Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tuesday Night

Tuesday night is when the president will outline his plan for future action in Afghanistan. The president is caught between a rock, a war and a hard place for his re-election so his speech has to be carefully crafted and worded in way that is palatable to all sides.

If recent polls are any indication, America has lost her interest in ferreting out terrorists in the Af-Pak war. When we decided to go after Uber-terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden many years ago, it was out of revenge, fueled by the savage attacks on our own soil September 11, 2001.

But the palpable fury has been replaced by grim pessimism. Not because of our lack of will power and determination in our military, but because people are worried about losing their home, their job and the piece of mind that comes with a stable economy. We could stomach two wars a couple years ago. Now people are more concerned about how to get through the week being un- or underemployed.

Also, polls show that people are getting weary of the president’s lack of accomplishment. For the first time in his first term, the president’s approval rating has slipped below 50 percent. Tuesday night he can re-affirm and re-energize the American people and tell the world what his plan has to be, not what he wants it to be.

There is a huge distinction. “Having” is a commitment, a passion and a metaphysical certitude for something to be achieved. “Wanting” leaves room for doubt and distraction. And worst of all, settling. We can’t settle for another long, drawn out conflict in Afghanistan. Nor can the world. Decisive action must happen.

Here is what Barack Obama needs to say to the American people: He needs to be succinct and his conviction must be resolute if he is sending in more troops. For the people who elected him into office, he must steadfastly remind them of why we are fighting and why committing enough of our brave men and women is necessary.

For those who haven’t forgotten why we are in Afghanistan and want more troops, Obama needs to show that he understands the task at hand and has to demonstrate a willingness to win. There is nothing more disheartening than watching a man try to be passionate about something he doesn’t believe in. Look at LBJ during his term during the Viet Nam war. It literally drained him and he didn’t seek a second term.

Obama has to get this speech right if he wants to succeed in Afghanistan. If he doesn’t, the world will know immediately.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's Not About You, Lou

After meeting Lou Dobbs at the Economic Summit at Baylor University in 2003, I couldn’t help but notice his ego matched his physical stature and girth. He was outside on a break from anchoring on CNN, smoking a cigarette, when I approached him and asked what he thought of the summit. He couldn’t be bothered. He was on his way to marginalizing himself in an industry where you need an ego, but can’t be consumed by it.

So last Wednesday night when Dobbs suddenly announced on his cable news show that it would be his last broadcast on that network, I wasn’t surprised. Lou, like so many who have come before him, made the easily attractive but fatal mistake of believing he was bigger than the network, and more importantly, thought he was bigger than his audience. Here was a man who thought he was a blowtorch, only to realize he was a disposal lighter in the conflagration that is broadcast cable.

Dobbs and CNN president Jon Klein reportedly had been butting heads about the direction Dobbs was taking on his show. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter was; it could have been anything. But Dobbs’ massive ego felt that he knew better than the audience, and even more ludicrous, he knew better than the bosses at CNN.

I’ve been broadcasting for over 15 years and have seen too many times this cautionary tale play itself out. When someone thinks they are bigger than the station, they are doomed to fall.

When I played Top 40 music as a DJ, did I like every song? No. Did I stick to the play list that management created for the station every day? Yes. Why? Because it wasn’t about me – it was about playing the songs that people wanted to hear to maximize the ratings for the station.

If Gaydos and I only myopically talked about stuff that interested us, you’d be listening to four hours of NASCAR, the Yankees, why Gaydos hates parades, why Michael Buble makes my skin crawl, or how I want Regis Philbin’s gig. Actually, you wouldn’t be listening and management would have a serious Stop N Chat about our show.

The show ain’t about us; it’s about ratings. The show is what you, as an audience, want to hear going on in the Valley and the nation.

Lou Dobbs was perennially third in his time slot on CNN. That’s not ratings success. Heck, that’s not even being in the ratings game.

Much research and strategizing go into how to make KTAR or CNN or FOX or NBC 12 successful. Broadcasting is like taming a cobra. It’s always a dance between snake and snake charmer and if the charmer starts believing that he truly he has control, the snake will fatally remind him with one strike.

Once a host thinks they’re bigger than the network or station that gives them a paycheck, it’s over. Ask Imus, ask Stern, ask Dan Rather how it feels to marginalize one’s self in an industry called Broadcasting. Not Ego casting.

Last Wednesday, Lou Dobbs corpulent corpse was thrown on the bone yard of previous hosts and talents who are now vague and irrelevant afterthoughts because their own ego ultimately undid their successful careers.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tragedy Strikes HOT...Again

When the tragic events happened last week at Fort Hood, I watched intently on what was unfolding. Not only because of the horrific nature of a lone serviceman shooting his brothers in arms, but also because I lived and worked in Central Texas (also called the Heart of Texas) for six years.

Fort Hood is an Army post that borders small, close-knit towns in Texas you’ve probably never heard of: Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Belton. Like so many small towns in Texas, they are filled with good people just trying to make a living and raise their kids the best they can.

But last week, I was reminded of small towns I lived and worked in that have suffered through horrendous tragedies just like what happened at Fort Hood.

Killeen, Texas, is due west next to Fort Hood and was the scene of the largest mass-shooting rampage in United States history until the Virginia Tech shootings. In 1991, George Jo Hennard, took his pickup and slammed it into the front of a Luby’s Restaurant. He then proceeded to shoot 43 people, 23 of whom died, before committing suicide.

Waco, Texas, is 30 miles to the north of Fort Hood, and now synonymous with a man named David Koresh. In 1993, Waco suffered through the events that unfolded between the Branch Davidians and the FBI. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on, people died under tragic circumstances.

If you also count the tower shooting on the University of Texas campus back in 1966 where 13 people were shot dead, you quickly realize that Central Texas has seen it’s share of tragic shootings.

What is so ironic is that after living there for so many years, it’s the last place where such horrific crimes should happen. It’s beyond comprehension how this small, simple, bucolic area of our country has witnessed so much catastrophic, murderous rampage.

The people in these towns that dot the flat, green patchwork landscape along I-35 are good, honest, and God-fearing. Last week we were unfortunately and lugubriously brought back to Central Texas to witness another tragedy.

As we learn more about the disconsolate circumstances surrounding the Fort Hood Massacre, I feel fortunate to have so many good memories of that part of the country, even when tragedy invades.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One Year Later

Last year this month, this country made history. We elected an African American to the highest office in the land.

Already the word “failure” has seeped into the media about this president. Failure? Even college coaches get more time be a total and complete “failure.”

Barack Obama was ushered into the White House on a momentous wave of a simple, audacious, and ephemeral mantra: “Hope and Change.”

“Hope” has given way to pragmatism. “Change” has stagnated to political gridlock. The recession has shown signs of abatement, but consumer confidence is still lower than the APR on a regular savings account.

When Barack inherited the crushing economic recession, the housing market avalanche, as well as two long and entrenched wars, his approval ratings were above 70 percent.

A year later the president’s approval ratings have precipitously fallen. Obama’s approval rating has fallen farther and fast than his predecessor in the same time frame of GWB’s first year in office.

But has Barack Obama’s first year as president been a failure? Political hacks that get paid to yammer on cable news shows will say yes. They’re idiots. Plain and simple.

There is no way any person, man or woman, could have changed the course of our economic downturn. It wouldn’t have mattered if John McCain were elected president. Ronald Reagan inherited a worse recession, stagflation, gas lines, a long-standing Cold War as well as the Iranian Hostage Crisis. His approval numbers didn’t start to tick up until his second year in office. And we were still in a recession.

The economy is its own entity, a juggernaut of prosperity in good times, the grim reaper of jobs, GDP and investments in a downturn. No one man can control it; even the Fed Chairman has a Herculean task, trying to change its direction, sometimes with catastrophic results.

Now I do not agree with Obama’s politics, and I have been outspoken about his positions, decisions and issues like reforming health care. I have denigrated his Czar appointments, his repetitive and unnecessary press conferences as well as his style-without-substance speeches.

But has he failed? Even I won’t go there.