In the last two weeks, four speakers have had their lives affected by their communication skills, or lack thereof. Top down:
- Judge John Roberts – the media quotes say it all, “Cool under fire.” “Spoke confidently without notes.” “Smooth yet strong.” He’ll get confirmed not only because he knows his law, but because he was unflappable under fire. His behavior was impeccable. Great eye contact, nice smile when talking – warm and genuine appearing when listening, with no faltering ums or ahs – straightforward. With an impressive display of communication ability, Judge Roberts has created a very positive experience of himself with both Democrats and Republicans.
- President Bush – although exhibiting a very different demeanor from taking charge after 9/11, the President saved the day for his administration with his Thursday speech from Jackson Square in New Orleans. Even though it was a straight-to-the-camera teleprompter speech, it was well done and forceful. With the admission of culpability, (although that’s not over yet – see below re: Chertoff), Bush neutralized his earlier hesitancy and missteps. (Why oh why would he ever have said, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!”?) Never say on national media what you might have to take back. (See below again re: Brown.) President Bush has never recaptured the personal forcefulness and confidence that he had in the weeks and months after the 9/11 disaster, but he finally communicated as he had to, as a President.
- Michael Chertoff – The most interesting case of all four cases I think. We’re not hearing much from him these days – and for good reason. Largely because he does not inspire, and never has. It’s not just because he is backing and filling in WHAT he says about the response to Hurricane Katrina, but he does not inspire confidence in HOW he says it. Never has. I doubt if Chertoff will be Homeland Security for too much longer. He was never a communicator, and in appearance alone, is aquiline in feature and harsh of tongue. No warm or fuzzy feelings here, and the things that come out of his mouth do nothing to counter his uncaring appearance. The experience of Chertoff is not positive.
- Michael Brown – “Brownie” is now ex-director of FEMA after the New Orleans debacle, but he was doomed from the start. Not just the apparent lack of competence from the beginning, but when he admitted that FEMA DID NOT KNOW there were thousands at the Superdome without food and water – when the television viewing audience had been seeing that terrible scene for two days – that was just stupid. It was beyond incompetent as a communicator. On top of that was bland looks and behavior, little vocal or physical energy, and no forward lean. In appearance and in reality, not a leader.