Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How And Why Obama Is Losing The Messaging Battle.

So, Obama's only been in office about 8 months, and the country is seemingly more fractured than at any point in recent history. Folks are packin' AR-15's at townhalls. The approval numbers are slipping. Healthcare reform might not get done this year. Doom and gloom about a suddenly out of control spending spree in DC have many "real Americans" questioning whether or not our Constitution is under attack. The stimulus money ain't workin'. Unemployment is high than a muv. And it's hard to understand why none of what Obama has done thus far is helping.

One thing that continually pisses me off about this administration is its total and complete lack of anything resembling organization when it comes to messaging. For all the props Obama rightfully gained for running a tip top campaign, watching the various Obama Administration flunkees fumble the whole "public option or no public option" football last week was indicative of just how bad WH communications are. Seriously.
As the White House seeks to regroup on health care before Congress returns next month, the president and his senior officials face a problem as old as politics: how to effectively combat misinformation about the bill.

Polling done earlier this week by NBC shows the extent of the challenge before the Obama administration. Fifty five percent of those tested said illegal immigrants would get health care under the legislation while 54 percent said they believed passage of the bill would lead to a government takeover of the system. Nearly half (45 percent) said that the legislation would allow the government to make decision about the medical care of the elderly -- hello death panels!

According to the Associated Press and the NBC Political Unit, each of those claims have -- at best -- a thread of truth to them. No matter. Perception matters greatly in politics, a point that has been proven time and time again in the history of campaigns.

The challenge for the Obama administration is that to find ways to rebut the misinformation about the plan, is to, in essence, try to disprove a negative. Two factors complicate those efforts.

First, because the health care bill is so complicated it is easy for those who seek to capsize the legislation to cherry-pick elements to make their case against it.

Second, the fact that the president has not come out in favor of specific elements of a bill he favors -- preferring instead to speak in terms of general principles he supports and leaving it up to Congress to hash out the specifics -- means that there is nothing hard and fast for Obama supporters around which to rally.
So what's the problem? How can this be fixed? Here's my analysis.

Barry Needs More Swagger - Folks blame you when things are bad with the economy. Rub the recent Dow rally (9,500 and rising, from a low of 6,800 in February) in their friggin' faces. Come up with some numbers to quantify how many state and local jobs the Stimulus has saved, how many cops, firemen, and teachers have been hired, and how many people have kept unemployment and health benefits as a result. Explain that most of the stimulus money hasn't been spent yet because local jurisdictions have to apply for funds (they aren't just throwing money out the door) and have to explain where and how the money will be spent, thus minimizing the potential for rampant waste. How come I know the Stimulus package was 40% tax cuts, yet the GOP is able to successfully paint it as out of control spending? How come you let the GOP tag you as a spender, when reality is, the deficit you inherited was also a record one that included 2 bailouts, 2 wars, and out of control Medicare expenditures, which you're trying to get in check with your healthcare overhaul? Why am I able to articulate this far better than any of your well paid, but exceedingly incompetent staffers? Control the message. Be proactive. You've done some good stuff already, take credit for it.

Barry Needs To Stop Campaigning And Do His Job - Part of me wonders if this is just the bad side of Obama's "go along to get along" style of leadership. Sometimes it seems like he's so hellbent on consensus building and not offending any potential voters that he sounds like he's already campaigning for 2012. Well guess what Barry, you already got the job! Kill the nonsense. Quit worrying about the GOP and voters who wouldn't give you credit if you cured cancer tomorrow.[1] Eff' em. You are going to be re-elected based on whether your economic and domestic agenda are working come 2012, not based on how many folks you can get to "cross the aisle". Some of these folks think you're a Muslim who was born uncircumcised in a Kenyan manger to an Indonesian father. Eff' em.

Barry Needs To Get His Pros In Check - C'mon man, how can you have Sebelius saying one thing, Gibbs saying another, and Bill Burton something entirely different? Get your lies facts straight. Make sure everybody's on the same page.

Barry Needs To Dumb It Down - I'm continually puzzled as to why folks think Obama is some master orator. Having seen him speak in person 2-3 times now, I have yet to see anything even remotely close to the lyrical brilliance of the "Run, Jesse Run!" era of Rebb'n Jackson. He ain't even a Rebb'n Al for that matter. Part of the problem is that he seems so intent on proving his intelligence that he can't just give short, to the point answers. Witness how 4 questions can be stretched into a 60 minute primetime presser. How come the Gates question was the only thing folks remember from an entire healthcare press conference? Stop trying to be a college professor. Only 27% of Americans even have a college degree. Less is more. Dumb. It. Down.

Barry Needs To Quit Letting The Hill Run Thangs - For worse (in this case) or for better, Obama has left the sausage-making of much of his legislation in the hands of folks like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. I haven't seen such a disjointed trio entrusted with this much unchecked power since Dallas had the 3 J's. Like it or not, these folks are three very easy targets (for various reasons), and with their own agendas (including re-election) they aren't always going to be looking out for your best interests. You need to ride over there, step out the Presidential DeVille, and let these folks witness the wrath of Barry's C.Y.I.N. Speaking of which...

Barry Needs To Publicly C.Y.I.N. On A Foe - C'mon, when has Obama just broke bad and put a muthaf*cka in check? {Crickets} Barry, you need to make an example of somebody, to justify your thug if nothing else. Seriously, go to one of those townhalls and YouTube posterize somebody. Barney Frank did it. Hillary just did it. Why can't you do it? Huh? On the other hand, it's entirely possible that Obama simply doesn't have this in him. That admission would be disappointing on many levels, but would explain a lot. A good surrogate could pick up some of the slack here, but that person would obviously need to be on the same page at all times.

Barry Needs Kill The Cute Sh*t - America's cultural anthropology of the first Black Family Evar was interesting at first. It was cool watching the process of choosing the dog. Cool gawking at the kids first days at school. Cool listening to Grandma Robinson hold court. But guess what? It's time to kill the cute sh*t. You're no longer campaigning. Your personal quirks (Honest Tea, Ray's Hell Burger, date nights, reportedly bowling a 144) aren't interesting anymore. We get it, you're a cool guy. And guess what, we like cool guys, but we sorta prefer a President who can be an a$$hole when needed. Please stop using unnecessary photo ops to get us to like you more. We like you (witness your still high personal popularity ratings). But we ain't vote for Mr. Congeniality (witness the widening disconnect between your policy ideas and your personal popularity ratings) to lead the nation. All this blahzay blah is undermining your levity. Leave the cameraman at home. Just quit it.

Barry Should Avoid The Race Card At All Costs - Let's face it, yeah, a lot of the criticism you face is little more than poorly disguised dislike for a black(ish) President. But between Skip Gates, Father Pfledger, and Rebb'n Wright, reality is, your race card is pretty much revoked. You can't call a spade a spade without getting in trouble. Find some surrogates (preferably white folks, for obvious reasons) who can be a mouthpiece for you instead.

Barry Needs To Kick Robert Gibbs To The Curb - I been sayin' this since Day One, but every day this buffoon is given an hour to hold court, he shows exactly what happens when you hire your boy, rather than hiring the best person for the job. Could this dude be any more of a walking punchline? Last week's unnecessary pissing match with Fox News' Major Garrett should have been the breaking point. Why Gibbs is likely preparing for his daily briefing as you read this is beyond me. Jamal Simmons is still working at Sizzler. Rescue him, Barry.

Question: Do you think the Obama WH is losing the messaging battle? Are some folks simply going to dislike everything he does regardless, or could more consistent messaging from the WH convince some folks?

The Mystique of Misinformation [WashPost]

[1] Bush cured BrainFreeze, and even he didn't get credit for it.

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