With the debate surrounding the economy and the upcoming budget negotiations, one thing has become readily apparent over the last month: President Obama has rediscovered his inner campaigner. Since he gave his budget address to Congress at the end of February, the President has gone into “campaign mode” meaning that he is doing a lot to get out in public and sell his plan. This includes numerous speeches, town hall meetings, a press conference and yes, even a late night talk show appearance.
In my last two posts, I focused on the voice of the Republican party (or lack thereof). If the Republicans are disorganized and bickering, they will not be able to get a clear message across to the American public. With President Obama’s recent media blitz, we are seeing the flip side of this situation. As I said previously, the Presidency has little actual constitutional power. The importance of the presidency is the very office itself and the ability of a president to articulate a clear vision for the country.
This is exactly what President Obama has been doing – articulating a clear direction that he wants to take the country. And right now the majority of Americans are willing to give him a chance to take the country there. As of the time I write this, Gallup has President Obama’s approval rating at 60%. (Click here for the daily tracking on his approval rating). Whether or not you agree with him, you have to give him credit for his ability to break down an issue and communicate it clearly to the American public. As I have said here before, President Obama is the best communicator to occupy the oval office since Ronald Reagan.
In the first month of his presidency, Obama was focused more on trying to work on Congress to have his stimulus plan passed. While the bill did pass, I think he learned an important lesson with the way some members of Congress beat him up. That lesson was that he was no longer a member of Congress and he needed to stop trying to negotiate like he was. This explains why he is approaching the budget process so differently. A president is at his most effective when he is trying to sell his plan to the American public. For this reason, look for the White House to keep President Obama in a perpetual “campaign mode” especially when it comes to domestic policy and the economy.
I also noticed something else interesting over the last week or so. Lately, President Obama seems to have a protégé who is also on a media blitz. That is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. After the AIG bonus story hit, there was increased criticism of the Secretary Geithner and some in Congress were even calling for his resignation even though he was only two months into the job. Let us remember that Secretary Geithner is not a natural politician like the President. He was an under secretary at treasury in the 1990s and then he was president of New York’s Federal Reserve Bank. While he has dealt with politicians in the past, he was not required to act like one. However, this past week he came out of his political shell and gave several speeches and made several appearances in support of the administration’s proposals. It seems to have helped the embattled Secretary as he has had much more positive press recently and has even earned the praise from some Republicans, like Senator John McCain.
The Treasury Secretary’s media blitz culminated today with his appearance on Meet the Press, where Geithner said, “[W]e're going to emerge stronger than this. When we get through this, people are going to care less about what they make, more about what they do, what they achieve with what they make, and that will help make this country stronger.” He went on to explain further, “I think people will be living within their means more, which is helpful.” Let’s hope that as both the President and Treasury Secretary stay in campaign mode that they continue to preach this message to the American public and eventually make living within our means a priority not just for American families but for the American government as well.