'Prep team'



Erik Espina Erik Espina

There were US presidencies employing the strategy of a “prep team” – Preparation Team – in order to get the chief executive, up to speed sailing smoothly over rough issues thrown his way in press conferences, town hall meetings, or open forums after an opening statement or speech.

Ronald Reagan had a group of close-in officials simulating the atmosphere of an “unfriendly” interview with the president countering tough hurdles. His was an open debate in the Cabinet with Reagan listening to various ways to attack an issue. He was known to eat jelly-beans amidst the verbal exchanges. When the discussion was heated, he quietly listened, looking across to his officials, allowing the ebb and flow, smiling or winking at some of his people. This was his way of cooling the atmosphere. He was after all, dubbed by pundits, “The Great Communicator” and the “Teflon President.” He had this great ability to tell stories in his grandfatherly demeanor, with the raspy cadence of a distinct voice, delivering tales or advancing his cowboy image, as when in West Berlin on June 12, 1987, he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” In a word it was, “Reaganesque.”

During the Bill Clinton era, a “prep team” was the protocol. The president was in the middle of the “firing line,” with a variety of questions hurled his way by a chosen circle. His Vice President Al Gore was assigned the task as “deflator” -- or devil’s advocate to counter-argue the political messaging of the president. The cycle was repeated until the answers were crisp and clear.

During the UNIDO (United Nationalist Democratic Organization) years under Doy Laurel, opposition stalwarts, e.g., Raul Gonzales, S.P. Lopez, my father Rene Espina, Eva Kalaw, Lito Banayo, etc., would travel to the Shaw Boulevard home of Laurel, and in his historic study room, pepper him with questions to prepare him on important events. The ideal was short and concise one-liners.

Answers/punch-lines to grab headlines. When modifications were required, These were inserted during the group exercise for refinement, and then, sounded out.

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PERSONAL: Deep gratitude is expressed by our family to ENT Dr. Roman Cruz of Chonghua Hospital in Cebu for his warm and generous friendship. God bless you!