“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?