68 Responses to What should Obama’s message be? His current one certainly makes no sense.
Obama has been saying (erroneously) for two years now that Republicans have good policy ideas for creating jobs, whereas Republicans have been saying (erroneously) for two years that Obama has job-killing policies. Is it any wonder he had a shellacking in the 2010 election?
This is the worst White House in decades at communications, as one journalist who has covered five presidents told me recently. Of course, you don’t have to have been around that long to see how dreadful their messaging is [see “Can Obama deliver health and energy security with a half (assed) message?“) and links below].
Indeed, WH communications is so bad, I’m starting a series on the subject, since they have literally become a textbook of what not to do. If they can’t learn from their own mistakes, at least others can — and certainly climate hawks will have to be at the top of their game in the next two years, when the science (and the EPA) goes on trial in Congress and probably during the presidential election.
Please send me any examples you see of bad White House messaging, especially on energy and the environment, but also more broadly. And I’d be very interested in your thoughts on what Obama’s message should be.
The first job of the President, the most powerful person in the free world, is to project strength. Most voters can’t adjudicate policy issues on the basis of the status quo media coverage and the handful of sound bites they hear, particularly since independents and swing voters tend to think politicians from both parties are just lying all the time. But people can discern strength and weakness — and they invariably punish the latter quality in those they elect to the highest office.
I wouldn’t go quite as far as James Carville, who unapologetically said, “if Hillary gave him one of her balls, they’d both have two.” But Obama increasingly sounds like Charlie Brown, I’m afraid. Here’s the AP’s framing of his Thanksgiving morning radio address, headlined, “Obama calls for bipartisanship to fix economy“:
In yet another acknowledgment of Democrats’ recent drubbing and the tectonic political shift in Washington, President Obama used much of his Thanksgiving morning radio address to call for bipartisanship in tackling the country’s persistent economic ails.
What is the definition of insanity? Obama has been calling for bipartisanship for two years now. Memo to White House: Nobody is listening!
In the first year, I thought it was a clever strategy to set the Republicans up in 2012 as the obstructionists or “The Party of No.” But that required a pivot that never came. Now Obama just seems beyond naive and wimpy, a frame that the media amplifies:
Just a day after expressing relief that he had prevented another November “shellacking” by sending two pardoned turkeys to live out their days at the Mount Vernon home of George Washington, the nation’s 44th president argued that neither party could achieve meaningful economic change on its own.
Citing the urgency to “accelerate this recovery,” Obama said: “But we won’t do it as one political party. We’ve got to do it as one people. And, in the coming weeks and months, I hope we can work together, Democrats and Republicans and independents alike, to make progress on these and other issues.”
The president mentioned a White House meeting next week with congressional leaders from both parties, a get-together delayed once and intended, he said, to yield “a real and honest discussion.”
The Republicans aren’t even like Lucy van Pelt in Peanuts anymore. Yes, in the first year they pretended that they would let Charlie Brown Obama kick the bipartisan football, only to take it away at the last minute over and over again.
But now they are just open about their strategy of refusing to let anyone play with their football. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said last month, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
And so their message remains, as AP reports:
Republicans chose incoming Georgia Rep. Austin Scott to deliver their radio address, another signal that their party’s House leadership is according much attention to the vanguard of the chamber’s 85 new GOP lawmakers, whose ranks include tea party supporters and others who are making deep spending cuts a priority. Scott said voters’ fundamental message to Washington is clear: “Listen up, stop the job-killing policies, stop the runaway spending and focus on getting our country back on track.”
Obama has been saying (erroneously) for two years now that Republicans have good policy ideas for creating jobs, whereas Republicans have been saying (erroneously) for two years that Obama has job-killing policies. Is it any wonder he had a shellacking?
- The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2
- Democrats: “If We’re Gonna Lose, Let’s Go Down Running Away From Every Legislative Accomplishment We’ve Made”
- Krugman sets the narrative straight: “We never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.”
- TNR: “The Unnecessary Fall of Barack Obama”
- Is progressive messaging a “massive botch”? Part 4: What went wrong in the Obama White House?
- Part 3: How bad messaging creates a self-fulfillling failure of will.
- Part 2: Drew Westen on how “The White House has squandered the greatest opportunity to change both the country and the political landscape since Ronald Reagan”