2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Obama’s Top Political Aides Transplanting Campaign Tactics to Policy Arena

An article titled Obama Uses Poll, Focus Groups to Sell Stimulus Plan to Congress, by Bloomberg’s Lorraine Woellert and Hans Nichols, confirms one of my worst fears about the incoming Obama Administration.

Woellert and Nichols write:

“President-elect Barack Obama’s top political aides are transplanting their campaign tactics to the policy arena, using data from polls and focus groups to shape the debate over a stimulus plan that may cost at least $775 billion.

“David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political adviser, along with campaign media adviser Jim Margolis, are encouraging lawmakers to use the word “recovery” instead of recession, and “investment” instead of “infrastructure.” Those recommendations came from focus-group research indicating that such framing would make the package more appealing to voters.

‘“The Obama camp is trying to build support for the stimulus proposals, which have encountered resistance from lawmakers of both parties over size and cost. Republicans have employed similar tactics in past policy debates, notably when they labeled the estate tax as the “death” tax in arguing for its repeal.”’

In previous posts, I’ve highlighted commonalities of President Bush and President-elect Obama. Now it appears that 11 days before he takes office, Obama is already following in the footsteps of his predecessor by confusing campaigning with governing; arguably one of the major reasons for the Bush Administration’s many failures.

With Karl Rove, his chief campaign strategist at his side in the White House, President Bush never learned the difference between campaigning and governing.

(You may remember that my concern for the president-elect’s kinship with Dubya heightened with the announcement that Obama was taking Rove’s counterpart, David Axelrod, along with him to the White House.)

Here’s a flashback to the early days of Bush’s second term:

On May 20, 2005, the Washington Post’s Peter Baker wrote:

‘“The obligatory campaign-style signs were hung behind the stage, the familiar hand-selected "conversation participants" seated next to him. The friendly, invitation-only audience cheered with appropriate enthusiasm. And when President Bush took the microphone, he spun out more or less the same speech he has given dozens of times before.

“On the 78th day of a 60-day road show, the president's nationwide Social Security tour, even to some of his own aides, has the feel of a past-its-prime Broadway production that has been held over while other, newer shows steal the spotlight.

‘“I'm just beginning this debate," Bush said in an appearance at the Milwaukee Art Museum, his 32nd Social Security event this year. "I'm going to spend whatever time it takes to continue traveling this country and make it absolutely clear to the people, we've got a problem.”’

The rest is history. Bush’s Social Security initiative failed.

In the Bloomberg piece, Woellert and Nichols quote Dick Morris, pollster for the Clinton Administration:

“We polled everything, every policy initiative, everything you can think of,” Morris said. “It’s become pretty standard.”

‘“By contrast, President George W. Bush “didn’t really poll policy, he polled the presentation.”’

As to whether Obama would follow the Clinton or Bush model, Woellert and Nichols report that Morris said, “My guess is that Obama will {be} more like Clinton than Bush.”

That would be the same Clinton that Obama and team denigrated throughout the Democratic primary.

But for the sake of America’s suffering people, let’s hope that however Axelrod, et al, decide to frame it, the much-needed stimulus plan, appropriately reviewed and amended by Congress, will be passed in a timely fashion.


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  2. Obama's tactics are not surprising VB, all he knows how to do is run for office. Except maybe teach a class. And a president only has to do one of those things once in 8 years, if he's lucky. And we're not.

  3. I've heard from a source that I considered reliable, that it was Bill Clinton who polled for how to present plans that he had already decided on for better reasons.

    Morris worked for Bill Clinton till fired, and has been attacking Clinton ever since.

  4. Hi Kat in the Hat,

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Cinie,

    As usual your comment nails it. Thanks!

  6. Hi anonymous,

    Thank you for the information; I appreciate it.

    And thanks for stopping by.

  7. Of course, Obama will continue to run for office... now that he has to consider his second term.

    For this reason, nothing will be accomplished in his first term at all.

    And by the time he gains a second term.. we will no longer have a Dem majority in the House or Senate.

    But, oh well.... he will have run an impeccable campaign. And who cares about what happens to the country. Right?

  8. HI Stray Yellar Dawg,

    Impeccable campaign is right - completely top down, no leaks, no disagreements, none of the messy stuff that happens when people are allowed to be themselves and express their honest opinions, as in a democratic system.