Top 10 best and worst communicators of 2008

January 7, 2009

If the past is prologue, perhaps I’m not too late to point out communications guru Bert Decker’s list of the 10 best and worst communicators of 2008. I was pleased to introduce San Francisco Examiner readers to Bert’s observations back when I was editorial-page editor there, and he’s never failed to produce relevant insight each year. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has the uncommon distinction of making the 2008 list twice: once among the best, and once with the worst.

Sarah Palin at the August 31st Road to the Convention Rally. This was taken just after she entered, before John McCain delivered his speech to over 10,000 supporters in the T.R. Hughes Baseball Stadium in OFallon, MO.

Sarah Palin photo by Jeff Geerling,

PretePress readers may recall a similar observation I made following Palin’s speech to the Republican Convention in September.

From Bert’s blog:

1.    Barack Obama
As his star continues to rise, there’s just no contest for #1 Best Communicator.
And it’s not just because he was elected President that he deserves #1, but that he was elected President BECAUSE of his communications ability. President Elect Obama is the first repeat at #1 (2006) and for the same reason. He vaulted from obscurity on the strength of his words and speeches at the 2004 Democratic Convention, and just kept talking. To date he hasn’t really done much except communicate. Shows you how important that skill is. One of the greatest modern orators, we’ll now see if he can replace Bill Clinton as “the great communicator” while in office.

2.    Tim Russert
He was one of the best, and we’ll miss him.
One of our best TV journalists died this year, and he would have made this list without the posthumous honor. Russert was personable, energetic and open but also tough, incisive and smart. Meet The Press, and Network TV News will never be the same. His son Luke Russert was eloquent in his eulogy, and maybe there will be more…

Read the rest of Bert Decker’s list on his excellent — and useful — blog.

Bookmark and Share


Making sense of San Francisco’s Nov. 2008 election

November 5, 2008

If your head’s in a spin trying to take in the results of yesterday’s election and you live in San Francisco, take a long lunch this afternoon and pop over to SPUR’s post-election analysis. Expert political numbers man David Latterman and the witty and astute Alex Clemens will explain what happened at the polls yesterday — and how it fits into the context of local electoral politics.

The focus of SPUR’s election analyses usually is on San Francisco, but this time it’s certain to include discussions of the state and federal elections as well.

This regular event has grown over the years into a required piece of post-election analysis for everyone interested in San Francisco elections, so expect a crowded room along with unique insights.

It starts at 12:30 p.m. and runs to 2 p.m., tacking on an additional 30 minutes this time to handle the huge ballot. Five bucks for non-members and free for all SPUR members. San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, 312 Sutter St. at Grant Avenue (an easy walk from BART or the Muni Metro, with limited bike parking right out front). Note that this event takes place not in SPUR’s offices, but rather on the second-floor meeting room of the World Affairs Council.


David Latterman’s Fall Line Analytics

Alex Clemens’ Barbary Coast Consulting

Bookmark and Share

John McCain quits campaign on a classy note

November 4, 2008

In spite of a few raucous boos from the audience, Arizona Sen. John McCain capped his 2008 campaign for the

Sen. Jouhn McCain

Sen. John McCain

presidency of the United States tonight with a concession speech that recalled the dignity and grace of the way he conducted himself in the early stages of his campaign.

The late-stage McCain campaign went into the ditch in a number of ways, not only losing the race for the White House but also tarnishing the senator’s reputation in the process. McCain, however, reclaimed a big part of his personal reputation with his concession speech. He admitted defeat but also urged his supporters to consider the good of the country and work with the next president.

Bookmark and Share

Barack Obama wins election, makes history

November 4, 2008

Remember this night well, because it’s something you’ll tell your grandchildren about, even if you voted for the other

Obama stencil found on sidewalk in San Francisco Aug. 24, 2008

Obama stencil found on sidewalk in San Francisco Aug. 24, 2008

guy. Barack Obama has been elected the next president of the United States of America.

Obama’s election as the first African-American president is a watershed moment, and if this great country is very lucky it will be a moment that inspires a new generation of Americans to work for the common good, to strive for and achieve things they had perceived as out of their reach, to recognize that the promise of this nation is and always has been theirs.

Tonight is a night to remember.

Bookmark and Share

Vote, vote, vote!

November 4, 2008

I’ve emerged from under the cruel thumb of my baby-borne cold too late to write anything of significance in advance of today’s election, unfortunately. But on the plus side, I feel pretty good now, which probably also has something to do with the fact that I’m basking in the afterglow of casting my vote in what has been a fascinating election on the federal, state and local levels.

Voting feels good. Go vote.

Polling place sign, November 2008 election

Polling place sign, November 2008 election

PretePress poll gives Obama big edge over McCain

October 17, 2008

PretePress readers overwhelmingly believe Barack Obama beat John McCain in the third presidential debate, and

Obama stencil found on sidewalk in San Francisco Aug. 24, 2008

Obama stencil found on sidewalk in San Francisco Aug. 24, 2008

by an even larger margin indicated they expect Obama to be the next president of the United States.

It was an unscientific poll by anyone’s standard, and included some conflicting responses, so take the results with plenty of grains of salt — but the fun survey I created after Wednesday’s presidential debate (using WordPress’ nfity new PollDaddy poll feature)  was interesting nonetheless.

Of the PretePress readers who took the poll, 84 percent said Barack Obama won the debate, while 16 percent gave the victory to John McCain.

Barack Obama will be elected the next president of the United States, 95 percent of respondents believed — even though only one-quarter of respondents identified themselves as registered Democrats.

The rest of the poll:

  • 90 percent of respondents said they were citizens of the United States.
  • 95 percent said they were registered to vote in the U.S. (get out that salt).
  • 50 percent of participants said they did not belong to any political party, 25 percent said they were registered to vote under the Democratic Party, 10 percent said they were Republicans, 5 percent Greens and 0 percent Libertarians. 10 percent said they were registered under some other party.

You can see the original post will the poll here, but I’m still learning to use the PollDaddy polls and at the moment I’m not sure how to turn off the poll. The results you see in the original post may not match the results at the time of this writing.

Bookmark and Share

Six first impressions of the third Obama-McCain presidential debate

October 15, 2008

Well, someone certainly put a heck of a burr under John McCain’s saddle before the third presidential debate. Was it enough to get him back out of the ditch and onto the road to the White House?

  1. The Republican nominee for president of the United States turned in his most lively and coherent performance of the three debates,
  2. If John McCain was looking to ding Obama, he missed  a perfect opportunity — twice. McCain brought up the criticisms that had been leveled at him and Sarah Palin by U.S. Rep. John Lewis. He noted first that Obama had yet to repudiate Lewis’ statements, but then let the conversation turn elsewhere. Not long later, McCain again brought the topic back to Lewis and again noted that Obama had not repudiated the accusations, but he got nowhere with it as he let Obama successfully divert the talk on both occasions. McCain should have said something like, “Senator Obama, you have yet to repudiate John Lewis’ unfair remarks, but I’d like to give you the opportunity to do so right now. Will you tell the American people you want no part of his accusations, right here at this debate?” Instead, McCain allowed Obama to remain comfortable and dodge the issue.
  3. Barack Obama was as dull as dry toast. Post-debate polls put him significantly ahead of McCain, but I think that must be at least as much because of Obama’s momentum (and the perception of inevitability his campaign excels at cultivating) as the strength of his performance at the debate.
  4. McCain clearly didn’t learn anything from reviewing old video of a grimacing Al Gore in Gore’s debate with George W. Bush. He was all forced half-smiles and nervous-looking blinks. McCain seemed sometimes to channel Jon Lovitz’s Michael Dukakis, who in a Saturday Night Live sketch famously exclaimed in reference to Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!” In spite of McCain’s efforts to maintain a neutral expression, he came off like an exasperated and angry porcelain doll (albeit one with a really advanced blinking function).
  5. Did McCain really pull out the air quotes while discussing abortion? Yes, unfortunately, he did. When Obama said he was opposed to late-term abortions but thought consideration ought to be given to the health of the mother, McCain pooh-poohed the health issue, making air quotes when saying that the meaning of “health” had been stretched too far by abortion activists. This is already the stuff of blogs and punditry, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it featured in an ad by Thursday morning.
  6. Although McCain did much better in this debate, he’s going to have to do much better still if he is to eke out a victory.

Bookmark and Share