Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2003 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Neil Cavuto

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Consumer Reports

Cordially speaking, I hate you! | Not too long ago, I had Arizona Sen. John McCain on my television show and the subject of President Bush came up. I asked the senator how he was getting along with the big guy. His response: "We have a cordial relationship."

I've heard that one before. Many times. Years back, when the president's father met with Bill Clinton for the first time after his defeat, the first President Bush termed their get-together "cordial."

So too Arnold Schwarzenegger after he powwowed with the guy he helped drum out of office, Gray Davis. Their first post-election chat was friendly and "cordial."

I've seen it countless times in corporate America. The guy bumped out as chief executive has a cordial one-on-one with the guy who will replace him. The corporate raider who sends a cordial, but forceful, note to the head of the company he wants out of there. The lawyer who sends a cordial, but firm, letter to the guy he wants to sue.

We're big into cordial in this country. Frankly, I think we should be a heck of a lot more frank in this country.

Cordial is restrained. Cordial is wishy-washy. Cordial is being diplomatic. Cordial is thinking, "I want to kill this guy," but not saying, "I want to kill this guy."

I know I'm giving into my more volatile Italian heritage here, but where is it written we can't be nasty, mean, vituperative, in-your-face maniacs? Because I'll tell you what, confrontations with these people are unforgettable. There's no mistaking their intent or their message. There's no phoniness or false pretense.

This is going to sound impolitic, but I think a lot more of us should be impolitic. We should be less concerned with saving face, and more in your face. I think men, in particular, suffer from this malady. I call it being emotionally constipated -- afraid to tell your wife you think she's the greatest and afraid to tell your co-worker he can sometimes be the jerkiest.

I think it's eating us alive and could explain why so many men (sorry again, guys) get ulcers. Woe to those who don't vent their woes. For example, why would you even pretend to be civil to a knucklehead who's raked you over the coals in the press? I say, let the guy have it!:

"Hey, Joe, you (expletive deleted)-freak! What the hell were you thinking blasting me in The New York Times? Would it have killed you to give me a call first?"

Two things usually happen in response to this approach. First, the guy in question is stunned. And second, he's afraid. It's good to keep your enemies stunned and afraid. Generally, people don't mess with people they fear. Tiptoeing around the subject only adds fuel to their deceitful fire. I say, let 'em have it, then everyone knows where everyone stands.

There's a tendency in corporate America to sort of let bygones be bygones. I'm in the school that says never forget a slight. Don't dwell on it, but don't ever forget it, because the guy who thinks he can get away with it will repeat it, again and again.

I remember when I was a kid, there was this one poor sap named Johnny (I'll leave out his last name, mainly because I don't remember his last name). He rode on my bus. And the guy might as well have had a target painted on his back. He was always getting picked on. I mean this happened every day. Kids would trip him as he got on the bus, throw things at him while he was on the bus, constantly. It must have dragged on for years. Then, wouldn't you know, one fall morning, at the start of another school year, Johnny steps on the bus. The kid must have grown six inches over the summer! He was a monster.

Yet one of his tormenters didn't seem to care, suspecting Johnny was still a wimp, no matter his size. He started teasing him, and all I can remember is Johnny getting up, walking to the back of the bus from where this obnoxious kid was heaving spit balls, picking him up by the collar and literally flinging him like a rag doll across at least four seats. Johnny proceeded to ring off a string of expletives, whose meaning even then I couldn't fathom. The bus was silent. And from that day forward, no one . . . and I mean no one . . . messed with Johnny.

My point is, be blunt. But a lot of us are afraid to be blunt.

I know it's impractical for opposing senators to go into a conference and say of the other, "Look, I can't stand you. You're the closest thing I've seen to a media whore, but what the heck, we have to come to some deal. Either we work it out, or we'll duke it out."

Sometimes it's a bit startling, but it beats being bewildering. So many times I hear workers who suddenly get canned say, "I never saw it coming."

Maybe that's because they were too nice to ask, or too cordial to bother.

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Neil Cavuto is managing editor of Business News at FOX News Channel. He is also the host of "Your World with Neil Cavuto" and "Cavuto on Business." Comment by clicking here.


11/03/03: I can't "wait" to get back at you!
10/27/03: What would we die to know?
10/20/03: Smile while you work
10/13/03: Dull man walking: Why Gray was too gray
10/05/03: Who says we're so depressed?
09/29/03: Thanks, but no thanks
09/22/03: Big Companies vs. Big Government
09/15/03: Terrorists and idiots: Financial lessons learned
09/08/03: Watch out, Mr. President
09/03/03: Tips for Empty Nesters
08/25/03: Friends and hypocrites
08/18/03: When good news goes bad
08/04/03: PHONY BALONEY!
07/28/03: The meaning of a pin
07/21/03: We are what we eat
07/14/03: Don't like it, don't keep it!
07/07/03: The check, and the recovery, is in the mail!
06/29/03: Who says Al's our pal?
06/23/03: The big pitch for the "big get," no big deal!

© 2003, Neil Cavuto