Public relations counselors tell clients and colleagues not to speculate. More often than not speculation comes in the form of questions to predict future outcomes. It’s a scheme designed by reporters who want interviewees to say something foolish, improbable, with no basis in reality or all of the above. The advice so many of us give is that no one has the gift of prophecy or the ability to predict the future and that doing so would be silly. Do not speculate, talk about things that you know for certain and stick to that.
The media has now caught up with the public relations industry and reinvented the speculative question. Instead of predicting the future, interviewees are asked to second-guess themselves about the past. The most famous and recent example was on Fox News when during an interview with Former Florida governor and brother of President George W. Bush the Iraq war came up. Megyn Kelly asked Bush, “knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”
Bush is no stranger to media or interviews. He comes from one of the most covered families in history. His experience as governor along should have sent a signal to his brain that said, ‘it’s a trap’. Sadly for Bush, there was a short circuit. He fell into Kelly’s trap. It was a full frontal fail. Here is his quote:
“In retrospect,” Bush continued, “the intelligence that everybody saw — that the world saw, not just the United States — was faulty. And in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first, and the Iraqis, in this incredibly insecure environment, turned out the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families. By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W. Bush. So just for the newsflash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those.”
The news out of this was not what Jeb expected. His answer was covered in plenty of other places, and that is not what this posting is about. Jeb should not have answered the question.
Instead of talking about what might have been, Bush should have taken the prophecy advice and flipped it around. He could have said, “it’s pointless to discuss what we might or might not have done. I am not able to go back in time and undo any decision or action. Instead of wondering what might have been done differently, we need to concentrate on what is happening now…”
The ‘knowing what we know now’ question has a life of its own. The time traveling/navel gazing type of inquiry is part of the arsenal of passive aggressive reporters, thanks to the ill-advised answer Governor Bush gave. Remember, just talk about what you know now. Not what may come or what you would have done.