Miers: Getting Off the Laugh Track



David Gergen

Once people start laughing at you, how does one get them to stop? This is the challenge Harriet Miers now faces. What can she do? What would you do?

David Gergen was speaking to the Women and Power program at the JFK School of Government at Harvard and was asked about a similiar conundrum.

Gergen replied, “First, find a Rabbi.”

The former presidential advisor was saying to find a wise old friend who could offer advice and support and guidance.

This is what Miers — or anyone who has become the butt of jokes — now needs.

Harriet Miers now has limited options. But not the rest of us.

If people are laughing at you, here’s what you can, and what you cannot do.

First, you cannot not do something. In the old days, before bloggers, a public figure could stonewall, hunker down and ride out the storm.

Run silent/run deep.

Not today. Silence will be replaced with daily dug-up dirt. Passed around online.

The best course of action to mute laughter is to be seen, and embraced publicly, by People Who Matter.

(Like Glenn Reynolds.)

You cannot talk your way off the laugh track. You cannot talk publicly to the masses. You can only talk quietly to a bosom buddy, preferably One Who Matters. Not to CNN.

If you are being laughed at “find a friend.” Someone to introduce you to a Person Who Matters, who will speak up and speak often and speak everywhere on your behalf.

If you are the victim or the joke target you have three options. Your Business Blogger (as your unordained Rabbi) advises:

Option 1) Reach up — President/celebrities

Option 2) Reach across — Peers/companions

Option 3) Reach down — Peeps/co-workers

Option 1 is best for most of us in the laughter bull’s-eye. Unfortunately, Harriet Miers cannot reach up to President Bush. Their relationship brought the “cronyism” punchline and is part of the underlying problem.

The White House then turned to the “celebrity” endorsement of Laura Bush . . . which only reinforced the “friendship.”

So Option 2: Peers. Miers needed to establish some serious peer cred. She should have done lunch with Bob Bork. Discussion of penumbras with the pasta. Judicial intimacy. Like minds thinking.

Looks like it’s too late to recruit Bork.

Other “peers”? For Harriet Miers a stage managed photo with Sandra Day O’Connor. Unfortunately some “equals” who might silence the laughs for Miers would further anger the base and Senate support. No go for Miers.

Companions? The one who came forward most publicly for Miers turned out to be a former, or current, boyfriend. Not a strategy to imitate.

Option 3 would use your peeps — the people who love you. This is audience participation. In our Miers case study this would be another class picture of Harriet hobknobbing with the Appellate Judges whom she leapfrogged. The reach down to peeps is not, for Miers, an option either.

Miers’ best course of action is a stellar performance at the hearings. Where she will do okay.

And be confirmed. Maybe.

But no matter how she votes, or what she writes, her work will be intensely scrutinized and met with a collective eye-roll.

Why would she still want the job?

Which brings us mortals to the real decision that real people have when we are laughed at or not taken seriously. If the three paths above don’t work, the rest of us still have an option remaining. You are not married to your job or your city.

You can quit.


Thank you (foot)notes:

Volokh has Miers commas.

ProfessorBainbridge has details. Details.

Outside the Beltway has real conservatism.

Michelle Malkin has trouble with Harriet.

The Conglomerate says withdraw.


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