When Will the White House Get Its Messaging Act Together?

Only minutes into his press conference, President Barack Obama committed a grave political sin: repeating -- and amplifying from the presidential podium -- the opposition’s talking point. In this case, it was the Tea Party’s accusation that the whole of the Obama agenda represents a more “intrusive” government, and one that “over-reach[ed].” Honestly, I thought my head might explode.

Seeming both diminished by the results of yesterday’s mid-term elections, and simultaneously aloof and analytical, the president defended himself against the right’s charge by simply saying that because the economy’s downward spiral at the onset of the administration represented “an emergency situation,” the administration set about doing things that it might not otherwise do -- presumably meaning the propping up of various parts of the economic infrastructure, such as the banks and the automotive industry.

Basically, he affirmed the perceptions that Tea Partiers have been taught to have by their corporate astroturfers.

What if he had simply stated, in answer to the reporter’s question, that as president, it was his duty to protect the American people from the economic devastation -- far worse than what we’re enduring now -- that would likely have ensued had the government allowed banks to collapse and one the the nation’s last major manufacturing sectors to fail?

Throughout his press conference, Obama seemed to accept the Republicans’ line that the election somehow spoke to overwhelming popular sentiment, rather than that of a particular sector of the electorate that turned out in force, thanks to peerless organizing and relentless advertising fueled by the corporate dollars unleashed by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

And he was needlessly conciliatory toward Republicans during his presser. Sure, he needed to say, “Let’s all work together.” But then he needed to throw down a real gauntlet, speaking to the desire of all Americans to restore the nation’s prosperity, and his commitment to fighting for just that. That’s the point at which to say, “If our Republican friends want to join in that endeavor, I welcome their help. But if they continue to make proposals that would harm the well-being of the American people, they can expect me to fight with every fiber of my being.”

I mean, really, what would he have to lose in making such a statement? Jim DeMint, who has a new handful of Tea Party recruits in the Senate, has all but promised gridlock on anything the president proposes.

As Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said today in a statement, “This new line from Mitch McConnell would have been nice to hear in Obama’s speech today, aimed at Republicans: ‘We’ll work with the administration when they agree with the people and confront them when they don’t.’

The administration’s messaging missteps have got to stop. Real lives are at stake each time the president stumbles.


Posted at November 3, 2010, 12:36pm

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