LeBron’s Announcement: Crisis Management Lessons For House GOP On Benghazi?

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Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
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      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

LeBron James’s surprise announcement last Friday that he planned to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Miami Heat offers important lessons for effective crisis management. Indeed, the most important lesson might be applicable to House Republicans as they plan new hearings on Benghazi this fall.

The first and most important is to admit a mistake yourself — and take responsibility.

In 2010, it will be recalled, James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and go to the Miami Heat in search of an NBA championship. His big problem was not that decision but how he made his announcement — on a nationally televised ESPN special called “The Decision” — with media hype and boastful statements about himself.

Last Friday, James admitted his mistakes to Sports Illustrated reporter Lee Jenkins:

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently.”

While he explained why he still believed the decision to go to play for the Miami Heat and try to win a championship title was the right one for him, he also put himself into the shoes of the Cleveland Cavaliers owner and fans to understand their anger:

“But then you think about the other side. … Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?”

James also used the classic crisis management technique of the preemptive strike, breaking the story himself in an essay on at SI.com, to control the message:

“I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riley didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true. I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.”

Well done, LeBron.

So what can Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Benghazi special committee, learn from LeBron?

Simple: admit past GOP errors about Benghazi and take responsibility.

For example, Gowdy and other congressional Republicans have repeatedly stated that a “White House political narrative” was behind the “talking points” used by Susan Rice on Sunday TV talk shows stating that the origins of the 2012 attacks were a “spontaneous demonstration … triggered by protests in Cairo.” Now we know from sworn testimony that the CIA created that phrase from the first draft of the talking points to the last — based on their honest reading of then current, conflicting intelligence reports. So Gowdy simply should say: We Republicans were wrong in repeatedly making false accusations against the Obama White House on the “talking points” issue.