Advice for candidates in the digital age

Mitt Romney, speaking at a private dinner for campaign donors May 17, 2012, in which his comments about Obama supporters, taxes and the Middle East were recorded. Mother Jones

(CBS News) Watching our candidates struggle with statements that were supposed to be private and suddenly became public - Barack Obama got burned last time, Mitt Romney this time - I offer the following guide to all candidates of the digital age.

1. Never say anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the Washington Post.

2. There is no such thing as a private party. Actually there is no longer any such thing as privacy. That ended with the coming of social media. Everyone has a camera and a recorder and their own rules for using them.

3. When you speak to a group don't expect everyone to keep what you say in confidence. No one is universally loved. The last person to get one hundred percent of the vote was Saddam Hussein. Look what happened to him.

4. If you don't want your words to become public, be quiet. Like suspects in a criminal case, all of us (including candidates) have the right to remain silent.

And finally - and this has nothing to do with cameras and recorders - when you are talking to rich folks about poor folks, be careful. It never seems to come out quite right.

As Herman Melville wrote in Harper's Magazine in 1854:

"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticism made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, the well-warmed and the well-fed."
  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.


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