President Obama has a communications problem that goes way deeper than Jay Carney.
Liberals initially touted the commander-in-chief as a man whose speaking skills were akin to those of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. After all, it was his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that many political analysts credit for getting him elected to the U.S. Senate with 70 percent of the vote.
It’s clear now, though, that Obama’s communications strategy is falling apart. Voter morale is waning, media relations are crumbling, and the only person who seems to care which message officials are trying to drive is Politico’s Mike Allen.
One clue came when the president commissioned a handful of celebrities to convince young people that buying into Obamacare was the cool thing to do. He invited Amy Poehler, Alicia Keys, and other Hollywood blowhards to a White House strategy session three weeks ago, the goal of which, according to one official, is to sway “fans of their television shows, movies, and music.” Public education efforts are currently underway at YouTube and Funny or Die, founded by Will Ferrell.
This isn’t the first time left-wingers have treated the presidency as a popularity contest, but the focus on such a specific policy goal (and the blatancy with which the deal was put into place) is new. As a rule of thumb, good ideas require no lobbying. “Don’t jump in front of that speeding car” is sound advice even without the support of TMZ regulars. The fact that Obama is crawling back to Leftywood three years after the bill passed into law is a sure sign that Americans aren’t falling for OFA’s math.
And liberal journalists aren’t satisfied with the empty rhetoric, either.
Both Time and New York pointed out this year that Obama’s speeches have remained virtually unchanged since 2005. Cookie-cutter appeals to the middle class and lamentations about job-destroying technology have turned his easiest public relations opportunities into snooze fests that even the most devoted volunteers dread hearing.
The New Republic agrees, too, despite being a bastion for progressive elitism. The magazine is owned by Chris Hughes, one of Obama’s lead online coordinators during the 2008 campaign, who managed to score an exclusive Oval Office interview with the president in January. Their conversation was as light as expected and gave Obama room to chat about skeet shooting, football, and the gay community.
That love disappeared less than half of a year later when Hughes ran a column by Reid Cherlin, a former White House spokesman, advocating an end to the daily White House press briefing, which he called “a worthless chore for reporters” who don’t get straight answers from Jay Carney and who were treated the same way by his predecessor Robert Gibbs.
With this lack of control over one-time allies in the media, it’s no wonder Obama operatives began to schedule private meetings and invite only the most loyal Democratic journalists to hear his grandiose remarks. This way, every comment on the record is filtered through a friendly voice whose very access to the executive branch is preluded by docility. The foreign policy group includes Thomas Friedman at the New York Times and Joe Klein at Time magazine, and the economics group includes Ezra Klein at the Washington Post and Jonathan Capehart at MSNBC. You get the picture.