The Obama speech about the S&P downgrade was, indeed, a low point of his presidency.
Some of this seems to come from a lack of stage management at the White House, something that Reagan never missed (Clinton did well, too, but without the perpetual touch of over management that was Reagan's lot). There doesnít seem to be enough care about how and where they have the president speaking relative to what he wants to convey.
Supposedly, Obama was addressing "the press", but they were nowhere to be seen. He spoke as if he were addressing a crowd, not looking into the camera. His head and eyes swung back and forth between the two prompters, which gave him a disconnected appearance from us, the audience at home or office. The only media I spotted in the room were a few technicians plodding about in the minutes before the delayed, and then delayed again, remarks. What press? It looked like he was speaking to an empty room. Maybe he felt the same way.
During the remarks, I was wondering how he would speak about S&P and then jump to the helicopter deaths. Not well, it turns out. "And in other news..." was not really what the occasion needed. Somehow, it seems like the statement of the troops killed in Afghanistan should have come first, but perhaps the president felt that would be overly dramatic. Making it an afterthought didnít work, either.
At this date, it still seems to me like the people in the White House think Barack is magic, all they have to do is put him out there. For his part, maybe he doesn't really want to be out there, but he accepts that he has to be. I say this: don't go out at all without very good reason, don't go out until you are ready, don't mix apples and oranges and make sure your message is matched up with the setting. If you are speaking to the public, look at the camera. Giving an intimate speech as if you are in a giant auditorium doesn't work. If this were the one occasion when the White House hadnít managed the setting for a speech well, it wouldnít much matter, but there is a pattern here.
The dramatic flourishes, which only the presidency can generate, seem lacking at this White House. Don't be afraid to use the presidency for what it is and giving a statement impact by action and, yes, stagecraft,, like leaving immediately by helicopter to speak to military people or families. If it is important, make sure it looks important. Otherwise, forget it.
One other thing: this silly business of deferring to Congress to come up with the specifics on proposals for legislation has to stop, too. They wrecked health care that way. They wrecked the debt ceiling negotiations, too. How many more until the W. House realizes this doesn't work? When something doesnít work, change. Donít stick to a bad idea just because thatís what you started with.
Doug Terry 8.10.11, 12:33 AM