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Suffering from foot-in-mouth disease
The gift of oral prowess is an essential tool in the arsenal of politicians... they hope to win friends and influence people to their way of thinking or, more specifically, to their slot in the polling booth. In fact, there is a standing joke that the worst thing one can do is to put a microphone or a television camera in the face of these people... they rarely miss an opportunity to push their spin or, as some would say, “gallery,” no matter if what they are saying makes sense or not.
So in the context of getting their message across it is essential that they seize any moment they can to do so. Unfortunately this can get out of hand to the point where they become overexposed, and because of the awe in which our politicians are held, especially those occupying ministerial positions, hardly anyone—particularly their advisers—will tell them to “cool it” when it is obvious they are talking too much.
Today I want to direct this little space to discussing this phenomenon, sarcastically dubbed “foot-in-mouth disease,” as it affects some of the ministers in the PP Cabinet. I deliberately refrained from doing so before now because, being a firm believer in giving everyone a fair chance before constructively criticising them, I decided to wait and see if and when these ministers would realise the error of their ways.
The missteps and misspeaking they were engaging in I put down to inexperience in such a position, although some of them, including Prime Minster Kamla Persad-Bissessar, are not new to occupying Cabinet office. But 29 months in office is a sufficient period for them to become aware that it is time to slow down on the rhetoric and devote the time spent on responding to allegations, be they from the PNM or whatever quarter, to resolutely prosecuting their respective portfolios.
Not that they are not doing so, but again, given the nature of news dissemination, the negative stories would always be given priority over the positive aspects of their office. Good news, as the maxim goes, does not sell newspapers.
Because of the adversarial nature of our politics, the verbal cut and thrust cannot be avoided, and it cannot be that the opposition PNM should consistently drop calpets on PP functionaries and they simply lie down and take them without responding to the allegations.
But it is not for everything the Opposition says that Cabinet members must rush and blah-blah about the place. As a result of this situation, the talk on the streets is that the PP is not delivering on their campaign promises. Which of course is not the truth, as the booklets published on the first and second anniversaries of their office would testify.
One of the main reasons why I am dealing with this topic today is that I am hearing too much of this complaint, not only from PNMites, but from concerned PP supporters who are still passionately in support of the team. One minister in particular is being singled out for criticism, who they say should be read the riot act by Persad-Bissessar.
I will not call him out today, but again I am giving him and other offenders one more chance before naming them.
These supporters complain that while the ministers are wildly responding to PNM charges, they are falling into the trap being set by the PNM who are engaging in the politics of distraction: have the ministers busy responding to these charges, and distract them from properly discharging their functions, so that when election time comes around there will not be too much to show for their stewardship.
If this is going to work we shall see when that time arrives. One of the real dangers of rushing to talk leads to people speaking out of turn, and how many times are they being criticised for engaging in PR stunts? Ministers tumbling over each other to see who could get more attention in the media, even though, in their haste to apparently show that they are doing a good job, supporters are seeing them in a negative light.
You cannot prevent the Opposition from taking jabs at them... that is the nature of the beast. But when you counter-attack the broadside must be effective, not counterproductive. At this time, gentlemen, please exercise your vocal cords in more a judicious and productive manner.
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