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Goodbye, Matt Blunt. We hardly knew you.

Thursday, January 31, 2008 | 3:40 p.m. CST; updated 10:46 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

With my deepest apologies to the Everly Brothers, everybody sing: Bye-bye, Blunt; Bye-bye, poor policy; Hello, integrity; Bye-bye, Matt Blunt, goodbye; We promise we won’t cry…

OK, I’ll stop now.

My students were asked to watch Blunt’s speech and comment. What did they think of the presentation as students of public speech? What were their critiques and, more importantly, their perceptions? What is their belief for the use of the Internet and YouTube as the media for announcing his decision?

Noting that they were not privileged to the inner workings of the governor’s political machine, the students could only, at best and like you, speculate.

My sampling was small, only 33 students. Statistically 24 years of age, female, single and politically uncommitted (or just confused). Most participate in Internet social networking and video sites. They work part- or full-time jobs. Their perceptions are important for they are our future leaders.

They all believed that the YouTube presentation was well rehearsed and definitely not completed on the first take. In their eyes and mine, the video resembled Richard Nixon’s 1952 “Checkers” speech, complete with his wife, Melanie Blunt, standing by her husband in support and affection, as Pat Nixon sat next to the senator.

The majority were uncomfortable with the presentation, perceiving that the governor was hiding something. They did not believe him and, even the conservatives felt that his nonverbal behaviors did not match his words. One asked about the controversy of the deleted e-mails, another about the Medicaid fiasco (her words) and yet another about the state’s poor standing in education and teacher salaries. They were uncomfortable with the governor’s verbal and nonverbal messages and his reason for not seeking another term. They, like you, wanted the truth.

They decided that the use of the Internet was to (in order): 1) communicate with younger voters, 2) control the media and 3) extend his “face time” through multiple news cycles. They also felt that the live performance during the news conference was much better — it was “real.”

As to why the governor is stepping down; the real reasons may never be known. I suggested that maybe Mr. Blunt had the “George Washington Syndrome,” believing that his legacy would be better served if he leaves at the top of his game. Maybe Mr. Blunt sees himself as Missouri’s Cincinnatus, a person of great political morality.

Cincinnatus was a hero of Rome who symbolized a true leader — one of high merit, simplicity and humility. He believed that once he accomplished the goals determined by the citizens and his own high standards, he would return to private life, to his crops and family, which is exactly what he did. Washington did the same — twice.

For many, Matt Blunt is anything but a hero and his politics failed to achieve great caliber, straightforwardness or humility. Unlike Washington, Blunt did not seek bipartisanship to elevate the government and citizens of this state. His administration did bring the state economic fortune but on the backs of those whose lives the government is meant to protect: the ill, the working poor and the children. Both Cincinnatus and Washington worked the land and understood what it meant to be a civilian — a citizen — concerned with making a living, supporting family and country by the blisters on their hands. They both feared bankruptcy. Mr. Blunt has little knowledge of what it is to live on the edge of financial disaster if one paycheck is missed.

It appears to me that, like President Bush, Mr. Blunt is more concerned about his legacy than the welfare of the residents of Missouri. So bye-bye, Mr. Blunt. Four years of your mismanagement was four years too many.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.

 


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