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Obama’s Communication Breakdown

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"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, naivete, 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 health care 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 health care fit into the immediate response to the spill.

 Anyone who has followed Mr. Obama's presidency will attest to his effectiveness 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 like Turkey 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 in 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 with successfully 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.

Spill responseTo 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 Mr. Obama's habit of shutting 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.

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About Krutic

  • John Wilson

    Republicans ARE at fault for stopping the unemployment extension.

    That is an egregiously political act: to risk the economies health for partisan reasons. We need all the money possible in the hands of consumers.

    Another irresponsible republican act was attempting to use a 21% Medicare Doctor cut against medicare.

    They are republicans first and Americans second.

  • Re # 14, I look forward to seeing the White House try to convince angry, unemployed voters how wonderful things really are.

    It will become part of the anti obesity campaign.


  • He’ll argue the Republicans are at fault for having stopped the unemployment insurance benefits.

  • Krutic A

    Well the WH will start a PR campaign for the wildly popular healthcare bill and a ‘summer of recovery’ campaign to celebrate the immense success of the stimulus bill. It is so wonderful that a whopping 6% of people in polls believe that the recovery act has created jobs. A trillion down the drain and nothing to show for it – except an unprovable negative about how they ‘prevented a depression’.

    For me, the biggest hint that things aren’t going well is when Joe Biden is given the lead. I can’t think of a single thing where the President has followed his advice. He gets the items that Obama wants to keep his distance from.

    I look forward to seeing the White House try to convince angry, unemployed voters how wonderful things really are.

  • Touche, Steve. Preaching and spouting slogans is his communication mode. He knows no other.

  • Steve

    The trouble is, Obama doesn’t communicate. He is too busy still campaigning. Someone should have told him he won.

  • Bleeding heart liberals and anal retentive conservatives, oh my! You’d think with all these maladies attributed to the fringes of both sides, they’d be extinct by now. In the meantime the oil continues to flow – in the Gulf, Alaska, Saudi Arabia, so on and so what. Until we come up with a firm resolve to get off petroleum’s nipple, Joe Barton and the rest of his Texas short-horn Radical Right will continue sniffing the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that feed their wallets. I’d like option P – the one where bacteria targets politicians and political leaders and consumes them. (Sorry Texas, but you got to admit Barton is a Texas short horn.)

  • Well, I would be happy to get rid of all pantyhose. So, I say the first one you have there looks good to me.

  • Irene Wagner

    Ok, Cindy, now all we have to have is a game plan. Is it plan A panty hose Plan B nuke Plan C bacteria, or Plan A nuke Plan B bacteria Plan C pantyhose?

    Roger…my brain chemistry isn’t up to this! Looks like a job for the combined efforts of left-brainers, right-brainers, everywhere. Myself, I think I’m going to go pray about it. Can’t hurt.

  • Oohhh wrong link, that one says no way…but this one says way.

  • Oh yes!!! Please pick that one then we can use these!

    There was an old oil leak that swallowed a nuke…

  • BTW, you did pose some interesting questions concerning brain chemistry and its effects on human behavior/forms of action.

    I didn’t pursue it then because it would stray from my point of focus.

  • Irene Wagner

    …and here’s another ecologically paradoxical option.

  • Earth’s next dominant life-form has been discovered. Please keep your hands inside the handbasket on the way to our final destination.

  • Clavos

    Oy. Pantyhose…

  • For once I agree, DM.

    Good article, Mr. Krutic.

  • Please, Sir. Don’t try to put the blame on President Obama. The problem is that to communicate an idea clearly, it is first necessary to have a clear idea to communicate. Obviously, his enemies, I mean trusted advisers, have failed to serve him by providing such ideas. It’s simply unfair to expect Him to develop ideas; he has people for that.

    Fortunately, Hooters employees are working on the problem, and the solution is coming soon.