"How the White House Does Messaging on Issues It Cares About, Unlike, Say, Climate Change"
The Obama White House had a major tactical victory last month in getting a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance. Yes, it came with the Keystone XL rider, but that mainly gives them an easy out on the pipeline decision — see “House GOP Cave on Tax Cut Extension Paves Way for Obama to Deny Keystone XL Permit.”
The reason I’m bringing this old news up is that just before I went on vacation, Politico Playbook — a must read for political junkies — explained “HOW THE WHITE HOUSE POUNDED ITS MESSAGE.”
I’m excerpting the Friday, December 23 piece below so you can see how the White House uses the bully pulpit when it actually cares a great deal about an issue, which it obviously — and nonsensically — doesn’t about climate change:
“–Monday: WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer did an hour of satellite TV time into the following markets: Palm Beach, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland and Seattle. … The regional communications team did a press call with their top regional reporters with Josh Earnest and Brian Deese … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio throughout the day … Administration Officials held a call with Hispanic media … Administration Officials were on African American and Hispanic radio and TV …
“–Tuesday: Office of Digital Strategy launched What 40 Dollars Means to You, an online effort to get the American people to lend their voice to this debate. We launched #40dollars on twitter, the webpage www.whitehouse.gov/40dollars and sent an email from David Plouffe to the White House list … Deese and Earnest convened a conference call with regional political reporters. … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio [and] African American and Hispanic radio and TV …
“–Wednesday: The White House featured responses that we received from Americans who’ve written to the White House to say what $40 means for them. These responses will be featured on whitehouse.gov , White House Twitter and Facebook accounts … [Council of Economic Advisers] Chair Alan Krueger delivered a speech on the economy and economic certainty in Charlotte, NC, in which he made … economic case for the payroll tax cut. … Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, [Labor] Secretary [Hilda] Solis and [Domestic Policy Council] Director Melody Barnes participated in interviews on African American radio to amplify our payroll tax cut message. Senior Admin officials also did Hispanic media outlets including radio … Barnes hosted a roundtable with African American reporters. … Gene Sperling and Secretary Solis hosted a conference call on the importance of extending UI benefits for regional and specialty outlets … The President tweeted on [@WhiteHouse] Twitter feed … Deese convened a conference call with Americans who Tweeted on #40dollars … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio [and] African American and Hispanic radio and TV …
“Thursday: The President delivered a statement payroll tax cut … joined on-stage and in the audience by people who [would] be impacted by the tax increase … The White House released a map on WhiteHouse.gov … with over 10,000 points throughout the U.S. of citizens responding to the question: ‘What does $40 dollars mean to you?’ … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio [and] African American and Hispanic radio and TV.”
Contrast that with climate change, where the administration won’t even use the word (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?).
Back in June 2010, Eric Pooley, former managing editor of Fortune, emailed me about his book on the story of the climate bill, The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth:
When it comes to a cap on carbon, the White House’s strategy for 18 months has been to speak softly and … nothing more. Now the oil spill has forced Obama to ramp up his rhetoric. Does he mean it this time? Either he starts fighting or he doesn’t. The “stealth strategy” is inoperative. The White House can’t fake it any more.
We all know what happened. They faked it, and they failed.
The notion that you win major political battles like these behind-the-scenes is laughable. Silence equals surrender.
What’s particularly sad about all this is that the polling and public opinion analysis makes crystal clear that both global warming and clean energy are wedge issues — aggressive messaging on either divides the Tea Party from pretty much everyone else in the entire country:
- Polling Expert: Is Obama’s Reluctance to Mention Climate Change Motivated by a False Assumption About Public Opinion?“
- Democrats Taking “Green” Positions on Climate Change “Won Much More Often” Than Those Remaining Silent
- Polling Reveals That Being Anti-Clean Energy is Bad Politics
- Independents Support Federal Investment in “Green Jobs” 2-to-1 Despite Solyndra Media Storm (9/29/11):
“In dozens of focus groups we have conducted this month across the country on a wide variety of subjects, when voters are asked where they would like new jobs in their state to come from, the first words out of their mouths are almost always the same – clean energy and related technology. Voters believe that the clean energy economy is here and is growing, and they want their state to have a part of it.“
Some day some smart politician will figure all this out.