One piece of advice my colleagues and I give every public affairs client is: 'Do not take legal advice from your PR counselors, and never take PR advice from your lawyers.'
It is hard to imagine a more serious disregard of this advice than that of the Gore campaign in the turbulent days since Election Night Convinced of the righteousness and strength of their legal arguments, they stood virtually silent for three weeks, and in that time permitted the Republicans - with eager help from a large portion of the media - to steal their PR lunch and, as looks extremely likely, the election.
Consider that all this began with a false call on Election Night by Bush's cousin, acting as an expert at the Fox network, a solidly pro-Bush conservative institution. The cousin, after frequent consultation with the Bush camp, called Florida about 2 am, quickly followed by the real network news organizations, probably more concerned with time than with accuracy.
Without a Gore PR offensive - or even much of a defense - that erroneous call formed the basis for the persisting notion that Bush won and that Gore is a challenging loser - even a sore one.
Consider further that the immediate (and legally required) post-election call for a recount was met by a federal court suit to block the recount - summarily dismissed, and the appeal, too.
Where were the Gore spokesmen asking all day, every day, 'Why should a politician be afraid of a recount?'
When the secretary of state set repeated deadlines to block a full recount, why didn't the Gore folks demand, legally and publicly, she recuse herself on the grounds that she was Gov. Bush's co-chairman?
Much of the country and the media now adopt the Bush PR mantra that there have been three (or at least two) recounts; why was it left to Gore himself - in a rather colorless five-minute speech - to point out there has yet to be one recount, and endless GOP delays to prevent it?
Moreover, why has there not been a scathing PR attack on Majority Leader Richard Armey for saying, publicly, if Gore won he would boycott the Inauguration, or at least not stand or applaud; or on James Baker for even suggesting, when he lost in the state Supreme Court, that it was time for the Florida legislature to step in and overrule any recount?
Finally, why didn't Gore's PR team put Seminole County - where the Supervisor of Elections let GOP operatives sit in a back room for 10 days altering thousands of Republican applications for absentee ballots - on every editor's mind?