Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Mr President - how can we help. A crisis from nowhere

Picture the scene at the Oval Office. It's 8.45 a.m fresh from the daily security briefing from the NIS, FBI and CIA.

In the room, Home security, Mrs Clinton and dept heads, national security advisers, Defence advisers, Religious leaders, television producers, press advisers and a political strategist.

The President walks in: "OK lets cut to the chase, what do we do?"

A Pentecostal preacher is a problem the president does not need in the face of lasting damage it will do for US foreign relations and the small matter of President Obama's poll ratings.

Defence advisers have made it clear the ramifications to US troops will be cataclysmic. The sight of a burning Qur'an will not allow for intellectual distinguishing arguments. All of a sudden the pastor to the civvie in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq is the embodiment of all America.

Moderate Islamists will be stretched in their understanding of why this was allowed to happen.

"But he is the President, he could stop this anytime!" will be the universal chorus.

It's a sickening, worrying thought to think one man, with a deep-seated hatred of Islam is the poster face of the US.

For TV and the press , they can't make this go away but can they starve the pastor of the oxygen he needs?. A media blackout. That would mean the big networks working in concert. At the most reduce the item to a 20 second voicer.

The indies might catch these inflammatory pictures online, but it's the CNNI, Sky and BBC - international networks which the WH will foremost be thinking about. Question is whether some networks like Fox who could syndicate pictures, will fall in line.

Alternatively, but its unlikely at this stage, news works by diaries to plan for big events, by putting their productions into action way in advance. The absence of a pre-planed news on the 13th has provided the pastor with the window he needed.

The newspapers call this a spoiler. Come up with something which pushes that news of its pedestal, reducing it to the media-fame of a desperate pastor.

This issue transcends bi-partisan politics seeing GOP and D'crats working together, except ....
...the right of the party may see reasons to sit on their hands and let the president handle it. Your bad! Well not true, but its his watch.

First ammendment rights vs a crime to insight racial hatred - the lawyers have their work cut out for them. And whether by default or design, the pastor's playing down any rhetoric which gives the law more teeth to keep him down.

The right have found a soft underbelly of the president. The dilemma cuts to a lecture 101 of public relations and ethics. The might of the Oval office Vs A small, hitherto unknown church with no more members on a good day than the combined line up of a game of football, American football.

So, says Obama's advisers, we can't be seen to be too heavy, so the strategy is without appeasement to have someone talk to "this pastor".

Home affairs is now looking up the names of parishioners, whom unlike their pastor, may not understand what the aftermath of this will be. "May" is the operative word. "Will he listen to you?", goes the telephone conversation.

The last ditch attempt involves home security working to the premise that the site, where this despicable event is to take place is destined a site of national security, cordoning of the area. That will take some coordination, but it's not an out-of-reach scenario.

So in the meantime it's a wait and see. As a former television news producer, as we speak it's more than likely, correspondents and producers are being placed strategically throughout the Arab speaking world.

This may be a US issue, but the dissemination of this falls squarely on the news media. They'll have to check their conscious and the consequence of talking up and showing someone who in PR terms has played them.