Friday, June 11, 2010

What We've Got Here Is Failure To.. Spin?

"I think if there's any mistake made (it's) that we haven't communicated clearly enough what the president has done on this oil spill from the beginning," - Vice President Joe Biden

President Obama has been criticized for his inexperience, stoicism, naivety, and even his citizenship. The one thing that was never in doubt about Barack Obama was his oratory talent. Even his strongest detractors will submit to his superior communication skills. Therefore it is quite amusing to see the Obama administration cite a lack of effective communication as the reason for being unable to sell their policies. White House aides contend that the lack of support for Obama policies is not because they are unpopular, ineffective or hyper partisan. The voters disapprove of the policies only because they have not been shown the light by the administration. The administration maintains that the stimulus bill was not a failure in terms of its primary goal to stem unemployment. Aides say the reason for that perception is that Mr. Obama has been unable to communicate (read spin) how effective it has been. Similarly most people do not oppose the healthcare bill because it will reduce quality, increase the deficit and create a massive bureaucracy. The opposition arises from the failure of the administration to convey the benefits of the bill. Since this tactic has worked so well, the White House is trying it again with the oil disaster. According to the administration, they have been involved and in charge from day one of the oil spill. The only reason the people aren’t seeing any results is because of a communication gap. All would be well if only the White House could explain how a push for an energy bill and a new PR campaign for healthcare fit into the immediate response to the spill.

Anyone who has followed Mr. Obama's presidency will attest to the effectiveness of him as a communicator. So far he has communicated the Republican Party into unity, given rise to the Tea Party movement, and even expressed his candidates out of a job in
New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts. On the foreign front, he successfully communicated allies likeTurkey and Brazil to side with Iran. Mr. Obama also communicated the new 'reset' policy toward Russia with such clarity that Mr. Putin is now gleefully playing both sides (Iran and US), while Poland nurses the stab wound on its back. On the economic front, the President conveyed last month's wonderful jobs report so effectively that the financial markets tanked. In fact the only people he has failed to communicate successfully with are Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak.

Barack Obama specializes in lofty rhetoric, sweeping declarations and idealistic platitudes. He can give a rousing speech about a nuke free world but when asked about day to day governing issues, he has no answer except to hide behind meetings with 'experts'. His response to the oil spill is a classic example of this phenomenon. He can talk for hours about the need for hypothetical regulations but when asked about specifics he can’t even tell you if his own director of the 
MMS resigned or was fired. Evidently, in an effort to avoid turning this oil spill into his Iran hostage crisis, Mr. Obama has made it into his Katrina. By being marginally interested and peripherally in charge, he has avoided looking like the helpless Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately Mr. Obama now resembles Mike Brown, the in-over-his-head former director of FEMA.

To remedy his image, President Obama wants everyone to know how furious he is about the whole situation. In fact he is so angry that he 
refuses to speak to Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP. According to Mr. Obama, Mr. Hayward would only tell him what he wants to hear and the President is not interested in that. This is a bizarre excuse under any circumstances but coming from Mr. Obama, who at one point wanted to talk to Iran without pre conditions, it is laughable. Apparently the Iranians would have only told him the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Another interesting aspect to this is the habit of Mr. Obama to shut out primary players when he is brainstorming solutions to problems. Last year it was Gen. Stanley McChrystal who got the cold shoulder from the President for weeks while the White House was 'deliberating' its Afghan strategy.

Contrary to the idiotic 'get angry' mantra being pushed by the media, people do not want to see an angry, emotional President. They just want to know that he is concerned and in charge. To show that he gets the message, Mr. Obama is on a quest to kick ass. This ass-kicking 
journey has led him to basketball courts, fundraisers, various heritage month celebrations and even a personal Paul McCartney concert. Of course giving the appearance that he is out of touch from the suffering of the gulf coast is not the problem here. The problem is that the public is just slow to understand how all this fits into the big picture of helping the gulf coast, reducing unemployment and success in Afghanistan (yes, the war is still going on). The strategery of it all is just too much for people to grasp. Meetings with James Cameron, a show at the Ford Theater and the McCartney concert are all links in the crisis response chain. You'll see it when they send the Terminator down in a Yellow Submarine to plug the leak.

Article first published as Obama's Communication Breakdown on Blogcritics.

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