No Sound And Fury
by Deacon Blues
The metaphor was apt: at a hastily-called and then delayed Rose Garden statement by the president about GOP obstructionism on a small business tax/job growth bill, the White House sound system went out. Sure, it was nothing more than a speed bump on what appears to be a road of pushback against his critics, following last night's interview with NBC's Brian Williams on his birther critics and deniers. But the hiccup was a reminder of how poorly this White House does with a Tier Two/pushback effort, when they were so good at kneecapping Hillary Clinton during the campaign.
The fact that Obama decided at the last minute to make a Rose Garden speech about GOP obstructionism that has been going on for months shows you two things:
1. This White House, like all others before it, reads polls; and
2. They have no idea how to run a sustained oppositional narrative.
There is nothing new in GOP efforts to use the filibuster and other means to stall legislation and hold up any action that could help the country economically since Obama came into office. It is, in fact, a cornerstone of the GOP's plan to cripple the economy even more than Bush did, but to then blame Obama for failed policies and inaction when arguing for a return to power. Once the narrative is planted that Obama is ineffective, through repetition of the same talking points by numerous parts of the GOP message machine, it makes it much easier for the GOP to make voters forget why they voted many Republicans out of office less than two years ago.
Yet the Obama team has shown no ability or guts to hammer a message repeatedly against their opponents. Hell, as late as last month, some in the administration were still talking about bipartisanship, as if the last twenty months hadn't happened. Sure, they may hit an issue for several days and send the president on the road to give speeches that the media thinks all sound the same - because they do. However, the media loves to cover fights, and loves to carry soundbites of a president who calls out the GOP and specific members by name, maybe even in their own districts. Furthermore, even if it sounds gimmicky, why isn't Gibbs or even the president using a clock or other props every day to show the media during the morning press briefing how many days Mitch McConnell has delayed action on this small business bill, or any of the other initiatives pushed by this White House. Michael Deaver taught the Reagan White House almost 30 years ago that visuals work, and TV and print media eat this up. How long would the GOP be able to stall a second stimulus bill if the White House rolled out a counter and clock every day that showed the number of jobs that were being lost, or families losing health coverage because of GOP indifference?
Lastly, remember that Bush and Rove used the congressional August recess to their advantage in 2002 to set the narrative for the fall campaign: they ginned up a war while Democrats went home on vacation. By the time Democrats came back to town, the war narrative was set in place and Democrats were already on the defensive. Rove knew how to take advantage of a slow August news month with Congress being out of town, so he stepped into that vacuum to sell the "product", as Andy Card said.
What did Democrats and Obama do this month with a similar opportunity, when the GOP was out of town? They went on vacation themselves, and let the right wing message machine suck up news cycles with a trumped-up issue about a non-mosque in New York. That's all you really need to know about the message failings of this White House.