If you give an important press conference and nobody comes, it's a tragedy. If you give an unimportant one and nobody comes, it's a comedy. But if you give an unimportant one and everybody comes, it's a farce, and your name must be Chuck Hagel.
Content-free press conferences are a staple of DC life, but most political reporters are savvy enough to know which ones to avoid. Dan Quayle founding a golf course? PETA announcing a nasty vegan product? A woman claiming she slept with Bill Clinton? Yawn. The DC media only attend these events for the free pastries.
But when the presidential race is involved, all judgment goes out the window. So when Hagel, the craggy-faced anti-war Republican senator from Nebraska, announced a big, important press conference last week, the national media crowded in breathlessly - "Hagel Sez Yez to Run for Prez," they uniformly imagined.
But, in what ranks as one of the biggest political letdowns since Mitt Romney turned out to only have one wife, Hagel's big announcement was that "my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year."
The sound of cameras rapidly cutting away was almost as loud as the simultaneous slamming shut of dozens of notebooks. And "that giant sucking sound," to use a political term, was the good will that the press affords most new candidates evaporating.
Reporters need sleep. Don't waste their time. The headline they're mulling now: "Chuck Sux - He Made Me Miss Lunch."
PR Play Rating
3. On the right track