Burying the Good News



Public relations pros know that if you have to release a piece of bad news, you should do it on a weekend when the press – and apparently the public – isn’t paying attention. And if you really want to escape notice, time your release to coincide with a big event that is sure to hog the headlines.

If ABC and the Democrats wanted to keep the party’s third presidential debate from attracting attention, they did a great job.

The debate was scheduled on the Saturday night before Christmas, and started just as the New York Jets were taking the field  against the Dallas Cowboys. Meanwhile, Star Wars  fans were flocking to “The Force Awakens,” which opened a couple of days earlier.

Still, the organizers managed to round up about a thousand live humans to fill the auditorium at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire (and a couple of dozen more for a focus group that was promoted before the debate but I never heard of again).

And they made the most of a spat between the Hillary campaign and the Bernie campaign, which got some attention from the media but failed to hit a nerve with the public.

As for substance, there was a hearty chunk of that.  I am sure you know – or can guess – the candidates’ positions on the issues. They’re Democrats, after all.

And of course they would all dedicate every resource at their disposal to wiping out ISIS and keeping Americans safe from terror. Wouldn’t you? But as Democrats, they would all eschew ham-handed tactics that would compromise America’s basic freedoms and values.

Despite the similarities, there were clear disagreements about the scope and implementation of their plans, however.

Bernie is the most radical of the trio. He would really change American society, breaking up the big banks, raising taxes to fund a Medicare-for-all health care system, taxing Wall Street to provide free college tuition and refusing to use America’s military power to rid the world of dictators.

Martin O’Malley was almost as far left as Bernie.  But, from what I heard him say, he would work with the existing structure to achieve the same end result – a slice of the good life for all Americans, not just for the rich and powerful.

Hillary was more nuanced. I guess the more you know about the way things are the more careful you become about change. And she certainly knows how Washington and the world work. She’s been there, done that.

As a Democrat, of course she wants to give the poor and middle class a better break. That’s the Democrats’ creed.

But she is mindful of the dangers of increasing taxes – or running up the national debt – to do it. She vowed not to levy a penny more in taxes on Americans making $250,000 a year or less. And she proposes to pay for reform with budgeted revenue and savings.

Of course she wants to make the health care system work better. And of course she wants peace and prosperity in the rest of the world. That, too, is the Democrats’ creed.

But she would do more tweaking and less basic restructuring than her two primary opponents (especially Bernie). And in foreign affairs, she would plainly be more hawkish and less tolerant of despots. I suppose she learned from bitter experience that although walking softly is a good idea, sometimes you have to wield that big stick you’re carrying.

After all the slicing and dicing, there wasn’t much to choose between the three candidates. Any one of them would get my vote for President.

It was an informative, entertaining and instructional debate. But I fear that, like the proverbial tree that fell in the forest, hardly anyone heard it. While the candidates expounded on ABC, for example, “Lockup Sacramento” was being aired on MSNBC.

Click for more on the debate.

Click for the media and the debate.

Click for Hillary’s plans.

Bernie’s platform

More on Martin O’Malley.