The Numbers Don't Lie?

I'll never forget when I heard that a former college classmate of mine had become a CEO. I was shocked.

The guy wasn't an idiot, but he sure wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed either. And yet there he was, a CEO.

When I caught up with him for a TV interview some years later, he sounded like a CEO, looked like a CEO and spouted statistics like a CEO.

Man, it looked like he came out of central casting to be a CEO. But I kept looking at him and thinking, I used to see you wandering drunk out of your mind on campus, chasing co-eds like Clinton on a bender!  And now look at you.

But what I remember most is what he told me after the interview. He leaned over to me and said, "It's not what you know, Neil. It's how you market what you know."

A lesson learned ahead of Friday night's presidential debate (search): The guy who wins, is the guy who markets best what he knows, because — as I figure it — the data can be played either way.

Senator Kerry can site a "less than expected" 96,000 jobs added to the economy and say things stink.

The president can use the same number, add it to all the job gains we've seen the last year and claim nearly two million jobs have been added: Things are great.

Kerry can counter, "Yes, but since you became president, you've presided over a net loss in jobs."

But, the president can come back and say, "Well, you knucklehead, there was this little thing called Sept. 11 and a bursting of the stock bubble."

And on and on and on: Each pitching the picture he thinks shows the real America.

It doesn't matter if it's real, or even in the case of my friend, right. Just as long as it looks right and it's sold effectively.

The rest... are just numbers.

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