Criticizing PResidential PR

President Obama’s Thursday interview with Charlie Rose airs tonight on CBS. The headlines this week focused on part of what he said:

“The mistake of my first term…was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.

“It’s funny—when I ran, everybody said, ‘Well he can give a good speech but can he actually manage the job?’ And in my first two years, I think the notion was, ‘Well, he’s been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where’s the story that tells us where he’s going?’ And I think that was a legitimate criticism.”

I feel like screaming, “Duh!!!” Because I like Barack Obama. But my own frustration with this president is not that the recession hasn’t ended on his watch, or that he passed a health care bill that I feel didn’t go far enough. I’ve been frustrated with how he hasn’t been far more aggressive about articulating his successes and waving his finger at those who refuse to help him. He should using the pulpit of the presidency to influence, push, bully and brag. That’s a significant part of the power of the office.

President Roosevelt understood this. Through his famous “Fireside Chats,” he used the media of his day–radio–to rally Americans and ease their fears during the Depression and World War II. Ronald Reagan (a.k.a.”The Great Communicator”) told stories about people’s struggles and successes, and used patriotic imagery to make malaise-filled Americans feel better about their country. There are countless examples of presidents who were able to move legislation with the help of effective language and images designed to move people’s emotions.

The public relations aspect of the U.S. presidency must be about influencing public perceptions and gaining support by effectively articulating your policies and plans. If you like this president, you should hope Barack Obama didn’t learn this too late. Your thoughts?

9 thoughts on “Criticizing PResidential PR

  1. Minyvonne Burke

    I think President Obama has been facing a tremendous amount of opposition the entire home he was in office and I don’t think he realized what he was really up against when he stepped into the white house. I personally think Obama has been doing a good job. He doesn’t need to brag, bully or whatever his actions speak for themselves. He’s not a stupid man and I think he knows exactly what he’s doing.

  2. Valentine Francois

    Mr. Moseley makes an excellent point, I too feel if the President were to endorse oxygen, all the republicans would die from lack of it. I think president Obama is letting his actions speak for themselves and not bragging too loudly as to not be that annoying jerk tooting his own horn all the time. All the things he has accomplished and the messes he has cleaned up speaks volumes for the type of administration he is running. Whether or not he is shouting it from the rooftop.

  3. Abdul

    I do agree that the poorest job the president has done thus far has been his inability to communicate the success of his administration. Especially when he is up against an opposition whose clear priority is to ensure that he is a one term president. This president understands the immense influence of social media and he used it effectively during his 2008 campaign. I do believe he could have used it even more during his first term, after all, we do live in an age where connectivity and interactivity is ever more necessary to get through our daily lives.


    As the first African American president in this country, Obama is making every effort communicating with the public. Sometimes it’s not because “he hasn’t been far more aggressive about articulating his successes and waving his finger at those who refuse to help him.” He is smart and knows how to strike a balance. Today’s environment is totally different from Roosevelt era when people were fighting starving. Obama and every president want to influence public perceptions and gain support by effectively articulating their policies and plans, but intention needs more strategies to put into practice under certain circumstances. Hopefully Obama didn’t disappoint that many supporters and gain more support.

  5. jmorosoff Post author

    To Bert’s comment: With rare exception, leadership is so dearly lacking in every corner of the American political spectrum. As I age I get increasingly frustrated with politics; I used to love being in the middle of it. Thanks the Lord I’m not anymore!

  6. Ty

    I actually think Obama has been fully aware of this all along, but he was very hesitant on speaking up on it. He’s not nearly the aggressive president the past few presidents were for one reason. He feels deep down that he will always fight a uphill battle. No matter if it’s race related or not. He patiently waits to bring things to the table and be the President we want him to be. But he’s afraid of how much backing he will get and how it will effect his image. Just think about recently, Obamacare and supporting gay marriages. This is the turn for Obama…he will now tackle more things on a large scale to get more supporters. That right there is telling a story and relating to his people. Only question is, what will be next?

  7. Bert Cunningham

    Rhetoric is a funny thing. It can work for you, against you and not at all. In part, its success depends upon what people want to hear. Obama’s ’08 rhetroic worked, because people wanted change. Now, people want solutions to deeply rooted, complex problems. Sadly, the rhetoric from all sides is not getting that job done. When the Congressional leaders and President can tell the American people they’ve reached agreement on solutions that will solve some of our basic economic problems that will be effective rhetoric since it will also demonstrate effective leadership. And more than words, America wants and needs effective leadership.

  8. Victoria Semple

    Great post, I agree! I do think his team has caught up to this fact and are doing an increasingly better job communicating all the good he has done for his reelection campaign. Hopefully, it is not too little too late and that message will get through the public in time for Election Day.

  9. William Moseley

    Problem is Jeff, virtually ANYTHING that the president endorses or talks about becomes something the “other side” was against for all eternity, like the health care mandate, which “the other side” supported until Obama did, simply because they refuse to admit their deepest, darkest secret…they hate black people! Would have used the N word but I didn’t.


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