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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

MLK DVD Shows How to Handle Heat

Senators Jim Webb and Lindsay Graham got into a fierce dust-up on Meet the Press a few weeks ago. If you had to score the thing, you would give Webb the edge, because he was right and his credibility came through. But neither Senator was particularly well-served by the acrimonious exchange. You could almost hear viewers hoping for a more enlightening discussion switching channels from coast to coast.
This sort of thing happens on interview/debate programs fairly often. Politicians spend big bucks hiring consultants to upgrade their media skills. But you have to wonder if they do much good, when you see so many elected officials losing cool under fire.
There are precious few contemporary role models for displaying genuine grace and dignity when they are getting grilled by press or critics. But there is a wonderful DVD, “King: Man of Peace in a Time of War,” which shows how it is done. In one segment, Dr. King is interviewed by Mike Douglas and Tony Martin. Despite the Mike Douglas Show’s softball format at the time, both men ask King some tough questions about his then controversial opposition to the Vietnam War. King answers calmly and deliberately with substantive answers, all the while displaying a friendly, open spirit towards his questioners. There is no bristling or anger, nary a trace of off-putting sarcasm or snark. At the end of the interview, King’s winning maturity leaves viewers and questioners alike somewhat awestruck.
MLK was rightly celebrated for his ability to turn on the heat in his speeches. But he also understood the power of cool. Few leaders have King’s remarkable gifts. But that doesn’t mean today’s public figures can’t learn from him. The DVD costs just $12.99 at Amazon — highly recommended for all Democratic candidates.

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