It’s just a hunch, but I have a sense that Tuesday, June 25, 2019 may be remembered as a game changer for our national political landscape. Three separate developments emerged that day, each powerful and consequential and collectively simply dynamite.
First, the horrifying picture of the father and young daughter lying dead in the border river.
Second, the news that Mueller will testify in public Congressional hearings.
Third, the President’s border chief abruptly resigned after only two months on the job.
Throughout my half century of leadership in the public arena, I always sought to connect the dots to interpret when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This may be one of those moments.
With my partisan, rose-colored glasses put away, here’s why I think June 25 may be consequential:
First, the riveting picture of the father and his daughter symbolizes for perhaps the first time the heart of the intense immigration debate. It reminds me of the symbolic impact of the photograph taken 50 years ago of the point blank assassination of the Viet Cong prisoner — a picture that proved to be a turning point in American support of the Vietnam War.
For those who say that the father is to be blamed for his and his daughters death or that the captured Viet Cong deserved to die, you have missed my point. The takeaway is that optics are powerful and consequential in the public arena.
Second, the news that Mueller is going to testify publicly before Congress is a game changer. Sure, Mueller’s report has been in the public domain for several weeks. It continues to be a best seller in bookstores.
However, now the public will see first hand Mueller speaking and responding to intense questions from congress members. Once again, powerful optics will be at play. Anyone who doubts the power of optics should go back in time and study the Watergate hearings when our beloved Senator Howard Baker and his future Senator aide Fred Thompson dismantled John Dean, Alexander Butterfield, and many others. The open testimony on TV was powerful and devastating.
Third, the sudden resignation of the border chief raises all kinds of questions. Why after only two months on the job? What does he know and when did he know it, to paraphrase Senator Baker? Almost certainly, he will be called before Congress, and again the optics would come into play.
Time will tell whether my hunch is correct. In any event, the stakes have been raised. Once again, the old saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ will be in play. Hang on!