With a blog titled “The Brand Chef,” you don’t expect to hear political rhetoric or commentary on the current U.S. presidential skirmish. But when small fissures in campaign brands rear their ugly heads, I have to set aside common thought and comment.

In a “Face the Nation” interview with Bob Schieffer, General Wesley Clark renounced Senator John McCain’s military experience as a benefit to his presidential capacity. Now, Clark – a consummate Hillary Clinton backer – has never been known for treading lightly, but with a virtual backhanded cuff to McCain’s white scalp, he smacked down everything from the Senator’s political accountability to his responsibility and credibility.

While seemingly in shock, Sheiffer pushed back, prompting Clark’s brilliant headline-making statement:

“I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”


What was the Obama team’s response – a sound slap on the wrist?

Okay, I see it’s the week before the 4th of July, but if Patriotism is the “political theme of the week,” wouldn’t you think the Obama team would have sent a spokesperson with a little more diplomacy – let alone a bit less venom? Was Clark sent out as a representative of the Obama campaign or as a hit man from the Soprano family?

From a branding standpoint, where is Obama’s brand message consistency? Obama’s campaign has never questioned McCain’s military credibility – less his ability to be commander-in-chief. Obama has wisely skirted the military point from campaign stop to campaign stop. To have Clark step up and throw the first stone creates a brand disconnect that could be huge trouble for the Obama campaign.

As expected, Obama’s camp sent out a statement on Monday rejecting the comments made by Clark and reinforcing the fact that,

“[Obama] honors and respects Senator McCain’s service…”

But has the damage already been done?

Disconnect in messaging = Brand cyanide.

Let’s stir the pot and cook up some conversation. Do you think this is an Obama brand faux-paz or is this more from the dysfunctional Democratic Party? Where does Obama go from here to quell the ire.

Keep Cooking!

  1. In principle, I don’t disagree with the statement, though I’d suggest the presentation lacked diplomacy required in politics. Being a POW doesn’t qualify one for President. This is true. Nor does being wounded, or else Benedict Arnold would have been a better candidate than George Washington on that account alone.

    (Of course, Washington DID have executive experience, but at least in the early campaigns, he failed more than he succeeded in all but one thing: keeping his army alive and together).

    Still, it’s an axiom in Washington that if you don’t have anything good to say about your own candidate, you attack the other, which goes to explain the remarks of Gen Clark, whom, truth be told, I never respected anyway.

  2. But what happens when people from your camp start shooting personal opinions over the bow of the opponents’ ships?!? Do the Democrats have a media relations issue to contend with related to Gen. Clark? Yes.

    In principle, being a POW or having a “dramatic” military history shouldn’t serve as qualification for office. But I think McCain took a cheep one to the gut and handled it pretty well.

    I (personally) don’t believe that Gen. Clark’s message came from the Obama camp, but Barack and the Party as a whole have some Democrat brand messaging to define to get back on track.

    Thanks for stopping by the kitchen, Cam. It’s great to have you here. And thanks for the history lesson!

    Keep Cooking!