Thursday, February 5, 2009

He’s Got This?

Joan Walsh at Salon.com worried that Barack Obama, the Democrats’ Great Communicator, isn’t so good at it.

I’m concerned about how Obama is and isn’t selling his crucial stimulus/recovery bill. I’m wondering about what he’d say about it in an FDR-style “fireside chat.” On YouTube, or wherever. Even though I’m an Obama admirer, and also, I’m paid to know these things, I’m not sure I do know how he’d make the case for why this bill will solve our economy’s problems, and why it must pass. And soon, because new poll numbers now show that public support for it is already dropping fast. A Rasmussen poll says 43 percent oppose it, and 37 support it, an 8-point slide in two weeks. Nate Silver thinks that poll overstates the bill’s troubles. “There is some evidence — the trendline in the Rasmussen poll — that he stimulus has become less popular. There is no evidence, on the other hand, that the stimulus has become unpopular; on the contrary, the preponderance of polling evidence suggests it remains a course of action that most of the public likes.” Still, the Washington Post reported today that Senate Democrats don’t think they have the votes to pass it right now.

Let’s hark back to ancient times — like last year in the midst of the election campaign — when the Republicans and the wingnuts would crank the noise machine up to 11 and the Democrats would get all twitterpated that Mr. Obama was not responding and being way too cool during all the heat. Then he would come out with a response or a speech or something that would basically say, “Chill out; I’ve got this,” and he would flummox the detractors or send them into fits of frenzy, and he would win the day. It drove a lot of people, especially his supporters crazy, remembering all too well what happened when John Kerry tried that approach. But there’s a difference between being cool and being cold, and even with the bumps and the setbacks he’s run into, the president seems to be taking the same approach: he’s got it. Even when taking the hit for the Daschle nomination, he was cool enough to go on every TV network in the country and fess up. Can you imagine George W. Bush doing that? As several outlets pointed out by running Mr. Bush’s famous press conference where he was cold-cocked by the question, “Have you ever made a mistake?”, the answer is a firm no.

Josh Marshall notes,

But I have been surprised that he has not chosen yet to play more to, and get out among, his real constituency — particularly on this bill — the people. This is about them. 10 or 15 thousand people are losing their jobs every day at the moment. Half a million people a month. It would not be hard to find — and I can’t believe they’re not thinking about it already — lots of communities around the country where some version of this bill would provide critical, immediate and sustained relief to lots of people. In fact, you’d likely find one almost anywhere you put your finger down on the map.

They’ve got this, and I think — if this op-ed is any guide — the president does, too.