During the early days of my Air Force career, I had the distinct privilege of working for some extremely talented individuals. Each of them did something unique that helped guide me along my journey as a young photojournalist and later as a front-line supervisor.
Among those individuals was a captain at my office at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. He wasn't much of a "people person," but he knew his job very well.
One of the lessons I learned from him all came down to one memorable phrase: "The message perceived is the message." Simply put, people can say or do something completely unplanned that causes others to have doubts on what they did.
It's those actions (or lack thereof) that others will always remember.
In just the past week alone, we've had two national-level stories in the mainstream media that have gained a great deal of attention. In both cases, the response of those involved have led others to question their motives and integrity.
The first involves the four members of the men's U.S. swim team, who originally claimed they were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro before they recanted those claims. Shortly after that story broke, they were then accused of vandalizing a restroom at that gas station, which on Friday yielded an apology from U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.
Unfortunately for these four men, none of their fans or others following the Olympics will likely remember anything they achieved -- the medals they won or the records they set. Instead, the perceived message that people will remember is that these four men ended up embarrassing this country and tarnished the reputation of the sport.
It doesn't matter what these athletes were thinking or whether they were right or wrong. The court of public option has ruled -- it no longer matters.
The other incident involves our president and his perceived lack of concern following wide-spread flooding in Louisiana that at last count had forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and killed at least 13 individuals. A number of people in this country as well as some in the press have urged him to cut his vacation short and fly to the flood-stricken area.
While there is nothing he could say that would help alleviate the misery of those directly impacted by the flooding, his immediate presence would've at least shown that he seemed to care. Instead, we keep seeing videos and images of our president smiling for the camera and enjoying himself at Martha's Vineyard.
In an announcement on Friday, the White House indicated that Obama planned to visit the flood-stricken parishes in Louisiana as this paper was going to press on Tuesday. This was, of course, once his vacation was over.
But even if the president had cut his vacation short and flew down to Louisiana ahead of schedule, from my perspective, the damage was already done. His loudest critics will step on their soap boxes and shout, "See? He really doesn't care about you."
They will say that Obama was far more concerned about wanting to play golf instead of helping those most in need. And it doesn't matter whether what the president did was right or wrong because it no longer matters.
Granted, the president's supporters will likely continue to back him. However, I'm wondering if this will cause some of them to have second doubts on what he's doing in the White House and whether his successor will do the same thing.
But he's not the only guilty party in all of this. In what seems to be a "knee jerk" reaction in response to the president's perceived apathy over the situation, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, visited Baton Rouge on Friday to survey the flood damage.
However, if both men were genuinely concerned about the people displaced by this natural disaster, they should've been on the first flight into the area once the flooding began.
Also missing in action is Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At last count, she posted on social media that she was "closely monitoring" the situation in Louisiana. To me, that meant absolutely nothing because actions speak much louder than words.
I wonder how much political pressure it'll take for her to do the right thing and offer some consolation to the victims of the flooding. But it doesn't matter because her challenger got there first.
Here's something else that doesn't seem to make much sense. I want to flash back a few years when President George W. Bush faced public criticism and a whole lot of verbal beatings following Hurricane Katrina. His perceived lack of immediate response was widely condemned by what seemed like every news organization in this country -- something a lot of them have not forgotten to this day.
So why does one president seem to get a free "pass" and the other didn't? That alone is fueling the perception among some Americans that some in the media are favoring one political party and not the other.
In a matter of fairness, I can understand that network coverage seems to be focused 24/7 on the Summer Olympics and the upcoming presidential election. However, I've never seen a case where a widespread natural disaster like the one we're seeing in Louisiana has virtually disappeared from the list of top news stories.
Maybe if the one sitting in the White House had an (R) next to their name versus a (D), we would seen something different in terms of national news coverage.
But then again, the message perceived is the message.
-- Brian S. Orban