Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Obama Part II: The President Strikes Back

Ah, a new strategy from the President's PR team -- he's getting more personal in fighting back...
Once chastised for not being tough enough, President Barack Obama has lately been getting personal with his political adversaries — singling them out for scorn in speeches, interviews, asides and even in his weekly radio address.

Rather than just going after big groups of bad guys — insurance companies, lobbyists, the media — Obama has adopted a strategy that gives a face to the enemy.

By setting himself up against specific opponents, he provides a point of contrast that’s useful in invigorating a base hungry for bare knuckles and bravado — and forces those in the middle to choose between him and his villain du jour.

“He lost some of his spunk and fight. He lost what he had in the campaign. When you campaign, you campaign against people,” said Paul Stob, a Vanderbilt professor who co-operates the website www.presidentialrhetoric.com. “I think there have been very conscious decisions to get back to that.”

With his approval numbers flat-lining near the 50 percent mark in recent months — and Democrats trailing Republicans by double digits among independents in recent surveys — the president and his congressional allies could use a boost among both core Democratic constituencies and folks who feel no particular allegiance to either party.
I'm not sure why they think this strategy will work. Hell, I'm not even sure it's a real shift in strategy -- I think they've tried this before and it didn't work. And as the article notes, the President risks lowering himself to the same level as those whom he criticizes -- and if the President is seen as being on the same level as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, then each of those entertaners comes out as the winner, because they're now on par with the leader of the Free World.  And I'm not sure why independants would view the President more favorably if his only response in a policy argument is to bash the other side.  That works for political partisans, but not for those who hate partisanship.

More importantly, the President campaigned on the idea that he was going to bring people together and unite them. The President may be believe people like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are just obstructionists, but each one represents a point of view that has substantial political support. If you dismiss their point of view by attacking them personally, then you're dismissing the points of view of their supporters -- and writing them off entirely.

The President would be far better off selling the good points of his own legislative priorities and substantively breaking down the arguments offered by the other side. Then again, as we saw with health care, maybe that strategy doesn't work when your own legislation is lousy and the other side's arguments are true.

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