B²: CNBC vs. the GOP

If there was any doubt the mainstream media leans left, last week’s GOP debate proved it. Barbs thrown by the moderators, including a question to Rubio about whether he hates his day job and the comparison of Trump to a comic book character, left both GOP supporters and some left-leaning news outlets criticizing CNBC.

In response, candidates called out the moderators on the spot (enter Ted Cruz), or called out the mainstream media as a whole (hello Marco Rubio), as it was clear the questions strayed from substantive policy discussion to personal attack.

But what the GOP candidates succeeded in doing on Wednesday night may just be a one-hit wonder. Why? It was them vs. the moderators, and everyone watching knew it – the questions were unfair, a few called it like it was, and the audience rejoiced. But, what if you’re attacked personally and it isn’t so obvious? What if you don’t have a two-hour window to still explain your talking points?

In that case (which is where most of us find ourselves), it’s best to quickly acknowledge the question as incorrect and then B² (block and bridge) away from the bias to articulate your message so that you control the narrative. But how do you do that?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is an example of an unfair question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “People have said that your organization is just a political front. Isn’t that true?”

B²: “Not at all. The only time I hear that narrative is when a lack of information exists about who we are and who we fight for. The <insert organization or campaign name> is about… <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, know that it’s a better use of your answer time to stay on message. The audience knows if/when a host is attacking a guest and you don’t want to sound like you’re whining…that’s never attractive. Instead, quickly acknowledge that you disagree with the question but then B² (block and bridge) to your answer.

If handled correctly, not only will the audience see through the bias but you’ll gain extra points by keeping your cool and championing your message anyway.

B²: Clinton vs. Gowdy

Last Friday’s headlines told the same story – in the matchup at the Benghazi hearings, Republicans lost and Hillary won.

Though a possible indictment by the FBI will diminish cries of “victory,” the calm, cool, and collected Hillary Clinton who sat on the other side of Republican finger pointing for 11 hours did a whole lot to bolster her public image and her campaign. Add to her stellar performance Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (SC-04) concession that no new information was learned, and, well, Hillary Clinton had another good week.

True, there was a lot of pressure to prove the committee’s relevance leading up to the hearings. Thanks, in large part, to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) and his suggestion that one of the committee’s goals may have been to take down Clinton’s campaign for President of the United States. But the nail in the coffin was Gowdy’s interview at the end of the day. When asked if he learned anything new from Clinton’s testimony, he said:

“I’d have to go back and look at the transcript”


Gowdy probably could’ve said ANYTHING else and lessened the blow. But his admittance that 11 hours of testimony highlighted no new information about what happened in Benghazi validated every skeptic of the committee’s existence.

So, what should he have said? And what do you do when you’re asked to comment on a situation that didn’t go as planned?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is the media question Trey Gowdy was asked and the B² (block and bridge) that could’ve set the narrative straight:

Q: “What new information did you learn today?”

B²: “What we learned is that Hillary Clinton still isn’t giving us straight answers, but we were able to get an honest answer about <insert talking point>.”

Regardless of whatever talking point Gowdy inserted, a good answer would’ve looked like this: underline what didn’t go well (with the finger pointed at Hillary) and then transition to a new piece of information. If you find yourself in a similar situation, do the same. If something doesn’t go as planned, admit it. And if there is a specific, uncontrollable reason why it didn’t go as planned, admit that too. But never forget to B² (block and bridge) to the good and/or an important piece of information the public should know.

Every answer is an opportunity to sell your message. Don’t let a reporter’s questions dictate your narrative. If you do, you’ll lose every time!

B²: The Debt Limit Debacle

The United States is close to maxing out its credit card…again.

Yep, the U.S. owes more than $18 trillion ($18 trillion!) and is on track to exhaust its allowance in 2 weeks (November 3).

In an article on CNBC.com, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made his position clear: “not increasing the debt limit would be ridiculous…” He “insisted that a hike is not a commitment to new spending but an ability to pay the bills on money already spent.”

What Secretary Lew failed to note is the frequency of this discussion. Congress finds itself in this position too often and refuses to address the root cause – out of control spending! In other words, increasing your credit card limit doesn’t force you to stop buying things you can’t afford.

Another interesting point to the debt limit controversy is the pesky fact that the amount the U.S. owes reportedly exceeds what the U.S. produces in goods and services (GDP). Basically, we owe a lot of money, and the amount of money we owe now exceeds what our country can produce. Not good.

As we get closer to the deadline, the news cycle will create a panicky narrative full of questions like: “Where do we go from here?” “Should the limit be raised?” “Are you suggesting we default?”

Are you prepared to talk about the debt limit and offer possible solutions to address the spending issue rather than raise the limit?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “The U.S. runs out of money on November 3. Shouldn’t the debt limit be raised to cover what we owe?”

B²: “Congress has raised it before and they may do so again. But increasing the debt limit doesn’t solve our country’s spending problem, which is the root cause. We’ll find ourselves here in a few months, but with more bills to pay, if we don’t…<insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, insert talking points that put this issue into perspective. Focus on how absurd it is that we’re in this position (AGAIN) and then offer viable solutions to prevent this from happening in the future. Those solutions may be painful, but a nation that owes more than it produces cannot sustain itself.

B²: McCarthy’s Mishap

If Kevin McCarthy taught us anything last week, it’s that words matter.

With one impassioned statement, he not only took himself out of the running for Speaker of the House, but called into question the motive behind the Benghazi hearings and gave Hillary the lifeline she needed.

In an interview with Sean Hannity on September 29th, tension was high from the start. But the wheels came off the moment Hannity asked McCarthy to grade Boehner.

When Hannity disapproved of the “B-“ response, a visibly agitated McCarthy tried to take control of the interview by asking HIMSELF a question – “The question I think you really want to ask me is, how am I going to be different?” His answer to his own question included the now-infamous comment proudly displayed in a Hillary Clinton attack ad.

McCarthy clearly stepped in it, but the catalyst was his frustrated response when asked to grade Boehner’s performance as Speaker. How common is this question? More common than you think. With any major departure in DC, the “report card” question is often asked. Do you know how to answer so as to satisfy the host while keeping your cool?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “What grade would you give Speaker Boehner?”

B²: “I’d give him a passing grade for handing over the gavel without a knock-down, drag-out fight, but the reason he had to step down in the first place was because people want leadership that <insert talking point>.”

If you are asked to give a grade, stick to a “passing grade” or a “failing grade,” and then block and bridge to YOUR talking point. Giving a specific letter grade will often not satisfy the host who then has more ammunition for disagreement. Wherever you take the conversation next, don’t get mad – composure will always trump frustration.

B²: “But guns kill people!”

Last week’s tragedy at Umpqua Community College marked the 4th shooting at a college campus since August. Sadly, another community has been rocked by the horrific intentions of one person.

President Obama didn’t wait to politicize the tragedy. In his press conference on Thursday, he lamented the sad fact that this news story is now routine and that somehow “we’ve become numb to this.” He was visibly mad and stated that tighter gun laws are the answer.

With the narrative of more gun restrictions echoing in the news cycle, do you know how to show sympathy for those who lost loved ones while defending the right to protect yourself?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Isn’t it time to impose stricter gun laws?”

B²: “Not at all. And while what happened at Umpqua Community College is horrific and unbearable for any family member and friend who lost a loved one, the truth is the best way to prevent future tragedies is to <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, first acknowledge the sad and appalling fact that lives were lost. Meet the emotion of the question by grieving with the Roseburg community, but then pivot to data and examples that support your argument against tighter gun laws.

In summary – start with emotion, but end with reason.

B²: Is Obama a…(fill in the blank)?

The “blank” is most often and famously filled by the words “patriot,” “liar,” “Muslim,” and “citizen.”

We were reminded of questions like this at a recent town hall hosted by Donald Trump. The backlash is centered on Trump’s poor response (or, non-response) to a question about President Obama’s citizenship and religious affiliation. It went down like this:

Likewise, Scott Walker experienced backlash when he offered the following response to a question about President Obama’s patriotism: “I’ve never asked him, so I don’t know.”

With only 15 months to go in an 8-year presidency, it’s amazing these questions still arise. But they do. And you need to know how to handle them if one comes your way. As exemplified by Trump and Walker, both a non-response and a dismissive response generate a losing narrative.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Is President Obama a…(fill in the blank)?”

: “I take the President at his word. Instead, the question we should be asking is <insert talking point>?”

Wherever you take the conversation next, DO NOT ignore the accusation or assess motive. The media would love to get you on record bashing the President and making judgment calls on who he is as a person. Don’t give in! Instead, just B² it so you can focus on YOUR message and create a narrative that wins.

B²: Government Shutdown

Are you experiencing déjà vu?

It may feel that way as the government will run out of money at the end of this month and a shutdown is threatened…again.

Yes, we’ve been here before. In 2013 the government shutdown over funding disputes and many viewed the fallout as a failure for Republicans. No doubt the stakes are higher as we approach a very similar situation on important issues such as Planned Parenthood, the Iran Deal, and the pairing of increased funds for military programs and domestic agencies.

Some (according to their job description) need to discuss political strategy and answer the shutdown question head-on, but those who focus on policy rather than politics can get themselves in trouble if they try to do the same.

If you’re tasked with discussing policy and a reporter moves to questions of a shutdown, do you know how to defend your position without talk of the politics that want to declare you an obstructionist?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Do you support a government shutdown?”

: “That’s for Congress to decide, but whatever the result it’s truly sad that it takes such a threat to seriously consider funding issues. <Insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, stay away from the political strategy for (or implications of) a shutdown. If your job is to research and promote certain policies, don’t deviate from doing so. Though the policy you focus on may be driving the shutdown, you can continue to talk about that policy without adding to the media narrative that paints Republicans as obstructionists.

B²: Planned Parenthood (Take 2)

With the promised release of more investigative videos by the Center for Medical Progress, and the looming budget deadline at the end of the month, the discussion over Planned Parenthood and taxpayer funds will continue to make headlines. In the next couple weeks, “defund” is the name of the game.

This perfect storm makes for a news cycle rife with questions about the politics behind it all and can easily create a narrative that pits those who support life against those who support abortion.

But there is common ground – taxpayer funds!

Should abortions that lead to the selling of organs for a profit, many times without the full knowledge of the woman, be backed by taxpayers? It’s a question Planned Parenthood so desperately wants to spin.

While the media has packaged this fight into another battle in the “War on Women,” it’s anything but. Do you know how to take back the message and champion a winning narrative?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Why are you attacking Planned Parenthood by demanding their funding be eliminated?”

: “This is about making sure taxpayer funds for health care are directed towards accessible, quality care, something women are not currently receiving at Planned Parenthood. <Insert talking point>.”

Whether you talk about the twenty comprehensive care clinics for every one Planned Parenthood clinic, or the fact that Planned Parenthood isn’t licensed to perform mammograms, stick to common ground. A serious discussion about comprehensive health care for women and how it is funded should result. That’s a winning strategy.

B²: Minimum Wage

Now that Labor Day Weekend has passed, you face two very important tasks: 1) put away your summer whites and 2) return to work.

A return to work quickly focuses our minds on the topic of the minimum wage…especially with the majority of Americans in support of raising it. (Hart Research Associates reported in January 2015 that 75% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $12.50.) With the polling data so heavily favoring one side, it’s no surprise that the minimum wage has become a topic of conversation, especially amongst Presidential candidates.

On a tour through New Hampshire, Governor John Kasich was asked to give his perspective. The Washington Post reported that he “rebuffed the idea of raising the federal minimum wage. He told reporters that any increase in the minimum wage should be done state by state, but that it should obviously increase.”

Not too surprisingly, Hillary Clinton is happy to give her position on an issue polling in her favor. In July she stated, “I think it’s going to be important that we set a national minimum, but then we get out of the way of cities and states that believe that they can and should go higher.”

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about the minimum wage, especially as the Presidential race heats up. But what will you say if you’re asked about the minimum wage and your answer is not to raise it? Do you know how to respond so those struggling to make ends meet are considered?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “How do you expect a single parent to support their family if they only make minimum wage? Isn’t it time to consider a living wage?”

: “The challenges a single parent faces are great, and I have no doubt it’s difficult to provide for a family when you’re only making minimum wage. There is, and should continue to be, a safety net for this reason. But we must look at the unintended consequences of raising the minimum wage <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, whether you focus on how raising the minimum wage will mean less job opportunities for those looking for work, how it is likely to push people out of the workforce, or talk about the burden on businesses, you have to meet the emotion of the question before you transition to your talking points. Otherwise, you’ll sound like you don’t care about people. And if you sound like you don’t care about people, the audience will assume you care only about money…and that’s never a winning argument.

How to Debate Like a Presidential Frontrunner

In today’s Washington Examiner, DMG President Beverly Hallberg discusses why debates matter, the Trump factor, and how the participants in tonight’s Republican debate on Fox News can be remembered for all the right reasons:

“No, it isn’t about the length of airtime (120 minutes tonight for the main debate). It’s about the sound bites that circulate in the 24-hours news cycle and on social media tonight, tomorrow and (potentially) for years to come. Those 10-second clips are why debates, even primary debates, matter.”

Here’s what the candidates, including Trump, need to keep in mind if they want to be remembered for the right reasons this debate season. Read the full article here.