Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Obama Is Doing His Best Jimmy Carter: Are Dems Worried Yet?

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
The Obama White House -- having been battered for months by falling poll numbers, rising public opposition to its signature domestic initiative, massive defections by Independent voters, and election defeats in New Jersey, Virginia, and (especially) Massachusetts -- is beginning to fray. The smooth-running Obama team we witnessed during the 2008 election is stumbling around in the dark, making mistakes in judgment that are compounding the problems.

For example, during the State of the Union address, President Obama declared that "jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010." That was a message echoed by Democrats across the land who knew that many (though not all) of their problems can be traced to Obama's relentless effort to pass health insurance legislation the public has rejected and considers, at a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment, to be beside the point. These members of the president's own political party wanted to turn their attention to jobs rather than health care, reasoning that hanging a lantern on a policy that is crippling their party is a prescription for a disastrous midterm election. Yet this week -- fully a month after the State of the Union address -- attention is once again focused on health care. And if Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid get their way and use the reconciliation process to pass ObamaCare, Democrats will be forced to spend the next several months still talking about it. This will lead Democratic lawmakers to ponder whether their leadership has a political death wish.

Another sign of a White House that is beginning to unravel is the emergence of internal feuding in No-Drama Obama Land. According to Politico, critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday's Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff -- while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs:
The key paragraph contained high praise for Emanuel -- at the expense of his boss: "Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter." In the piece, the longtime Post politics watcher portrays a White House filled with Obama's Chicagoland sycophants, and idealists veering the White House dangerously off to the left -- with Emanuel the only forceful voice of pragmatism and moderation.
When knives are unsheathed in an administration, with key aides distancing themselves from presidential failures and impending political defeat, it's a bad sign. That is doubly the case when the White House chief of staff is at the center of the infighting. It has radiating effects; morale plummets, trust dissipates, and people begin to take sides. Time and energy are spent battling colleagues instead of working in unison with them.

Then there is that old reliable comforter to reach for: self-delusion. In this case it comes in the form of the belief that your troubles are caused by a "communications problem." According to a recent Washington Post story, Obama aides are aggressively "retooling" the administration's communications strategy in ways that mirror a successful campaign more than they do a confident White House operation. The president's advisers are said to be focused on producing a faster turnaround in responding to critics and more discipline in channeling the president's schedule, so as to stay on message. This strategy was said to be the result of an end-of-the-year analysis in which White House advisers concluded that "the president's communications team had not taken the initiative often enough and had allowed drawn-out debates in Congress, and relentless criticism by Republicans, to drown out his message."

"It was clear that too often we didn't have the ball -- Congress had the ball in terms of driving the message," communications director Dan Pfeiffer told the Post. "In 2010, the president will constantly be doing high-profile things to be the person driving the narrative."

I recently had a conversation with a journalist who has close ties to the Obama White House and asked him if they really believed that at the core of their difficulties was a communications problem rather than a substance problem. He indicated they do.

Having worked in three administrations and two terms in the White House, I understand the temptation to believe that all that is needed to bend public will your way is one more clever argument, one more uplifting prime-time speech, a more aggressive and disciplined rapid-response team. But at some point, after enough time and trials, you need to make peace with certain hard truths.

In this instance, the Obama administration needs to accept the fact that the public has rendered its verdict on ObamaCare. They do not like it and they do not want it. No health care "summit," no new speech in Elyria, Ohio, or Las Vegas, no 2.0 version of the original plan will change any of that. Don't just take my word for it. Listen to the widely respected political analyst Charlie Cook, who told National Journal in an interview:
I sort of reject the notion that there is a communications problem with President Obama. I think it's just fundamental, total miscalculations from the very, very beginning. . . . This isn't a communications problem. This is a reality problem. And I think they just made some grave miscalculations and as it became more clear that they had screwed up, they just kept doubling down their bet. And so I think, no, this is one of the biggest miscalculations that we've seen in modern political history.
It is hard to think of another president who has dropped this far this fast, who after a year has done as much to hurt his party and his cause. Some of that damage is repairable; other presidents have come back from significant setbacks and imposing challenges. But from all appearances, the Obama White House still doesn't get it. It looks for all the world like health care is the whale to Barack Obama's Captain Ahab. He is determined to press ahead with his health care agenda come what may. Well, what may come is an epic midterm election loss, the repudiation of liberalism, and deep damage to the Democratic Party. The specter of Jimmy Carter is beginning to haunt the Obama presidency. And the worst is yet to come.
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including CNN.com, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly

80%

Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
GE
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
CEO
Click2View
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Co-Founder
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director
WCG

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
robert-and-donna-trussell
CHAOS THEORY
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>