When does civility become counterproductive? How about when there’s talk of Civil War?

Leaders are often trained that civility is an essential tool in the art of persuasion. But is there a point at which, for certain audiences, assuming they want to dialogue and are open to change is a waste of time? Let us know what you think of this column on a related topic, reposted from the Sunday, August 22, 2022 Waco Tribune-Herald.


by David R. Schleicher

I’m done with opinion page pieces here and elsewhere — the ones that urge me not to give up on Trump voters, to assume the very best motives of those on the other side of the political equation, to make sure “both sides” are welcomed.

Such urgings are a waste of words in a country in which a significant number of people will, given the chance, overturn any election returns they don’t like. In which a state government will gladly force a 10-year-old rape victim to carry a child to term while hindering her access to certain literature and history lessons that might otherwise broaden her mind. In which an extremely conservative member of Congress is deemed too liberal purely because she’s seriously bothered by an attempted coup involving efforts to lynch the vice president for bowing to the U.S. Constitution rather than his boss. Some of these same folks were preaching absolute fidelity to the Constitution only a few years ago.

Well-intentioned admonitions for us all to “just get along” inevitably seem to come from the left side of the political spectrum and are directed at others on the left. If someone has seen a recent column from the right urging their comrades to be more civil, please send it to me. Instead, even formerly rational friends who’ve moved further rightward suggest we might be on the brink of civil war. They say so not as a call for calm but with more of an indulgent, “isn’t-that-interesting” tone behind it.

One can only imagine the glee that must be felt from Moscow to Beijing, from Tehran to Pyongyang, as one-third of Americans ready themselves to burn their own country down while another segment urges we make sure to all take turns speaking gently in an effort to reach consensus. How easy it would be for one of these foreign powers to walk in and take over after our second civil war.

Make no mistake: American democracy will survive only if saved by a coalition of liberals, progressives, moderates, old-school conservatives, former Republicans, self-identified (and genuine) independents and, yes, some among those who ordinarily lean Republican. Civil discussion and efforts at persuasion among all these groups are essential.

The importance of the outcome for America means we also dare not write off a voter solely based on an assumption that their ethnicity or geographic location or economic status means they’re unpersuadable. Kudos here to resilient Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke for bravely continuing to visit “red” counties across our state, taking questions from those who support him — and, yes, some who do not but earnestly want to hear more. Consider the 45 percent of those identifying as Republican or leaning Republican who a Pew Research poll found “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of overturning Roe v. Wade to the point of turning women into second-class citizens.

Meanwhile, your cousin or high school classmate who wants to argue with you online about how Trump is the country’s only hope can at most be persuaded to support Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis instead — in other words, a smarter, more cunning, less bouffanty version of The Donald. Anyone still flying a Trump flag or sporting a Trump 2024 bumper sticker at this point is not going to aid you in rescuing the country from the brink of disaster. Don’t waste your time trying to persuade or reason with them. Not even a minute.

Nor should anyone delude themselves that many of these so-called “patriots” wouldn’t — given another chance — burn down the U.S. Capitol, hang Mike Pence and violently drag Nancy Pelosi down the stairs by her ankles. Save civility for those who want to discuss whether Person X or Person Y should be elected president, not whether an election loss justifies a bloody effort at a coup, including beating up the very police officers one pretends to respect and cherish. Has there ever been a dictator who saved some from persecution for having only fought him cordially?

So, please, no more preaching to the choir. Quit telling me how to be hopeful for, and obsequious to, the Trumpers, at least till they demonstrate some heartfelt reciprocation, including acknowledgement of basic facts and fundamental American principles.

So long as their fears are inflamed by dubious facts fed to them by their news networks on weekdays and their ministers on Sundays, they will not be saved from authoritarianism or nationalism, however it is packaged. Let’s delay the holding of hands and singing of “Kumbaya” until after their civil war.

David Schleicher, a local attorney whose clients include federal law enforcement officers, is a former chair of the McLennan County Democratic Party. He was a Republican until age 30.


By David R. Schleicher—March 26, 2020

The danger with making predictions is that they are often wrong. With a number of those below, I certainly hope for that to be true. I’ve left open the tenth for you to fill in.

    1. No quick fix for COVID19, but not a repeat of the 10-year-long Great Depression either. On the downside, early denial precluded prompt planning, opportunities for large scale testing were missed, and the national response since has been a patchwork rather than uniformly coordinated. On the upside, the Federal Reserve and Congress acted with speed to try to stem the economic breakdown. Most importantly, a vaccine will be found and—while not immediately or easily—it is a process that should take a year to two, not a decade.
    2. Significant suffering will not be avoided. It’s very likely that you or someone you know had or has the Coronavirus, given how often it may cause mild symptoms or none at all. That makes it easy to spread. Sadly, you or someone you know also is likely to die from the disease. Overlaying U.S. trend lines with those of other countries, it is inevitable that it gets much worse here before it gets better. Countries that have seen the lowest numbers are ones that widely tested and quickly isolated/quarantined—we’ve not yet fully done either on a national basis. The tens of thousands that die each year from the flu provides too low a base—COVID19 is much cleverer in its contagiousness and so far no vaccine. Other the other hand, a prediction of two million dead likely underestimates the mobilization now taking place and the value of researchers worldwide urgently working to find a vaccine. So, I sadly predict a death rate of possibly two to five times the roughly 58,000 figure for the number of Americans estimated to have died in Vietnam.
    3. Consequences at the ballot box. Unless the American President shows surprising consistent, science-based, action-oriented leadership immediately, he will continue to put not only the country at risk for infection, but also his Republican Party in danger of a near-death-experience come November. Healthcare providers, the unemployed, and eventually even Wall Street traders are likely to be among those who will agree we desperately need new leadership. The Blue Wave of 2018 may look like a splash in the pool if Trump doesn’t self-correct ASAP.
    4. Changes in the social fabric. Church/synagogue/mosque attendance in the U.S. has been on the steady decline, from 70% in 1976 to now starting to fall below 50%. The Coronavirus has caused many houses of worship in the U.S. to close at least temporarily, with them often encouraging members to go online to hear a word from the clergy. After multiple months away, many may decide they can live without it and will keep their money out of the offering plates. Others will resume attending, but feel free to go somewhere new. The congregations that survive will have maintained ties among members in the interim. Those that don’t can look to Europe for their future: ancient churches that now serve as cafes, theaters, museums, and even shopping centers.
    5. Continued Growth of the Mid-Size Cities. The largest cities often have the best resources, but also face the problem that a citizen may encounter thousands of fellow residents simply by walking down a crowded street, providing extra opportunities for sharing of disease. At the other end of the spectrum, rural areas frequently lack the access to medical care required for success in battling a healthcare crisis. Requiring an hour and a half journey to the hospital in an ambulance is not a burden all will be able to survive. Mid-size cities are able to coordinate manageable resources without having to play whac-a-mole with a hundred smaller jurisdictions who may each go their own direction. The large cities, with pools of top medical experts and a tax base large enough to spread out the pain of a crisis will surely survive and continue to thrive once past this crisis, but in the end the population shift in the U.S. from the largest to mid-size cities will accelerate from COVID19.
    6. Health as the New National Security. Just as you have come to expect delay at the airport from TSA screening, in the future checking your temperature before you board a flight will become as common as checking your luggage for traces of explosive. In the same way we have come to accept a level of intrusive airport screening that once would have seemed unimaginable, we will come to accept that it is worth knowing it is unlikely the person seated behind you who is coughing your direction is doing so from infectious disease.
    7. Wage Increases Up from the Bottom. While the pandemic otherwise can be expected to heighten already troublesome trends in wealth disparity, one positive effect will be that the minimum wage effectively will have been raised, permanently. Grocers/retailers like H-E-B, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon are paying bonuses and/or increasing hourly pay, given that the buying that is going on is panicky in nature and wears down the staff with restocking. Once these employees have their wages raised—by $2/hour in some instances—they won’t take kindly to a reduction after the crisis passes. Though there will be profoundly higher levels of unemployment, those who do want to hire will have to match these increases eventually.
    8. Employees and Customers Will Remember. Many companies have demonstrated surprising generosity and ingenuity in helping their customers, healthcare providers, and the larger public in this crisis. Just as you tend to remember who came to your wedding or visited you in the hospital, customers will long have imprinted on their hearts and brains from this stressful period whether their favorite brands acted nobly and stepped up to help out. Likewise, employees will not soon forget if their employer cast them into the street at the first sign of reduced profits or fought to keep them on board and, when unable to do so, did what was possible to speed the process of their receiving unemployment benefits. The names of many a major brand will appear only on tombstones by the time COVID19 is done with us.
    9. Experts Again Seen as Experts. The current U.S. Administration built its own brand in large part on a rejection of the status quo, disdain for the “Deep State,” and a suspicion that “experts” know no more than the guy who relies entirely on talk radio for his information. Even on the left, anti-vaxxers grew in numbers as they looked to a report here or there that—while not peer reviewed—confirmed their worst suspicions that well-paid medical professionals and big pharma were on the take. As President Trump is in the process of proving, there is a cost—in fact, a very high one—for disregarding the input of those who have spent their life studying an issue and who rely on the scientific method rather than the TV remote to test their theories. I foresee a return to viewing experts as…well, experts.
    10. This One Is Yours.

In the meantime, stay safe, sane, and some six feet apart.


   David Schleicher is an attorney licensed in Washington, D.C., Texas, and Washington State, with an undergraduate degree in Sociology. He represents clients ranging from an international manufacturer, to federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers, to restaurants and shopping centers.

Just Say No (When to Steer Clear of a Client)

By David Gallagher and David Schleicher

Kayak on the Brazos River

As any fan of courtroom TV drama knows, the accused are entitled to professional legal counsel, no matter how heinous the charge. In the court of public opinion, the rules are a little less established but arguably similar: everyone should have access to advice, and a spotty reputation is not by itself a sufficient reason to be turned away by image consultants.

But as the recent resignation of White House press secretary Sean Spicer underscores, it’s well worth advisors of all types considering in advance when to walk away from an opportunity, and when to run. We’ve compiled these suggestions:

(1) It was once a given, but we feel compelled to say it: don’t do anything illegal. Don’t help anyone else do anything illegal. Don’t attempt to mask the illegal acts of others, or obstruct the law from investigating potentially illegal acts.

(2) Consider the ethics. “It’s legal” does not equal “it’s right.” This is a greyer area than the law, but professional bodies in communications and other areas of business advice have ethical frameworks to clarify ambiguities. Things like disclosing who you represent or are advising, sticking to facts and avoiding deliberate misrepresentation of the truth.

(3) Be pragmatic. Will a new assignment alienate others you work with already? Can your colleagues support the assignment in good conscience and to the best of their abilities? And if you do not own your business, will your shareholders be happy to be associated with the new project? Will your family be embarrassed by your work?

(4) Be realistic. Do you have the skills, experience and in, some cases, the stamina to do what’s required? Is the client willing to change the story by changing their behaviour, or simply demanding a change in the way they are portrayed?

(5) Think about the future. You may feel fully justified in what you’re doing and for whom you’re serving, but if it requires you to burn bridges with others you may need in the future – say, journalists, or the judiciary – you may want to pause before striking the match.

Your client who is ostracised today may with the hindsight of history become the hero (think Martin Luther King). At the other end of the spectrum, no professional wants their dying realization to be that they did such a good job at promoting the shunned that they will be recalled as the next Leni Riefenstahl.

(6) Finally, to thine own self be true. If you’re asked to advise on issues that don’t square with your own gut feeling of what’s right, regardless of the legal or practical circumstances, you’re unlikely to do the job as well as someone who’s truly on board. That’s unfair to the client and compromises your own integrity.

We can only assume in the case of Mr. Spicer and others advising the president that the lure of fame, the proximity to power, or a sincere belief that in some cases the ends justify the means (however unsavoury) is enough to endure the daily humiliations, questionable requests and vicious undercutting to which they are publicly and privately subjected.

This may be good enough for them, but we wouldn’t recommend it for others.

David Gallagher is London-based, where he is president, Growth Development, International, for Omnicom Public Relations Group. David Schleicher, of the Schleicher Law Firm, PLLC, represents U.S. government employees and businesses.

Oreo Cookies, Cash, and a Gun


by David Schleicher

A friend who did work overseas for the government explained to me how she would deal with those days when she had to venture into the middle of a conflict zone. “I’d take a box of Oreos, a wad of cash, and a gun.” She found there were many times the cash was needed and more than one time when the tension level was eased with the cookies. As a result, the gun stayed in its holster.

All too often, we encounter–or see in ourselves–someone who carries nothing but cookies, or only cash, or goes to the gun as step one.

Few question that being a jerk can be damaging and–at the top–even deadly to an organization.  The platitude that “one person can make a difference” often has proven itself true as a narcissist drives a country or a company into the ground.   Today’s question is a more difficult one: when does your niceness become dysfunctional? All cookies all the time?

The amiable-looking fellow above, Neville Chamberlain, is as good a starting place as any.  A British Prime Minister, he reached a 1938 agreement with Adolf Hitler that made some concessions in an effort to quench the dictator’s thirst for territory.  What Chamberlain got in return was not peace, but his photo in the dictionary under the word “appeasement.”

Attempting to buy peace (whether with cookies, cash, or by looking away at territorial grabs) with a megalomaniac merely delays a war, in the process deluding an organization into believing it need not be preparing for one. Likewise, if you’re viewed as someone who can be easily rolled because your highest goal is keeping the peace, those who most seek you out will not be prospective clients and business partners, but bullies. (The same applies to your personal life.)

Treat people how you want to be treated is a rule as old as time and a precept that is the universal to the major religions. As few of us enjoy being bullied, it makes sense to start with collegiality and kindness (the Oreos). Sometimes it takes another level of negotiation to get things accomplished (equivalent to the cash). If all else fails, don’t forget that you came prepared with your metaphorical gun.

Figuring out who you are dealing with is half the battle:  someone who views you with hostility but is open to change? A gatekeeper who needs lunch money before letting you in? Or a narcissist who will exploit every opening?

Next time you are dropped into hostile territory, don’t go it alone…pack all three.



(c) 2017 David Schleicher. Permission granted to share in entirety with attribution.




Disobedience As A Business Strategy


By David Schleicher and David Gallagher

Watching the rise of President Donald Trump, we ask if it’s time to dump or delete all those books by the experts on how to succeed in business or politics. Love or loathe him, all can agree he doesn’t play by the usual rules. He nonetheless defeated some 20 other major-party candidates on his path to the White House, also gaining a historic number of Republican primary votes and collecting wall-to-wall media attention.

Do the world’s leading experts need to recalculate their advice or is it only a matter of time before the usual rules bring Trump to defeat? His willingness to violate norms leaves some fearing doom of the American experiment in democracy. But it is that very eagerness to implode existing structures that makes his fans adore him. They take the resistance he encounters as proof he’s fighting the good fight against an out-of-touch and corrupt establishment.

Consider this common wisdom from business and political canons of the past:

  • If bad news is coming, get out in front of it.
  • To get legislation passed, be a consistent and credible source of expertise.
  • When you have greatly erred, admit it publicly and outline steps to prevent future occurrences.
  • Humility helps prevent disastrous decision-making.
  • Unnecessarily antagonizing a reporter will backfire on you.
  • Independent voters in the middle decide elections, so politicians should focus on them.

Trump, without embarrassment or hesitation, disregards all these tenets. Consider the drip-drip of bad news out of the White House, widely varied messages to Congress, the refusal to apologize for refusing to apologize, omnipresent boasting, declaring media the “enemy of the people” and a laser-like focus on pleasing his base. The combination is not coincidental.

But as much as one may “love winning,” the reality is that his legislative priorities remain stuck on the runway: repealing Obamacare, tax reform and infrastructure funding. Even with Republicans holding the White House, both houses of Congress and more often than not prevailing at the U.S. Supreme Court, his list of accomplishments is surprisingly diminutive.

Gallup polling labels Trump’s approval ratings “unusually low, unusually early.” They have reached record lows for a president’s first year in office and sit within 15 points of Nixon’s numbers at his resignation. On the other hand, Newsweek recently asserted that the “people who loved Donald Trump in November largely still love him in July.” Visit the right neighborhood in the right part of the United States and it’s not difficult to find Trump campaign signs still displayed proudly.

True, leaders who question assumptions and toss outdated norms can improve their success rate. Trump, by example, demonstrated that some who voted for Barack Obama could be converted to Trump voters and — equally valuable to him — others who turned out for Obama could readily be persuaded to stay home in spite of Obama’s strong endorsement of Hillary Clinton. We nonetheless decline to cease advising leaders to attend to core values such as empathy, clarity and purpose.

If Trump does succeed, it will not be at being “presidential.” Instead he offers a destination so different from the present that he will have gotten there because of, not in spite of, flouting the advice of experts, ignoring well-established customs, and traits and behavior previously deemed repugnant. This may be his goal; the prerequisite question for other leaders is what they hope for.

If it is to win within the current system and eliminate the dinosaurs among the competition, new methods and questioning assumptions are entirely appropriate. If you instead want to demolish an existing marketplace or political system, then feel free to start by tossing out the entirety of the wisdom of the ages and advising your experts to jog on.

Just keep in mind that when burning down a building from the inside, you are not guaranteed an escape route. If an approval rating in the 30 percent range is tolerable for you or your business, then by all means please feel free to give it a try. Someone has to star in future case studies.

       David Schleicher is an attorney representing U.S. government employees and a former DC lobbyist. David Gallagher is President, Growth Development, International, for Omnicom Public Relations Group. This originally appeared in the July 19, 2017 Waco Tribune-Herald.

Don’t Read This! Or Else!

However much you may have enjoyed being a child, chances are you don’t like being treated like one now. And that you feel like you are being treated as a child when someone gives you an order about how to behave. Such as ordering you not to read a particular blog post.

When you feel like someone is treating you like you are a child, it is natural to respond like a child. Whatever you may say out loud, your inner two-year old is yelling, “NO!” Like a child, when someone orders that you don’t do “X”, your desire to do “X” is suddenly increased. “Reactance” is what psychologists call that urge you feel to do the opposite of what you are ordered to do, as your mind resists what it perceives as a threat to its freedom.

You probably would agree that direct orders and threats rarely motivate you to do your best. Having served on a school board for six years, I found that someone in a conflict with the district who threatened to sue or to make sure a particular board member lost their next election rarely motivated my fellow board members in the intended direction.

In my years as a lobbyist and in my later practice of law, many times I have seen those threatened take their eyes off of the problem to be solved and instead focus on fighting the threat-maker. We know threats don’t work on us, yet it is one of the first things we try on others when we are not getting our way.

Clients sometimes will ask me why I didn’t raise more hell with the lawyer on the other side of the case. The reason is that when an attorney on the other side from me starts yelling and making loud demands, I begin to think that what I have been doing for my client has been effective enough to get under their skin. In other words, it tells me I might just be winning. I also cut off negotiations until the lawyer can get back some self-control and I may document the details of the conversation in an email or a letter.

Lawyers on the other side of cases have told me that they appreciate that I argue the law and the facts, rather than pounding my shoe on the table. Some of those same lawyers have come to me when they got in legal trouble or referred friends. Shoe pounding does make some clients feel better, but it does not serve their interests.

As challenging as it is not to make threats the first arrow in our quill, it is hard work training ourselves when threatened to stay focused on what is in our interests versus on the urge to squash the threat-maker. It may be, for example, that a settlement would be in your interest even though the threat you just heard makes you want to fight to your last dollar. A truly devious opponent may threaten you simply to make you act irrationally in response.

There are rare occasions when a threat is necessary and even rarer instances when it is productive. If you are going to have to impose a very severe consequence on someone–such as firing them or invading their country–then it is rational to give advance warning that “if you do ‘X’, then I will do ‘Y’.” It also may be needed so that those watching realize that the severe option also was your last option. But even in these situations, the threat (such as to another country’s leader) often results in a reaction that is the adult or national equivalent of “nanny, nanny, boo, boo…”

If you must threaten, make sure that the threat can be carried out successfully. If not, the next threat you make make be answered not with anger, but derision. The better approach is to set out the facts as you see them and let your subordinate or opponent come to see the threat on their own.

For example, rather than telling a sales team, “Every one increase sales by 20% this quarter or I’ll fire you,” try explaining that you have $1 million less in revenue than expenses and hope you can count on the sales team to help the workforce survive these challenging times. Set a date on everyone’s calendar three months from then to jointly review the sales results.

Rather than threatening an opponent with litigation that you say will embarrass them for their evil deeds, consider suggesting to them you would like to explore options for reaching an agreed resolution that would avoid the headaches of litigation for all involved. Just today, I observed someone attempt to persuade a group to change course by telling them that they would become irrelevant if they did not, adding that some of their concerns were absurd. The reaction was not a change of mind but anger over the perceived presumptiveness.

Just as you can draw more flies with honey than vinegar, facts may persuade, but threats almost never do. If someone is pointing a gun at you and telling you to hand over your money, you may comply. The boss that leaves employees feeling they had a gun pointed at them, on the other hand, will leave those employees looking for excuses to undermine her for the other 39 hours and fifty-five minutes of that week.

The fundamental rule is this: what doesn’t work to persuade you, probably doesn’t persuade others either.