Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'll Tell Vlad, Mr. President

I'll Tell Vlad, Mr. President
ALL Microphones ARE HOT!
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet 

I was in the broadcasting business for thirty years.  One of the first things you learn is that one must always consider a microphone, ANY and EVERY microphone to be HOT  -- in other words,  switched on and transmitting with the "pot" set at 80 decibels, or more.

I recall a number of times two or more broadcasters would be having a discussion in a control room, or studio, when a mike would be turned on.  The room would go deathly silent --instantly.  Some speaking would halt in mid-word as if an unseen laser had suddenly severed their vocal cords.  Broadcasters become so sensitive around microphones that it becomes something of a sixth sense.  Even with that extra sense we still manage to have our moments of embarrassment before a mike. 

A broadcaster learns never to have a conversation -- anywhere near a mike -- that he doesn't mind the entire world hearing.   Forget distance from a mike.  Microphones are so sensitive today, there IS no "safe" distance from a mike that your conversation cannot be picked up electronically.

I have a digital recorder, smaller than a pack of cigarettes that will record conversations twenty to thirty feet away in a meeting room -- clearly.   And that is not even considered high tech, anymore.

The lesson I am attempting to impart is simply this:  If you are tempted to have a private conversation anywhere -- where you know there is a microphone -- DON'T!

When the small lavalier mikes first came on the market, entertainers and ministers gobbled them up.  Those tiny mikes would clip onto your tie or lapel and a small wire ran from the mike to a battery pack and transmitter located someplace on one's person out of sight of the audience or congregation.   The lavalier mikes would transmit to the main transmitter in the studio or church and be broadcast or sent through the public address system in the church.

Now, entertainers, as a rule, are "mike smart."  They know not to do something, or say something, stupid -- after you have been "miked." 

Early on, however, ministers were not that mike savvy.  The men of the cloth soon learned a hard and embarrassing lesson when a few,  after being "miked," decided to visit the restroom, one last time, before entering the pulpit.  You can guess what happened.  Once that mike is clipped on you and turned on -- you have no secrets.

You would think the folks who handle Presidents, especially the unit that handles Presidential electronic communications, would make a point of instructing our Presidents and Vice-Presidents in such basic mike etiquette.  Who knows?  Perhaps they do and our illustrious leaders fluff them off -- until they say something stupid, confidential, or even secret, in the presence of a live microphone. 

Once a microphone has been tested and the "level" set, as a rule, that mike is left on (hot) until the performer or speaker takes the stage, lectern, or pulpit.  Yes, there IS a reason for that.  Should the mike show signs of a problem while it is set and waiting for the speaker, it allows the sound engineers time to solve the problem or replace the mike -- BEFORE the speaker begins.

It is all basic stuff.

Knowledge of mike basics is not enough.  One must practice the proper etiquette or one will suffer the consequences.

Had President Obama had the self restraint to remain mute, with a mike so close, and not engage in a private conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he might not have frightened roughly half the people of earth with his comments about his "flexibility" after his reelection.  What he actually said was: “This is my last election,” Obama said. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”

OK.  Before my liberal friends get all bent out of shape, I DO recall President Reagan's on-mike remarks paraphrased here:  "Let the bombing begin."  That, too, was in front of a hot mike.  The difference was this:  Reagan was doing a mike test to allow the engineers to set the "level" of the microphone. 

People's voices modulate differently.  For a good quality sound and to properly sense, or "pick up," a speaker's voice, a test is run and the levels are set before a speaker is ready to speak on the air or for a recording. (You may recall that occasionally "voice prints" are used in court.  Each person's voiceprint is different)

A mike test is supposed to be private.  All sorts of things are said -- jokingly -- during a mike test.  Reagan's joke was not meant for public consumption.  He was an actor and very familiar with testing mikes on the set.  I would imagine someone was dressed-down, shall we say -- energetically -- (if not fired) after that mike test was released to the public.

Obama's gaffe has the world wondering what, exactly, he meant by his remarks that Medvedev promised he would repeat to Vladimir Putin, the President-Elect of Russia. Was he referring to the missile shield proposed for Poland and other eastern European countries?  If so -- what did he mean?  Was he referring to his breath-taking endeavor to cut America's nuclear stockpile by a humongous eighty percent?

(Obama's should be advised that Putin is about as flexible as four-inch steel rebar.)   

We conservatives feel it is just a sample of what we have been warning about if Obama wins a second term.  He has been restrained during his first term because he wants to be reelected.  In a second term there are no such restraints and, frankly, we expect Mr. Obama, the socialist ideologue that he is, to basically go wild and really push his socialist agenda on the people of the US. It is NOT a chance we want to take.

So, all in all, maybe Obama's faux paux has given Americans a realistic look into his plans -- if granted a second term.  At least Mr. Obama's second term intention toward "flexibility" is no longer something the American voter has to guess about.  We are, however, worried about what he will be more flexible on:  gun control, illegal immigration, gay rights, socialized medicine, and the biggest of all -- interpretation of the US Constitution.

The American electorate has now had a "heads-up."  There is no excuse remaining for reelecting Obama.  Conservatives would be well advised to redouble their efforts to deny Obama an extension of his lease on the Oval Office.

J. D. Longstreet

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