I‘m not sure he does if his press conference yesterday was any indication. He handled it all right, I suppose, but his basic message was that he didn’t communicate his basic message. Not that his agenda had been rejected or that his policies were at fault. It was simply a matter of the poor dumb public not understanding what he was about and what he was doing. Victor Davis Hanson does a good job of dissecting the press conference (so I don’t have too) and states the problem I saw pretty darn well:
President Obama came close, but he still just cannot admit that his radical policies and their effects on the economy are the cause of his devastating political rebuke. For most of his press conference, an oddly depressed Obama voted present, as he all but said that the problems are mostly ours, not his — or at least not his agenda but perhaps an occasional inadequate communication.
In clingers fashion, he once more is talking down to us, explaining that we confused his necessary solutions with a bogeyman increase in big government, and so typically, in fright and ignorance, lashed out at his party. He is claiming the outrage grew from the same frustration that elected him, rather than arising precisely because of him and his agenda. In short, we are angry because his EU-socialist agenda is progressing too slowly and hasn’t delivered as promised — as it will in time. Perhaps then we will thank him for his proper big-government, big-spending solution.
The reasons this is so are many, but primarily they are because Obama doesn’t consider his ideas as radical or "big government" or, except out of an emergency necessity, "big spending." But obviously, given his year long focus on health care reform that involves much more government than ever before, he does think government is just not doing enough and is the solution for the majority of our problems. How he’s unable to reconcile that with not being a "big-government", "big-spending" type is left between he and his psychiatrist as the CEO of NPR might put it.
He seems bewildered (for the first time?) that his popularity as a campaign rhetorician did not last when he became responsible for actual governance. For most of the press conference, a humbled but deer-in-the-headlights Obama half-heartedly argued that the populist outrage against his own massive debt, huge wasteful government, and elitism was really outrage against the economy he inherited, an outrage that he shares. We don’t know it, the president hints, but we are still angry at the Bush years, and yesterday mistakenly took our wrath out on Obama’s methodical, albeit too slow, efforts at recovery. In short, there was little admission whatsoever that Obama’s message and the way he pushed it turned off millions — there was no repentant Clinton, circa autumn 1994, here; instead, a shocked Obama who seems hurt that we do not appreciate him.
That was pretty much my reaction as I watched him navigate the session (which, btw, was a press conference for only a selected number of journalists, called by name – the rest could have stayed home). While he offered some hint he might be willing to compromise, the ideologue in him made it clear that such compromise would only take place at the margins. When asked about the possibility of health care compromise to save it from repeal, Obama brought up the 1099 issue (something which has little if anything to do with health care but was a provision of the health care bill) as an example of something he might be willing to consider compromise on. But it was clear there’d be none on the major provisions of the monstrosity passed by his administration.
He admitted he was insulated (a danger for all presidents). He said “getting out” was good for him, implying that if he just did more of it, this pesky communication problem would clear itself up and all would be right with the “Hope and Change Express”.
Except it won’t. Even when he “gets out” he goes to carefully staged and managed events. How he can think that he’s getting the true feelings of Americans out there after Tuesday night remains a mystery. As Hanson says, he seemed bemused and bewildered by what had gone down. He finally, well into the presser, called it properly a “shellacking”.
He mused about how it was the public’s perceptions about what he’d done in an “emergency” which was part of the problem and the other was the economy he inherited. However he didn’t seem to understand that the public’s perception rests on how he reacted to the crisis – by expanding government and government spending. And at almost light speed. How he thinks he can now lay any legitimate claim to wanting to reduce the deficit after driving it to historic highs in each of first few budgets is beyond most. But apparently he thinks all he has to do is communicate properly.
He threw out the usual platitudes about being the president and thus being responsible for what happened Tuesday, but you got the impression he really didn’t mean it. He really didn’t think he or his policies were at fault. Instead you felt he thought it was the voter’s fault for not being collectively bright enough to understand all the wonderful things he’d done. All in all, despite some of his rhetoric, he seemed very disinclined to change his ways.
Hanson throws a little reality check the GOP’s way in his piece as well:
Some things also have to change on the conservative side. Congress must not remain hostage to farm-state representatives and senators, for whom the huge agricultural subsidy programs are sacrosanct; a decade ago, we went from “eliminating” those programs via the “Freedom to Farm” Act to calling farm pork a post-9/11 matter of national security. On the budget front, I doubt we will hear much talk, at least in the short term, of massive tax cuts that eventually will result in greater supply-side growth and thus greater revenue. Instead, I assume that any Republican tax-cut attempt will have to be matched in the here and now by a commensurate cut in spending, dollar for dollar — or rather, given the deficits, one dollar in tax cuts, two dollars in spending cuts. I also don’t think we will see representatives bragging of the new pork-barrel community centers they brought home, with their own names plastered on them — at least for a while.
If Boehner, et. al, don’t have a detailed plan in hand that address subsidies, corporate welfare and a number of other spending cuts when they take over this next January, they’re in for a 2 year run. There are any number of recommendations for them out there they can incorporate into such a plan. They had better show up serious about spending cuts or as I say, their days are numbered. I don’t give a rip what Obama may do with the veto pen – the point is make him do it. The can has been kicked as far down the road as possible. Time to man up and live up to the principles the party claims it holds.
Meanwhile, expect Obama to cluelessly continue to try to polish up his message. As far as he’s concerned, the agenda is okey-dokey and he intends to proceed as if it is.