Memo to the Premier: Re: HARDtalk

Dear Alden,

As you prepare for your upcoming interview with Stephen Sackur, host of the BBC’s popular HARDtalk, we know you are being bombarded with advice from both well-wishers and those who wish you anything but well.

The consensus – but trust us, it’s meaningless – may be that host Sackur is a Goliath, you a mere David, and the outcome not likely to turn out well.

We disagree, and would like to offer you a few thoughts of our own which, in fact, is the only advice you will need. Stick this editorial in your pocket, re-read it just before show time, and ignore anyone else and everything else in the meantime.

First, do not over-prepare. Do not over-strategize. Do not over-plan.

As heavyweight champ Mike Tyson once observed about his opponents’ over-preparing for their fights: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

You already know everything you need to know to do well on this 30-minute show. As a player in the Super Bowl opined going into yesterday’s big match-up, play the game only once – on the field, not in your head.

Second, we reviewed several recent HARDtalk episodes, and while Sackur can be both insistent and provocative – he likes a good fight – so what? So does Ezzard. And, now that we think of it, so do you.

Third, we are slightly concerned by an initial statement you made that you were “humbled” to be asked to appear on HARDtalk. Let’s stop that kind of thinking right now.

HARDtalk is a television show and Stephen Sackur is a journalist. Cayman is a country, and you are a Premier. You have already won the stature war.

Fourth, your biggest concern perhaps should not be the interview itself but the editing of the interview. We are reminded of renowned law professor Samuel Dash who came to some fame as chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee. Dash, who taught at Georgetown Law School, was famous for delivering and recording an opening-day lecture to his students and then, overnight, editing his own remarks into a murder confession.

Television journalists, of the “60 Minutes” ilk, are notorious for their unfair editing practices. Make arrangements to receive a copy of the unedited interview footage in case the record needs to be “corrected” at a later date. It will also help to keep them honest.

Fifth, don’t get bogged down in parochial Cayman issues, such as landfill woes, cruise ship piers or Turtle Farm financials. Very few, if any, in the BBC audience could care less.

Finally, do not hesitate to use the line that master-debater William F. Buckley Jr. once uttered to an uppity television talk show host: “Sir, it is not inconceivable that I know a helluva lot more about this subject than you do.”

Remember: Relax, be polite, be friendly, and be yourself. You’ll do just fine.

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  1. Anyone who’s watched the show knows what to expect.
    If Premier McLaughlin and his political advisory team prepares properly by watching past interviews of political leaders, they should know what to prepare for.
    Hard-core political journalists need hard-core answers … any wishy-washy, deer-in-the-headlights approach needs a similar response or else the interviewee gets gobbled up as a victim.
    Mr. McLaughlin needs to prepare for any questions on the white elephant in the room … Operation Tempura.
    And hope that that white elephant remains safely hidden in the closet.
    Otherwise, he should be fine.

  2. Good advice Compass, Hopefully he listens. But we all know that politicians do as politicians do. I have no doubt that he has plans on using this to present himself as Cayman’s savior, the first premier with integrity after a history of corruption and inadequate leadership. This is a plan that may well backfire on his unless Mother has shared plans of making her yes man out to be just that.

  3. Mr. Davies
    I got my last comments a bit crossed up.
    What I meant to say is that any wishy-washy, deer-in-the-headlight approach to any hard questions this interviewer has to ask will have Mr. McLaughlin gobbled up like so much appetizer … before the real meal is even served.
    He has to stand toe-to-toe with this interviewer to stand any chance at all.
    The fact that this interview comes AFTER Mr. McLaughlin’s speech at the anti-corruption conference speaks volumes.
    In his speech. Mr. McLaughlin will have all the chance to present his … and Cayman’s case; he had better take advantage of it because that is all the chance he will get.
    This interview will be geared to refute anything that he has said.
    And, if I am correct, there are elements out here in the UK who are just drooling to get him in front of the cameras to grill him about Operation Tempura.

    For his sake, I hope that I’m wrong if he comes unprepared for this.

    In any event, I will be watching this interview with bated breath

    And so will some of the members of my church who has been wanting more information on the Cayman Islands.
    I sincerely hope that Mr. McLaughlin can go some way in alleviating some of the negative stereotypes that is rampant in the British press about the Cayman Islands.
    And, make no mistake, the ongoing nightmare of Operation Tempura and its fallout has been a huge factor.

  4. It is just a talk show after all, it is not as if he can be indited for stepping on it. Operation Tempura records were restricted by the a member of the Foreign Office deemed closed in the interest of National Security, Where can he go with that. Further it still remain a matter before the courts. I doubt if the Premiere will be able to enlighten anyone given those restrictions.
    Also we already paid for that, and will have little personal impact on the broader audience.

    The long arm of the USA IRS tax collector reaching into restricted files of a UK OS territory. Those questions
    Will interest many, whichever way the host takes his questioning, pro or con Caymans position.