of the Shariah-adherent government [that] the Brotherhood is birthing in Egypt.”
As most people know, the Egyptians participated in their first free vote on May 24, 2012. Among the contenders was the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. But there were also other, more popular candidates—or at least it seemed so at first. In an apparently sudden reversal on May 25, Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was forging ahead, even though he was not particularly charismatic.
Could Mr. Obama’s shocking transfer of $1.5 billion, directly into the coffers of the Brotherhood, have helped bankroll Morsi’s win? If so, says Gaffney: “The Muslim Brotherhood is the prime mover behind [a] seditious campaign, which it calls ‘civilized jihad’.” This term equates to subversion, Soviet-style.
• Mr. Obama’s laissez-faire attitude toward border security, and the “Fast and Furious” fiasco starring Attorney General Eric Holder. The administration’s ongoing refusal to fully cooperate in investigating the gun-running operation that helped arm Mexican drug cartels and killed border agents added to a policy-driven national security disgrace.
• Mr. Obama’s continuing approach to the War on Terror cries out for new ideas. By now, it should be clear that today’s terrorist networks are not interested, necessarily, in “taking us over.” They want us dead. They don’t care about stealing our land. They want it wasted and ruined. They are unmoved by our sanctions, because they don’t need the support of their own people and don’t share our values. Those who do left long ago and sought asylum in the West, back in the 1970s.
As for Mr. Obama’s fantasy about guiding the Middle Eastern leaders gently toward democracy and securing rights for women in these regions is “not gonna happen.” Eleanor Clift and Gloria Steinem wouldn’t last 5 minutes over there—which is probably why they are keeping their mouth shut these days.
• Mr. Obama’s claim that he “ended the war in Iraq.” He did no such thing. What he did do was to take credit for a surge put in place by his nemesis, the George W. Bush Administration—the same “surge” opposed by himself, and then-Senators Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
• With all the recent hoopla surrounding the assassination of our ambassador in Libya, you would think that Mr. Romney would have contested Mr. Obama’s failure to station our military to guard the Libyan Embassy in Benghazi. The fiasco was explained in an article by Sen. Ran Paul (R-KY), who noted, ironically, that the Obama administration spent some $1 million on electric cars and charging stations around the same time at our embassy in Vienna to emphasize his commitment to “green” initiatives.
• Mr. Obama’s continuing trend toward pandering to the United Nations, at the expense of U.S. national sovereignty. There is an argument to be made that too many in the U.N. are left-leaning “one-worlders” who are forever trying to drag us into joint partnerships over one cause or another—making it increasingly difficult for the United States to extricate itself from U.N. resolutions, proclamations and declarations that are not in America’s interests.
For example, U.N. front groups, such as International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (or ICLEI), have infiltrated over 500 American cities, raking in federal and local tax dollars as it goes, to bring socialistic schemes to the American rank and file. Take, for example, the ICLEI-linked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Many Americans know about the panel, per se, and can even identify it as a U.N. agency, but they don’t necessarily “get” the ICLEI connection. But ICLEI represents what our Founders would call an “entangling alliance.” Through ICLEI, the Panel adds a third layer of bureaucracy that makes it more difficult for Americans to dis-engage from phony global-warming “science” and reject the ridiculous (and expensive) mandates it imposes through the U.N.
Clearly, Gov. Romney didn’t want to “go there.” Why?
• The Obama Administration’s continuation of the harassment of good citizens in the name of global terrorism. Meanwhile, the U.S. is embarrassingly behind the curve on real high-tech threats to national and individual security. On Obama’s watch, government has had to hire its own hackers simply to comprehend new cyber-technologies like “fuzzing”; software flaws like “zero days”; and a new kind of computer-manipulation satirically labeled “social engineering.” Even the Washington Post provided readers with a major story June 3, 2012, by Robert O’Harrow, Jr., on the surreptitious control of computer systems, all but undetectable by the victim, called “pwns” (see the comprehensive article in The Washington Post, “Cyberspace The Fragile Frontier”).
Meanwhile, an out-of-control TSA continues under Mr. Obama to exert virtually no effect on terrorists attempting to enter our country.
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Moreover, Gov. Romney wimped out on foreign policy. Since the letdown from Mr. Obama’s “hope-and-change,” Americans want a candidate who will offer bold departures from the status quo, appropriate to today’s era. If his “perception managers” had a brain in their head, they would have seen this as a time for Mr. Romney to be “his own man” and stop worrying that Mr. Obama might blame Republicans. Mr. Obama has been there and done that, and the mantra has lost its shelf life. Gov. Romney had nothing to lose by “going bold” on foreign policy. Democrats haven’t covered themselves with glory.
Romney could even have spent the time hammering away on his excellent points about China being a currency manipulator—and mentioning, by the way, that China has vastly augmented its military capability, even while appearing to embrace “capitalism.”
Foreign policy was a key issue for Romney to win—more important than his five-point plan to economic recovery.
Why? Because just one dirty nuke, one chemical or bio-weapon let loose in an American city and THERE WON’T BE AN ECONOMY!
© 2012 Beverly Eakman - All Rights Reserved
Beverly K. Eakman began her career as a teacher in 1968. She left to become a scientific writer for a NASA contractor. She went on to serve as a former speechwriter for the Voice of America and for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger when he chaired the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. She was an editor and writer for the U.S. Dept. of Justice before retiring from federal government. Her first book in 1991 blew the whistle on misrepresented standardized testing of schoolchildren. She is now author of seven books covering education policy, mental-health fraud, data-trafficking, privacy and political strategy, with dozens of keynote speeches, feature articles and op-eds to her credit. Her most recent work is Agenda Games: How Today’s High-Stakes Political Combat Works (Midnight Whistler Publishers, 2012).
Eakman can be reached through her