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Covering All Bases: August 14, 2012

Accentuate the positive? Eliminate the negative? Not in politics.

Most of us have had the experience of being interviewed for a job. So imagine this scenario. You sit down with a prospective employer and are asked, “What are the skills and attributes that qualify you for this position? Why should we hire you?’

You pause for a moment, look at the interviewer and reply, “Because you don’t want to hire the other candidates you are considering.” You then go on to tear down all of the other candidates who are being considered.

“The person you just interviewed, cost his previous company lots of money. Do you really want someone with that kind of record to have this job? And do you know about the candidate who’s waiting in the lobby? She once said that she didn’t agree with the mission of this company, and then said something else later on. Can you really trust her for this job?

The interviewer is perplexed, as these allegations seem to come out of nowhere. However, the interviewer presses on. “Let’s talk about you. What will you specifically do to help our company succeed?”

Your response does not have any specific information. “I have a plan and my plan will help this company succeed,” you say.

The interviewer responds, “That’s good. Please give me the details of your plan.”

Your response is again vague. “My plan will benefit this company. The other people who you are interviewing have plans that will ruin it.”

Not wanting to waste any more time, the interviewer abruptly ends the interview and sends you on your way. I don’t know many job applicants who have been offered jobs because they spoke negatively about the other candidates in an interview. In fact, most career counselors will tell you that you should always remain positive, and even if you absolutely loathe your previous boss, you should never let this come across in an interview. I also do not know anybody who received a job offer by telling an interviewer that he or she had a plan that would work, and then not giving any details of that plan or how it would be implemented.

So why do election campaigns work differently?

As campaign season heats up, the ads for candidates running for election will become more prevalent on television and radio. I’m sure there will be a plethora of ads, in which candidates attack each other. The ads that aren’t negative will make all these wonderful promises about what candidates will do if they are elected – but very few specific details about how that will be accomplished are given.

The presidential candidates are engaging in this. President Obama’s campaign is airing an ad showing Romney singing America The Beautiful, with negative facts about Romney interspersed. And let’s just say that Romney’s singing voice is not his strongest attribute. Okay, I get it. Romney’s not hip and not cool. But should a candidate’s singing voice be an issue when choosing the leader of the free world? Similarly, Romney’s television ads are almost comical. In one ad, there is a clip of CBS news anchor Bob Schieffer, asking, “Whatever happened to hope and change?” Schieffer reportedly is upset that this is being spun into an ad for Romney, but that’s another story. The ad then has speakers commenting on the negative ads run by the Obama campaign, saying this is evidence that Obama has abandoned the ideals of hope and change because his ads have gone negative. Huh? I am mistaken, or is this a negative ad criticizing negative ads? And this is meant to sway our votes?

I seriously wonder if some of the great politicians in American history could be elected in the 21st century. Abraham Lincoln always had a sad and troubled look on his face. If he were running for office today, his image wouldn’t play well on television, and he’d probably have difficulty getting elected. And I’m sure his opponent would try to capitalize on this and would run a series of negative ads showing “Honest Abe,” as not a regular happy-go-lucky guy.

The campaign strategies will continue and many candidates will be elected because they were successful in portraying their opponents in a negative manner. However, I wonder if these tactics do not help folks get jobs in “the real world,” why are they used to get politicians their jobs?

Ron Scaglia is the Special Sections editor of Anton Newspapers.