Credibility Gaps – and One Key Exception

It’s been a rough week in some quarters. Take Facebook, for example. The latest news is that the Federal Trade Commission is in negotiations with Facebook regarding a possible multi-billion—that’s BILLION—dollar fine regarding the company’s privacy practices. Should you have any doubts that this has been a long standing problem for Facebook, go to this link of Mark Zuckerberg trying to answer questions on this very topic at a Wall Street Journal D8 conference in 2010. The face of Facebook’s founder says it all.

The video shows a sweaty, ill at ease Zuckerberg doing a great impersonation of Richard Nixon’s disastrous first debate with John F. Kennedy in 1960. Here’s the blow-by-blow account, in facial coding terms. Look for resentment about the topic of privacy being raised at second 9 (tightened lips); followed by an (avoidance) glance downward at second 20; furrowed eyebrows at second 47; Zuckerberg starting to dissolve into sweat by or before the 1:47 mark; then outright fear (mouth pulling wide) just before the 2-minute mark; and finally Zuckerberg being helped to strip down to his T-shirt because he’s having such a sweaty “Nixon moment” by the 3-minute mark.

How about Mike Pence? Did he have a good time at this past week’s Munich Security Conference? I’d say not based on the deafening silence that followed his telling the audience: “I bring greetings from . . . Donald Trump.” After about five seconds of waiting for applause that never came—not from a single attendee—Pence resumed his remarks. (Later, the White House added a fake-news applause annotation to that part of the official U.S. transcript of the event.)

Besides Zuckerberg’s faux commitment to consumer privacy and the Trump administration’s faux commitment to diplomatic cordiality (except when Kim Jong-un is involved), another credibility gap emerged this past week in Chicago. Yes, the saga of Jussie Smollett being allegedly attacked by two men late at night continues to mystify. When Smollett was being interviewed by ABC’s Robin Roberts, the “Empire” actor repeatedly pinched his eyebrows together in a show of being indignant about having his account of events be doubted. Well, that expression signals fear as much as it does anger, fear . . . as in possibly fear I’ll be found out. The latest word is that odds are Smollett staged the attack. His motive: gain more attention because a racist letter sent to the show’s studio hadn’t gotten a very big, supportive reaction from executives on-site. As the saying goes, stay tuned for more.

Finally, where did credibility endure? On 60 Minutes, Andrew McCabe didn’t come across as “deranged” (despite Trump’s tweet to the contrary). Only in recounting Trump calling his wife a “loser” did McCabe show a strong response: an upper lip flaring in disgust and anger. Otherwise, McCabe was emotionally buttoned-down and all business. No leisurely, “executive time” for this guy! Now that the cabinet is reduced entirely to lackeys, even the 25th amendment can’t shortcut the constitutional crisis likely to unfold in the months ahead.