Grace under Pressure? : Crisis Management and 2016

I. Introduction

I outline the issue the implications of crisis management in Philippine politics. As I will show, crisis management has taken on a a greater role in today’s media-centric politics. I call this “Political Nudity”. The next president should be scrutinized on how they will handle crisis- their “grace under pressure”.

II. Six Shots that Rocked a Nation

March 30, 1981 was a chaotic day in American politics. At around 2:27 pm (EST) of that day, a man named John Hinckley Jr. aimed and fired six shots on the President of the United States.[1]

Then-President Ronald Reagan was immediately rushed to George Washington University Hospital following the attempt on his life. Accounts differ on how badly he was injured. His son, Michael Reagan, said that “It was the difference from the car making a left turn, to the White House, or a right turn, to the hospital.”[2]

However, the President managed to inject humor into the grim situation. He reportedly old his wife Nancy “Honey, I forgot to duck.” He also told his doctors “I hope you’re all Republicans.” And after surgery, he scribbled a note that said: “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

President Reagan eventually recovered from his injuries. In addition, his good nature despite his critical condition revealed something about modern politics.

III. “Naked Moments” or Political Nudity and Modern Politics

In his book Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen stated that President Reagan’s warmth despite adversity was a “naked moment” in politics.[3] A “naked moment”- or political nudity– is “(an) instance when people can see through the core of a public figure.”[4] Gergen cites Jackie Kennedy wearing a coat splattered with her husband’s blood, distressed yet poised; Richard Nixon insisting “I am not a crook”; and Bill Clinton lying about not having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky as examples of political nudity.

Political nudity reveals two things about contemporary politics. First, it demonstrates the importance of crises.  Crises are moments of political vulnerability. They can ruin, restore or maintain a politician’s image. Furthermore, political nudity also reveals the enormous role of the media. A public figure’s composure- or lack thereof- during crises will be broadcasted for all to see. For instance, President Reagan’s bonhomie during his assassination attempt strengthened his reputation as Good Ol’ Relatable Reagan, optimistic and always smiling his “Aw shucks” smile.

IV. Political Nudity During the Aquino Administration

There have been two prominent examples of political nudity during the Aquino administration. Both have been politically disastrous. The first was DILG Secretary Mar Roxas’ response to Yolanda. Sec. Roxas appeared prickly and blind to conditions on the ground during his interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper- balat sibuyas and bulag in Filipino parlance. He also appeared to be more concerned with bureaucratic niceties and political considerations in his argument with Tacloban Mayor Romualdez.

Another, more recent and more fatal example is President Benigno Aquino III’s response to the tragic events Mamasapano, Maguindanao. In his two televised speeches, President Aquino appeared stiff and lacking in empathy. This impression was reinforced in his audience with the widows of the 44 fallen PNP-SAF agents and in his impromptu forum with the rest of the PNP-SAF agents. He also appeared to be

V.  Implications for 2016 and Beyond

First of all, political nudity implies that crisis management is a crucial part of contemporary politics. Crises can be a pitfall or an opportunity, depending on how they are handled.  Second, it implies that no amount of spin or image making will save a politician from a bungled crisis. With this in mind, I believe that Presidential candidates should worry about how they will present themselves as capable crisis managers in 2016. They must learn to have Grace under Pressure

[1] The Learning Network. “March 30, 1981- President Reagan is Shot” New York Times (March 20, 2012). Retrieved from

[2] Strober, D.H and Strober, G.S. The Reagan Presidency: An Oral History of the Era (Virginia: Houghton Muffin, 1981)

[3] Gergen, D.Eyewitness to Power: the Essence of Leadership from Nixon to Clinton (Simon and Schuster, 2000).

[4] Ibid.


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