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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > -Jun-06


Wednesday 12-Jul-06

Bush, Blair and brand

I received a nice email recently from an American journalist who asked me what could be done about President Bush's flagging brand. I live in the UK and hear only the filtrations though the press, but tried to respond.

This is what I wrote:

I'm based in the UK so don't hear everything, but news of President Bush's woes has filtered over here. As I type, the TV news here is talking about the calls for resignation about Tony Blair--perhaps the problem of personal branding is similar over here.

Both Bush and Blair have been tarnished heavily by Iraq. Opposition here was very strong, but Blair did what he thought was right and now is paying the price. There are other worries, but the Middle East is the source of most concern.

So what can they do to repair their damaged brand?

Perhaps by understanding what that brand was, is and could be.

Bush's brand, at least from over here, is non-nonsense tough-guy. Blair played well on the nice-but-resolute guy-next-door. The Iraq tarnishing for both is based on the inability to complete the job and the ongoing threat that people feel from terrorists. In short, they are both seen not only as failing there, but also making matters worse. They have played directly into the hands of a few terrorists and stirred up a hornets nest of dissent.

Getting out Iraq would be a good thing, but the potential chaos makes this a difficult and maybe still unwise choice.

Getting tough with Iran would be to sink deeper into the Middle-Eastern quagmire. Iran probably knows this.

The real problem is that the tough-guy approach doesn't seem to be working. Even Afghanistan is sinking back into old warlord ways.

Perchance also I've recently been reading Michael Abrashoff's book 'It's Your Ship'. Abrashoff is clearly a person who understands leadership well, and in the process brands himself as such very strongly. He is strong on doing the right thing and strong on courage in doing what is not necessarily going to be popular with his masters.

Bush could do a lot worse than get tough on the Israeli lobby and take the side of the Palestinians far more strongly. I suspect he's been trying to do something like this, but has been shouted down by the power behind the throne. What if he let Hamas feel they have gained a victory -- talk with them and seek real resolution? It will kick up a huge furore in some quarters but could give 'tough' a more balanced position. It would also do no harm in gaining Arab support which could help out with oil prices. As Abrashoff says, 'Real leadership must be done by example, not precept.' It would need convincing action, not just words.

He also could take a leaf out of Clinton's book who, despite many brushes with scandal, emerged smelling of roses and is perceived by many as a real global statesman. Bush could lead a global coalition in seeking real peace in the Middle East, including one that brought other-thinkers such as France, Russia and China on board with a common view. Many stories have folds in the middle, where the hero has an epiphany and turns in the direction for which he is ultimately remembered and loved. Bush could turn from tough warlord to tough diplomat.

He could encourage and enable others to do the right thing. For example he could perhaps extricate himself from Iraq by facilitating an Arab-only peacekeeping force. Without American targets, the foreign terrorists would have the rug pulled from beneath them.

In other words, he could reframe 'tough' as being able to take difficult decisions that are best for the world and not necessarily for him. His concern now is not his future but his legacy -- what history will tell about him. Thus, for example, he could build a brand of a global champion by taking more visible leadership over the environment. Real fears for the future of our children and grandchildren are growing and he could become a global champion in this area.

Blair would willingly follow on brand-repairing and legacy-creating strategies, which would only add strength to Bush's hand.

Crime is reduced less by punishment than by addressing the underlying poverty that causes it. The same principle is often used to support terrorism. Bin Laden, like Hitler, preys on those who are feeling downtrodden and down at heel. Bush is in his second term and needs not worry about re-election. Blair likewise has declared not to stand again. They have an opportunity to go out on a high by turning dark into light, by radical action that demands that we all become tough and accept difficult choices, but for the sake of peace and global survival, not religious satisfaction nor short-term capitalist gain.

Abrashoff says that 'The whole secret of leading a ship or managing a company is to articulate a common goal that inspires a diverse group of people to work hard together.' The same is true at country and global levels. Bush is the perhaps most powerful person in the world. He has the attention of the world's media and hence the world. Instead of creating global fear, he can create global inspiration. Instead of worrying about war, he could lead the world in building a fair and sustainable future for generations to come.

The journalist thanked me and I never heard what happened  about my doodles. But it doesn't really matter. I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon's transatlantic conversation and had a good think about the world.

Your comments

 Since a few years I'm speculating about who is the driving force for all the wars. I'm convinced now it is the military. Every country has a certain amount of people who want to make a living by taking things from others. They are attracted to the military or become bandits. The military is the strongest force in every country and they demand from their government an ever bigger slice of the cake. They are not interested in piece for they get double pay and lots of fringe benefits in war. They are only trained for war and if they become an occupation army, that's heaven for then they can lord over the natives and even kill them. They just have to say he pointed a finger at me, I thought it was a gun so I shot him. We have seen many governments who disagreed with their military, they got simply thrown out and the country treated as occupied. One more remark: a modern army attacks an other country only if they are sure they have at least 50 times the fire power and an occupation army does not want to go home. They are still in Japan and Germany and in Palestine. How heroic!!! I even know how to stop or prevent any war: put the military on halve pay as soon as any war is on.

-- Alois Krautloher

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