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With the help of an experienced crisis communication professional, every executive team in all types of organizations should: (1) Realize that personal experience at other times and places may not be sufficient. (2) Understand that each new crisis situation requires new analysis. (3) Brainstorming action possibilities is critically important. (4) And only then can completely relevant and empathetic messaging be developed and delivered.

Working over many years with university and nonprofit executives, I found that what they want to say during a current crisis is always based on their past experiences. My challenge always was get them to realize that a new crisis requires new thinking, and that past experiences may or may not be helpful.

When it came to Afghanistan, Biden’s crisis analysis team should have taken these basic factors into account before deciding what to say: The economy gradually improved during this 20 year period. The Afghan government often did help to stabilize the situation. Many successful small businesses were started. Non-profits made human rights advances. Many Afghans, especially girls, received an education and embarked on meaningful careers. Thus, many people thought the country was stabilized with the presence of only a small number of U.S. and other troupes.

With the guidance of crisis communication professionals, final exit plans and official messaging should have been designed that empathetically acknowledged these factors. Some of the easy to anticipate criticisms might also have been inoculated.

AND… shouldn’t this kind of current analysis and fresh thinking approach also be applied to all of Biden’s urgent crises?

Media revolutions change everything… including how quickly the world becomes aware of every political promise. Today, news events often require a change of plans.

Protecting human rights is a core American value. It no doubt led the U.S. into staying in Afghanistan too long.

But Biden’s rapid exit was a mistake. Training the Afghan military, providing wartime equipment, and positioning a few thousand special forces to oversee operations, was holding off the Taliban.

I believe President Biden could have made good on his campaign promise by slowing things down to stabilize the country, and then by planning a more gradual exit.

Withdrawing was a good idea. Doing it so fast was a big mistake.

Democracies require strong and stable institutions to survive.

Media revolutions change most everything. Can people, politics, religion, education, and institutions ever be the same?

Universities today are adjusting to the vicious impact of the pandemic. How many will ever be strong again?

Governments have become hopelessly partisan. Can they ever become bipartisan problem-solvers again?

Curriculum decisions are being made by legislators. Will education policy and practice ever be returned to educators?

Ministers are trying to bring back worshipers on Sundays. How many COVID-19 losses will become permanent?

Cults have become homes for extremists. How much of a threat will they become in the future?

Zoom allowed people to work from home. How many problems are in store for the workplace?

Stable democracies simply require strong organizations and institutions. And dictatorships simply destroy them.

Digital media enabled politics to become a power game.

Social media gave us new and powerful tools to communicate directly with individuals and specific groups.

Extremists used these tools to dominate politics. Legislatures became polarized and lost touch with their constituents.

Many hard working Americans were already feeling that Washington was no longer in touch with their needs.

This new media environment enabled a reality-show host to run for president.

He chose to run as a Republican… and promised his audiences everything, but delivered nothing but entertainment.

Additional right wing extremist groups saw opportunities for themselves and soon joined in.

The Republican Party itself stopped competing on issues… and began to concentrate on power-focused tactics.

Today’s politics has become a game of getting and holding on to power. At least for now, there is no good place for those primarily interested in policies and ideas.

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press…

Beyond the press, balancing civil liberties and human rights for everyone was clearly on the minds of our founders.

They put their ideas about what America could become in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

From what they wrote, they simply had to know they were leaving slavery and inequality for others to deal with.

They established values they thought would prevent future autocrats from destroying their grand experiment.

And there also was no way they could ever have anticipated the Internet, television, and social media.

We therefore recently have become overwhelmed by an unanticipated misinformation environment.

As a result, journalists must now leave behind traditional issues reporting practices… and focus only on finding and reporting truth and facts. America always has been a work in progress, and now journalists have a new role to play.

Too many voices get lost in the new media swamp.

Biden’s priority to eliminate COVID is fine, but other issues are requiring immediate action.

Simple talking points should be prepared on voter laws, the border, guns, infrastructure, climate, and democracy.

Every democrat in the nation should use them as news headlines appear each day.

The most urgent talking points should be shouted daily from the White House on multiple media platforms.

Democrats need a billionaire-funded super PAC to add intensity.

Texas democrats mean well…but to be effective they simply must practice “talking-point discipline.”

Media revolutions changed the game, and the opposition is winning. It’s long past time for the Democrats to join the social media shaped world and get “talking point” disciplined, focused, and tough!

In his 2016 campaign, without a strategy or plan, Trump fell back on his past practice of attacking adversaries.

The reality show host simply stumbled into using cruel remarks to entertain people attending his rallies.

He quickly found that his bold remarks would produce news headlines, and live cable TV coverage would follow.

He also found that yelling “build a border wall” and “make America great again” would bring a rousing applause.

Twitter rants and mean-spirited attacks resulted in daily news headlines and increased visibility.

Ideology lost its political appeal, extremists took over, and social media became their weapons of choice

Eventually, attacking adversaries became the best pathway to power.

Voting these extremists out of office now seems to be the only sure way to save democracy

Both parties have been far too partisan for far too long.

Democrats are split between too many single-minded liberals and middle-of-the-road centrists.

Republicans are too focused on their ” I’m in it for me” primary election survival.

The possibility of a dictatorship is not frightening enough for far too many Americans.

There seems to be a widespread almost paralyzing fear of Trump’s most extreme supporters.

There is too much easy rejection of environmental science and the clear evidence supporting climate change.

There is too little appreciation of the precious individual freedom promises of a democracy.

The ‘what’s in it for me” culture needs to end, and we need to get back to the “it’s really about us” culture.

Bipartisan governance will very likely need to wait for a total House and Senate political housecleaning.

All this is to say… we need to make sure we elect a democracy-committed and science-supporting presidential candidate in 2024!

Almost no-one, BUT...

Most potential autocrats were first elected because of citizen dissatisfaction with government… or as the result of a carefully controlled election.

Dismayed citizens usually respond supportively to sincere-sounding promises for a more prosperous life.

Once in office, potential autocrats quickly demonstrate obvious lifelong “self-serving” behaviors.

They weaken, and sometimes even completely dismantle, government and nongovernment institutions… including the courts.

Some supporters, and especially close associates, see advantages for themselves and become loyalists.

Others climb onboard with conspiracy ideas, cultist inclinations, and personal control goals of their own.

Apathetic and exhausted citizens decide to accept the situation… rationalizing that their private lives are not likely to change that much.

If elected again, or if an orchestrated coup is successful, driven autocrats inevitably become dictators. As a result, anything resembling a democracy is then totally lost. Sadly, America seems to be drifting in that direction.

In our polarized and lies-infested world, journalism should return to a focus on finding facts and providing context.

Reporters should see news conferences as opportunities to give readers, viewers and listeners the context they need to understanding the situation… not simply to find a headline.

TV organizations should return to focusing on the news. Commercial temptations are causing producers to celebrate celebrity and celebrities, create endless commercial breaks, shorten too many important stories, and increase the overall speed of everything. Morning and evening news programs have become exhausting for everyone.

Too many newscasts now rely on dramatically edited crime, shootings, extremist statements, and crisis headlines to grab an audience and hold it well into the program. Competition is usually what drives these decisions.

Journalists must become less worried about career and commercial success… and more broadly about democracy and what saving one requires of them.