Fine Tuning the Message
President Obama needs to give a few more speeches, maybe get his face on TV more often, give a few more interviews to friendly journalists and everything will be all right, despite Democrats’ stunning defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race this week. "(W)e were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values," the president explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
The president gave only 411 speeches during his first 365 days in office; that’s barely more than one a day. Maybe if he’d given two a day, the American people would have gotten through their thick skulls that he knows what’s good for them, even if they don’t like it. Maybe he should have talked more about health care; he made only 52 speeches or statements urging health care reform during his first year. Surely, if he’d talked about it more often or explained it a little better, Americans would be clamoring to turn their health care over to the government.
Now, I know some pundits are saying that Obama and Democrats in Congress should rethink their agenda. But they’re missing the point. Thank goodness the president’s spokesman Robert Gibbs explained it to the White House press corps: "I don’t believe the president thinks that we should stop fighting for what’s important to the middle class, that we should stop fighting for an economic recovery, that we should stop fighting for what we need to do to create an environment for the private sector to hire."
Right. They should just keep on doing what they’ve been doing, only harder. The Washington Post‘s Michael D. Shear described the strategy inside the White House this way: "As they huddled behind closed doors in the West Wing, Obama’s top aides were glum but undeterred. Several described an atmosphere of resolve not unlike the mood during the toughest moments of the 2008 campaign." If Hillary Clinton and John McCain could be thwarted, so can the will of the American people. It’s just a matter of putting the right words on the teleprompter.
For those skeptics that think Obama’s falling popularity and the Democrats’ loss of three statewide races so far this year has anything to do with 10 percent unemployment or an increase of nearly $1.7 trillion in national debt on his watch, well, that just shows they haven’t a clue who the real culprits are. It’s George W. Bush’s fault — oh, and his banker friends.
Never mind that the same folks Obama now calls "reckless" are among the Democrats’ most reliable financial backers — Goldman Sachs gave 73 percent of its political contributions to Democrats in 2006-2008, and hedge funds have given 70 percent of their funds to Dems so far in the 2010 election cycle, according to National Review’s Kevin Williamson. But so long as Obama tells the American people that the bank "rescue, undertaken by the Bush administration, was deeply offensive" (even if "it was the necessary thing to do," as he conceded this week), they’ll think it’s Republicans who are in bed with the banks, not him or Democrats in Congress.
Obama is all about change. And now it’s time to change the subject. Let’s not talk about Democrats’ defeat at the polls. Let’s not talk about Americans’ dislike of a government-run health care system. Or about disappearing jobs. Let’s find an enemy we can all agree to hate. Bankers are evil; we’ve known that since Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey took on the villainous Henry F. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. Obama just needs to rally the people to take on Big Banking and they’ll forget all their own problems.
Politics has nothing to do with the democratic will of the people. It’s all about messaging, and Obama just needs to fine tune his.