Part 4: What went wrong in the Obama White House?
“Historians will puzzle over the fact that Barack Obama, the best communicator of his generation, totally lost control of the narrative in his first year in office and allowed people to view something they had voted for as something they suddenly didn’t want,” says Jim Morone, America’s leading political scientist on healthcare reform. “Communication was the one thing everyone thought Obama would be able to master.”
So writes Financial Times Washington Bureau Chief Edward Luce.
I’m doing a multipart series on progressive messaging, since the failure of that messaging is the second-most important reason we are not going to get a strong enough climate bill this year (assuming the conventional wisdom is wrong and we get one at all). Of course, the most important reason, by far, remains the self-destructive demagoguing and obstinacy of anti-science, pro-polluter ideologues.
According to Steve Clemons writing in TPM, “Core Chicago Team Sinking Obama Presidencym,” this Luce piece is the definitive analysis of what went wrong in the WH:
It’s a vital article — a brave one — that includes “dozens of interviews with his closest allies and friends in Washington.”
Most are unnamed because the consequences of retribution from this powerful foursome can be severe in an access-dependent town. John Podesta, president of the powerful, administration-tilting Center for American Progress, had the temerity and self-confidence to put his thoughts publicly on the record.
Note to Clemons/TPM: CAP isn’t “administration-tilting.” CAP is progressive-tilting and if other folks start tilting in CAP’s direction, well, I suppose, that makes it doubly look like we’re tilting toward them. Most of the media, however, typically call CAP “left-leaning” or something like that.
John Podesta, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and founder of the Center for American Progress, the most influential think-tank in Mr Obama’s Washington, says that while he believes Mr Obama does hear a range of views, including dissenting advice, problems can arise from the narrow composition of the group itself….
“Clearly this kind of core management approach worked for the election campaign and President Obama has extended it to the White House,” says Mr Podesta, who managed Mr Obama’s widely praised post-election transition. “It is a very tight inner circle and that has its advantages. But I would like to see the president make more use of other people in his administration, particularly his cabinet.”
I can’t imagine a successful organization or messaging operation that is so insular as the WH appears to be.
Winning efforts need a lot of feedback as quickly as possible since the world and especially the political world simply change too fast and are too complex to operate successfully as a closed system. I thought that was well understood, but apparently not, so I may do a blog post on it later, since I have written about that a great deal in earlier books of mine.
For now, if you want some of the best analysis of how the WH has mismanaged itself into this mess, start with Clemons and Luce.
- Is progressive messaging a “massive botch”? Part 3: How bad messaging creates a self-fulfillling failure of will.