There’s a saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity, meaning that even bad publicity helps you out by making you more famous. But there are two reasons for that myth: Some bad publicity can be quite good, and spinmeisters always need to put a positive spin on everything, even if there isn’t one.
For example, the news of Clinton’s affair with Gennifer Flowers probably helped him pull ahead of the pack in 1992 to get the nomination. But what about Michael Jackson or OJ Simpson? Can anyone suggest that their scandals were helpful? Of course not. Both of them were ruined by the publicity and it's unlikely that either will have positive fame that will outweigh the negative. Hell, at least Jackson had huge fame that merely got replaced by his notoriety. But with Simpson, he’s more infamous than he ever was famous.
Clinton was helped by the Flowers scandal because the gossip drew attention to him and made him look like a stud. Even the Lewinsky affair helped him, by driving the wingnuts rabid and firmly established his stud credentials by showing that he could bag a twenty-two year old hottie. But what about Michael Dukakis in the tank? That was something they did for good PR, but which backfired so badly that it's now considered a famous example of what not to do. Or Dick Cheney shooting the dude in the face? Or just about anything President Bush has ever done or said? No intelligent observer could possibly put those in a positive light. It's quite obvious that some publicity can be very, very bad.
Everyone's Got a Story
Because it's not about whether the publicity is “good” or “bad,” but rather what the publicity says about the person and how it fits into their overall story. For a bubblegum pop star like Britney Spears to have a few photos taken while snorting coke in a bathroom could make her look edgy and hardcore. But as a divorced mom who keeps getting this kind of publicity, it makes her look irresponsible and crazy. Michael Jackson getting caught having orgies with sixteen year old girls would make him look awesome, while the accusations of him getting prê-teen boys drunk and horny makes him look like a monster.
It’s not about whether they did something immoral or illegal, but how this fits into their story. That's why the Dukakis-tank photo was such a bad idea. Arnold Schwarzenegger in that tank would have been great. But a dork like Dukakis just looked dorky and desperate. Of course, I always thought that President Codpiece in the flightsuit looked dorky and desperate, while Chris Matthews thought he looked like "Bob Hope and John Wayne combined."
But again, it's all about the story. When I see Bush, I see a poser a-hole with a silverspoon and serious intelligence issues, while Matthews saw a bulge that just wouldn't quit. And so we interpret the picture based upon how it fits into the story. The PR was the same, but the story was different.
Good Luck Chuck
And that's where the main point of my earlier post on Mike Huckabee's endorsement by Chuck Norris came from, and why I don't think this helps Huckabee. RH Reality Check (which kindly linked to my post) suggests that this is giving great buzz to Huckabee, but I'm just not buying it. Because the only parts of the commercial that really work for Huckabee are the parts he's not in...you know, the parts with Chuck Norris. Norris delivers Huck's pitch for him and sells it relatively well (assuming you're a conservative). But as I said before, Huck's parts are outrageously silly and make both men look bad. This kind of thing might help sell furniture on late night TV, but isn't what we want from the President of the United States.
And that's why I was suggesting with my title that this is the beginning of the Norris-Huckbaee ticket. Because Chuck Norris was not only the clear star of the ad, but also delivered the policy goods. In contrast, Huckabee just looked like a goober trying to be funny by stealing someone else's jokes. And I don't think that helps him at all. While people might be talking about the ad, I really think the net result will be that it diminishes Huckabee's credibility and that this was a prime example of bad PR. A commercial showing Huckabee kicking butt as Norris' sidekick might help (assuming the people being beat were brown-skinned and evil), but nobody wants Chuck Norris' comic relief as president. That's just not a presidential story.
But then again, as I mentioned in that other post, conservatives really don't understand irony, including when they're being mocked. So it's quite possible that this ad might help Huckabee after all. Perhaps they don't realize that the Chuck Norris jokes are really just mocking his toughguy image, and aren't meant to be true compliments. Not that I think Norris had his feelings hurt by the jokes, but they weren't meant to represent reality. But again, conservatives always have had trouble with the whole "reality" thing, so it's quite possible they're missing the best part of the joke and really do believe that the world goes down whenever Chuck Norris does a push-up. It wouldn't be the craziest thing they've ever believed.
I'll leave you with two dorks trying to look cool: