After the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling on Arizona’s SB1070, some members of the media complained presidential candidate Mitt Romney wasn’t staking a clear position about the decision. Watch this interaction between CNN and a Romney representative. Romney’s supporters may chalk up this criticism to what they consider to be a never-satisfied liberal media. His detractors may argue he is trying to walk a tightrope: He doesn’t want to lose the support of Tea Party members or Latino voters especially in battleground states.
However you feel about how Romney’s campaign handled the issue, my advice is this to politicians and public figures: Be decisive. Clearly reveal your opinion. Don’t muddy the waters. Let the media question your position. But don’t let the media portray you as someone not taking a position. Don’t let journalists question your resolve.
We knew the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling was coming. In cases such as this, those responsible for crafting statements have time to prepare and strategize for various scenarios. Don’t be caught off guard. You can try to offer statements offering you loopholes and escape hatches if the political environment changes. But most members of the media, especially those who pride themselves on getting straight answers, are well-trained to spot non-answers. Critics blasted John Kerry, during his presidential campaign, for what they considered confusing and unclear statements about the Iraq war. You can fool some media, who will simply air or print statements without much analysis. But particularly in today’s environment of partisan journalists and talk show hosts, you’re gamblin’ if you start ramblin’ with weak words.
Don’t be the bait. Take a stand. Let your critics take issue with your opinion. Don’t let them argue you didn’t offer one.