This Week's Reputation Saves

With the World Cup in full swing, this week’s wrap-up is aptly dedicated to the best saves – reputation saves that is. We saw a decisive save from President Obama; an epic save for U.S. Soccer; and the beginning of what will be an uphill save by Eliot Spitzer. It’s certainly been a big week for reputation goalkeepers.

Showdown at the O.K. Corral

Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald/NATO

We begin with President Obama and the reputational dilemma he faced from his field commander in Afghanistan. With the now infamous interview of General Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone magazine hitting newsstands today, President Obama faced a direct challenge to his professional reputation as commander-in-chief. General McChrystal thought it wise to offer an interview to the well-known, left-leaning magazine and also offer his criticism and personal disdain for “the wimps in the White House.”

Photo by Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

As an aside, I still cannot figure out how a decorated, educated military leader could “accidentally” walk into such a media debacle. Maybe rather than “how”, we should ask “why.”

At any rate, President Obama, after 36 hours of intense media attention, summoned his field general from Kabul to Washington for a brief 30 minute meeting, resulting in McChrystal’s resignation. The interview created a reputational quagmire for the White House: fire the general respected by Afghans for his criticism appearing petty to some audiences; or keep him in post and admit weakness by allowing insubordination. Although an uncomfortable decision for President Obama, he acted clearly and swiftly – taking his rightful command of the situation.

The Shot Heard Round the World
As American soccer fans chewed nails and sweated out the waning minutes of the U.S. vs. Algeria World Cup match tied 0-0, the entire fate of soccer (or football, if you must) in America rested on the shoulders of the U.S. team. A loss would result in elimination from the tournament and certain extinguishing of any mass popularity for the sport in America.

A tie or win would keep the flame alive. Forty-five seconds into injury time, midfielder Landon Donovan set a play that would result in the tiebreaking goal that sent the U.S. team to the second round of the World Cup. The reputation of a player, team, and sport rocketed immediately into the stratosphere. Although the win was a direct result of decades of hard work by many, the reputational tipping point came off Donovan’s boot in the 91st minute. Ironically, AT&T produced a perfect ad for just this scenario, capturing the concept perfectly.


Coming Out Party
This week, CNN announced the beginning of what will certainly be a long-term attempt at a reputational save for former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, disgraced by a lurid sex scandal with a high-end call girl, will join Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker for a primetime point-counterpoint talk show on CNN.

Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/CNN, via PR Newswire

CNN heralds the show as a “roundup of all the best ideas” of the day. I understand the need to be edgy in today’s competitive broadcast market, but CNN should be mindful of the risks. Spitzer still carries a pall that could easily smudge the network’s reputation. In an interview with The New York Times, “If the subject of the night’s news discussion touches in some way on the behavior of public officials or sexual peccadilloes, Mr. Spitzer said simply, ‘We’ll deal with it.’”

Good luck to Mr. Spitzer on his save attempt and to CNN on taking the risk.

One last thing about the Rolling Stone interview: Apparently the former American military chief in Afghanistan “prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux.” Not sure what that says about his reputation. I’ll leave that up to you, the reader.

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