Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
The Australian Defence Minister, Kevin Andrews, crashed and burned on ABC TV's 7.30 program last night when he failed to name the head of IS on the day he committed another 330 troops to help fight ISIS in Iraq.
His weak response delivered the worst possible outcome – it left him looking ignorant, querulous and simply not up to the job.
If you missed 7.30's gotcha moment, you can watch the highlights here. It's worth it just to see the awesome Leigh Sales in action.
Kev crashed and burned, so what should have said or done? We did a quick journalist survey to discover what would have satisfied them if they were interviewing him.
The consensus is that of course he must be able to name the leader of the so called ‘death cult’ he is waging war against. But we are all human, assuming he knew it and just had a mental blank what are his other options?
Admitting he can’t remember is high risk but would have left him with more credibility than his pompous bluster. All he had to do was admit it had been a busy day and the name escaped him, then try to take the conversation elsewhere.
An added bonus is that it gives him a great option to face the next day’s media storm and redeem himself as a decent human being – it’s called an apology.
The second and more likely option is to close down confidently and strongly. His stumbling efforts at deflecting the question looked evasive and were a clear sign of weakness.
If you are not going to answer the question, do it with pride. Reporters can sense weakness and it shows they are on to something.
Be up front and tell the reporter firmly you are not going to name names. And then give the reasons why.
Kev's mistake was to go straight to some guff about loose organisation structure, he needs to man up.
And as for citing ‘Operational Issues’, that’s clearly a bogus excuse guaranteed to inflame the situation.
Given he had no intention of naming names, he must do it with integrity and ride out the questions confidently. So Kev, every time the journalist asks you that question, just repeat your position firmly, calmly and politely.
If an outright refusal is too hard then a step down would be to start by explaining that it’s not the individuals that matter, it’s the organisation and what it stands for - then get to your key message. If that doesn’t work he can still fall back to explaining that he is not going to name names.
Finally there’s the Barrack Obama model which is my personal favorite, which he first used when running for President in 2008.
When asked if he wore briefs or boxers he replied: “I don’t answer those types of questions, but which ever it is I look damn good in them”.