New York Magazine has an article about Barack Obama which begins:
Since occupying the White House, Barack Obama has hosted fifteen town-hall meetings; appeared in more than 800 images on the White House Flickr photo-stream; and held four prime-time press conferences, the same number held by George W. Bush in his entire presidency. He’s sent a video message to the people of Iran. He’s given an address in Cairo that was translated into fourteen languages. He’s sat on Jay Leno’s couch, where he riffed about the supreme strangeness of having his own motorcade (“You know, we’ve got the ambulance and then the caboose and then the dogsled”), and he’s walked Brian Williams through the White House, where he introduced the anchor to Bo the dog. Two weeks ago, when he made a controversial comment at a press conference (that the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” toward Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.), he followed up with yet another press appearance in the White House briefing room—and an exclusive interview on Nightline. And that was before he sat down for a well-publicized beer with Gates and the offending officer …
Such are the president’s media habits. It’s gotten to the point where one expects to see and hear from him every day. He’s in the information business almost as much as the policy business. “This is president as content provider,” says Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman and adviser to George W. Bush. “It’s like when Rosie O’Donnell had a show and a magazine and a blog.”
The obvious and not very subtle point of Gillespie’s comment is people tired of Rosie O’Donnell rather quickly, especially when she was overexposed at that time, and her star quickly faded.
The question I’ve been pondering for some time is whether Obama risks overexposure to the point that people just start tuning him out? For a political junkie like me, I’ve mostly tuned him out already, since after listening to a couple of the town halls, I’ve realized that what’s going on with him now is not much different than during his campaign. He has a set of talking points, depending on the subject, and you can depend on him repeating them. During questions, he’ll repeat them again. Knowing the talking points, I see no need to watch them delivered again and again – especially when I know most of them are nonsense.
As things develop and more and more people who aren’t in the “political junkie” category pay closer attention, will they too end up having the same reaction I have had? Especially when they see the talking points (“your taxes won’t go up by even a dime”) turn to political dust?
And here’s another point from the article’s subtitle:
Barack Obama’s ubiquitous appearances as professor-in-chief, preacher-in-chief, father-in-chief, may turn out to be the most salient feature of his presidency.
It may indeed end up being “the most salient feature of his presidency”, but I wonder how long Americans are going to stand being lectured about almost every aspect of their lives, especially as the economy continues to tank? At what point do you suppose the majority will say, by tuning him out, “why don’t you concentrate on governing the country and we’ll take care of running our lives?”
New York Magazine, unsurprisingly, thinks that this seemingly deliberate strategy of “ubiquity” isn’t the same as overexposure and is thus a good thing:
It’s a large helping of Obama, surely. But those who think the White House has overdone it are missing the point. In today’s media environment, ubiquity is not the same as overexposure. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s critical to any understanding of the Obama presidency.
What they’re referring too is this country’s celebrity culture. And Barack Obama was certainly a political rock star on the campaign trail. But this premise that his “ubiquity” now is going to be a good thing seems to ignore the ubiquity of George Bush in terms of media exposure, especially in the last 4 years of his presidency. Few will argue that exposure was a “good thing” for him. Most of it, however, was media driven and mostly negative.
New York Magazine is arguing this is different (and I’d agree since much of Obama’s “ubiquity” is also media driven and mostly positive).
But just as Americans tired of George Bush, doesn’t this seeming overexposure of Barack Obama, especially this early in his presidency, risk the same will happen to him? New York Magazine may find referring to it as “ubiquity” somehow makes his constant appearances on just about every subject something other that overexposure, but I’m not ready to buy into that just yet.
I’m already tired of seeing him. I’m just wondering if the same thing will happen to the majority of my fellow citizens – and, if so, what political effect that might have.
I loved a tweet that Jon Henke sent out last night during the Obama health care press conference. It had me laughing – “Shorter Obama: you’re either with us or against us”.
In reality the press conference was the retelling of the same old nonsense. We’re going to expand the insurance system, require everyone be taken, no pre-existing conditions, no dropping you or denial of service. We’ll pay for it by finding some savings in waste, fraud and abuse, do health care delivery better than anyone else has ever done it, tax the rich and do it all – every bit of it – cheaper than it’s being done now, because we’re the government and we’re the experts in efficiency.
Tell me that wasn’t the crux of the presser? Anyone left wondering why the majority of Americans are skeptical?
And of course we had the usual canards out there. The claim that preventive medicine is cheaper than medicine as it is being practiced now. Take a moment to read this post by a doctor who lays out the con in minute detail. Here’s another view. Here’s a fact no one seems willing to deal with – the vast majority of all health care costs come in the last 6 months of life. No one has beaten death yet. Ergo that fact isn’t going to change unless the entity with the money refuses to pay up. So while preventive care may extend life, the cost of preventive care is more expensive and the end result remains the same.
As for paying for it, the whole appeal, of course, was to give the allusion to the middle class that he and the Dems were all for soaking the rich to cover the cost, even talking about how taxing millionaires met his “principle” on that.
But as Mickey Kaus points out, you have to listen carefully:
I don’t want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle-class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy. And so if I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle-class families, I’m going to be opposed to that …
Kaus points out that those two words, in “Wash-speak” mean he’s open to a middle-class tax to pay for the “new” and “improved” health care (49% isn’t “primarily”, right?).
And then there’s the dawning understanding around much of the country that this isn’t about reforming health insurance at all (something that might be appealing to most). It is about a fundamental change in how health care is delivered. As the Republicans have begun saying, it is “experimenting” with your health care.
Can I guarantee that there are going to be no changes in the health-care delivery system? No. The whole point of this is to try to encourage changes that work for the American people and make them healthier. And the government already is making some of these decisions. More importantly, insurance companies right now are making those decisions. And part of what we want to do is to make sure that those decisions are being made by doctors and medical experts based on evidence, based on what works. Because that’s not how it’s working right now. That’s not–that’s not how it’s working right now.
Yes the government is already making some of those decisions. And the unfunded liabilities of the government system threaten to bankrupt us.
But the point remains that peppered all through the statement and answers was the phrase “health care delivery”. That is one of the things driving down the approval ratings on the legislation. Its one thing to say, “hey we’re going to eliminate pre-existing conditions, portability issues and denial of service while making sure everyone has insurance”. It is an entirely different thing to say “we’re going to tinker with and change the way your health care is delivered”.
Now suddenly the government is in territory few want it in. And that’s the overreach that Obama and the Democrats have committed that is driving the health care legislation approval numbers down. Which gets us into the politics of this.
Obama said “this isn’t about me”. But in fact it is all about him and maintaining his credibility. But his problem, as usual, is he’s outsourced his signature agenda item to Congress. Peter Wehner discusses the result:
On virtually every important issue — from the stimulus package, to cap-and-trade, to health care, to taxes, and more — Obama is ceding the agenda to the barons on Capitol Hill. And they will lead him over a cliff.
Why this is taking place is hard to know. It may be that Obama and Company are over-learning the lessons of the Clinton and Carter years, when relations with Democrats on the Hill were strained. It may be that Obama doesn’t like to immerse himself in the nitty-gritty of policy and is more comfortable deferring to those who do. It may be that the liberals on the Hill actually reflect what Obama himself — whose record as a legislator was, after all, markedly liberal — favors. It may be that Obama’s lack of experience is now showing through. Or it might be a combination of all four.
Regardless of the cause, the result will be damaging, and maybe even debilitating, to the Obama administration. All the campaign’s promises — about practicing a new brand of politics, finding middle ground, embodying hope and change — seem so old, so dated, and so cynical. Obama is turning out to be Salesman-in-Chief. But what he’s trying to peddle — an unusually liberal agenda and legislation that ranges from ineffective to downright harmful and reflects the desires of leading Congressional Democrats rather than the needs of the country — ain’t selling.
No, it’s not, thus the reason for the presser. As I pointed out yesterday, it is obvious at points he has no idea what is or isn’t in the bill. But what he does have a firm grasp on are his talking points, even if, as the days and weeks go by, they’re shot away or, at best, left hanging tattered and limp.
Speaking of politics, I love the attempt to take on the Republicans as the bad guys (one of the main Democratic talking points for days has been that the Republicans have brought no alternative to the table) and then this:
So, for example, in the HELP committee in the Senate, 160 Republican amendments were adopted into that bill, because they’ve got good ideas to contribute.
I’m not noting this with particular approval, I’m simply noting how this gives lie to the talking point.
To conclude, for anyone who has looked into the issue and followed the debate, such that is has been, Obama’s performance was anything but impressive. It was a mix of tired talking points and a con job – careful rhetoric that implied one thing while really saying something else (the middle-class tax increase being a perfect example).
But that doesn’t mean that some form of health care legislation won’t pass. I think, unfortunately, it will. And that is all about him and politics and he knows it. So do the Democrats. Clinton, Reagan, and GW Bush all passed their signature legislation before the first August recess in their first term. That isn’t going to happen in Barack Obama’s case. But he and the Democrats know that something they can call health care reform must pass or, as Obama is reported to have said, it will destroy his presidency.
To our eternal sorrow the fact that he’s right means the Democrats will do whatever is necessary to pass something to maintain his viability.
I noted the other day that the Obama administration was hiding its revised budget numbers from the public until August. Obviously, in light of the push to pass health care legislation, they don’t want anymore bad news out there than the CBO has already delivered. And, of course, there’s no doubt that had the news been good, they’d have fallen all over themselves to publish it.
That brings us to our “transparency” moment today. This will probably ring a familiar bell:
Obama administration officials have rejected a watchdog group’s request for a list of healthcare industry executives who’ve been meeting secretly in the White House with Obama staffers to discuss healthcare changes being drafted there and in Congress.
According to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is suspicious of the influence of health industry lobbyists and company officers, it received a letter from the Secret Service citing an Obama Justice Department directive and denying access to visitor logs under the “presidential communications privilege.”
Of course it does. But since Darth Cheney and the evil oil executives weren’t involved, my guess is it will hardly make a ripple among lefty critics of the Bush administration.
Promises, promises, this guy was all about promises, remember?
Lobbyists Write National Policies: For example, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force of oil and gas lobbyists met secretly to develop national energy policy.
Secrecy Dominates Government Actions: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the “state secrets” privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.
But you know, the new guy would never do that. He promised!
And you remember the criticism from Democrats and the left about Bush and his signing statements? Well, guess what?
Congressional Democrats warned President Barack Obama on Tuesday that he sounded too much like George W. Bush when he declared this summer that the White House can ignore legislation he thinks oversteps the Constitution.
In a letter to the president, four senior House members said they were “surprised” and “chagrined” by Obama’s statement in June accompanying a war spending bill that he would ignore restrictions placed on aid provided to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The rebuff was reminiscent of Bush, who issued a record number of “signing statements” while in office. The statements put Congress on notice that the administration didn’t feel compelled to comply with provisions of legislation that it felt challenged the president’s authority as commander in chief.
Democrats, including Obama, sharply criticized Bush for his reliance on the statements. Obama said he would use them sparingly and only if authorized by the attorney general.
Hope and change.
Does it bother you that a president who is out pushing like hell to pass a bill that will fundamentally change the way we receive health care, and apparently most now believe that change will be negative, apparently isn’t familiar with what he’s pushing?
With the public’s trust in his handling of health care tanking (50%-44% of Americans disapprove), the White House has launched a new phase of its strategy designed to pass Obamacare: all Obama, all the time. As part of that effort, Obama hosted a conference call with leftist bloggers urging them to pressure Congress to pass his health plan as soon as possible.
During the call, a blogger from Maine said he kept running into an Investors Business Daily article that claimed Section 102 of the House health legislation would outlaw private insurance. He asked: “Is this true? Will people be able to keep their insurance and will insurers be able to write new policies even though H.R. 3200 is passed?” President Obama replied: “You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about.”
It’s only a question that’s been in the news for a week after it was raised in an Investors Business Daily editorial. That’s the entire reason the blogger brought it up. Salesmanship 101 – know your product. He’s been so busy flapping his jaws about how we have to pass this now that he hasn’t even taken the time to understand what “this” is.
IBD said the provision would, in effect, outlaw private insurance.
The Heritage Foundation did a little digging into this provision to figure out the real impact it will have. Here’s what they have to say:
[T]he House bill does not outright outlaw private individual health insurance, but it does effectively regulate it out of existence. The House bill does allow private insurance to be sold, but only “Exchange-participating health benefits plans.” In order to qualify as an “Exchange-participating health benefits plan,” all health insurance plans must conform to a slew of new regulations, including community rating and guaranteed issue. These will all send the cost of private individual health insurance skyrocketing. Furthermore, all these new regulations would not apply just to individual insurance plans, but to all insurance plans. So the House bill will also drive up the cost of your existing employer coverage as well. Until, of course, it becomes so expensive that your company makes the perfectly economical decision to dump you into the government plan.
President Obama may not care to study how many people will lose their current health insurance if his plan becomes law, but like most Americans, we do. That is why we partnered with the Lewin Group to study how many Americans would be forced into the government “option” under the House health plan. Here is what we found:
* Approximately 103 million people would be covered under the new public plan and, as a consequence, about 83.4 million people would lose their private insurance. This would represent a 48.4 percent reduction in the number of people with private coverage.
* About 88.1 million workers would see their current private, employer-sponsored health plan go away and would be shifted to the public plan.
* Yearly premiums for the typical American with private coverage could go up by as much as $460 per privately-insured person, as a result of increased cost-shifting stemming from a public plan modeled on Medicare.
So it ends up not killing the private insurance business outright with a bullet through the brain, but instead, by slow strangulation. Same effect, but it will just take much longer. Legislate rules and requirements which will up the cost of private insurance to the point that the economic incentive is to dump it in favor of the cheaper public option.
Like your plan? Like your doctor?
But the man who promised you could keep both couldn’t be bothered to become “familiar” with this particular “provision”.
Ever have your mom or dad say “I don’t like that tone, young man?” Or words to that effect? Well our national daddy is monitoring the speech of bankers and apparently he’s just not happy with their tone:
President Obama says he sees a lack of humility among leaders of the financial community.
While noting that some of the nation’s most powerful banks had repaid federal bailout money, Mr. Obama said: “What you haven’t seen (in the financial sector) is a change in culture, a certain humility where they kind of step back and say gosh, you know, we really messed things up.”
Speaking of lack of humility, I’m wondering is when he’ll step back, look at that pork laden “stimulus” bill which was nothing more than a political payoff and has done absolutely nothing to stimulate anything and say “gosh, you know, I really messed things up”.
Instead we get the spin cycle on steroids while he has the temerity to lecture others on “messing up”.
And props to the Prez for doing so. However, and you knew there’d be one or I wouldn’t be writing about it, it is interesting to note what the NAACP, to whom he addressed the speech, heard:
The organization’s president, Benjamin T. Jealous, said afterward that the address “was the most forthright speech on the racial disparities still plaguing our nation” Mr. Obama has given since moving into the White House.
A little confirmation bias maybe. This is what they wanted to hear (that’s what keeps them in business) and so that’s what they heard.
So lets see what he said and how they might have gotten that impression.
President Obama delivered a fiery sermon to black America on Thursday night, warning black parents that they must accept their own responsibilities by “putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour,” and telling black children that growing up poor is no reason to get bad grades.
“No one has written your destiny for you,” he said, directing his remarks to “all the other Barack Obamas out there” who might one day grow up to be president. “Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that. That’s what we have to teach all of our children! No excuses! No excuses!”
Sounds like the Bill Cosby speech to me – “no excuses!” means “no excuses!”, right?
Well sorta. Apparently after throwing that out there, he remembered to whom he was speaking and provided them the their portion of red meat:
Even as he urged blacks to take responsibility for themselves, he spoke of the societal ills — high unemployment, the housing and energy crisis — that have created the conditions for black joblessness. And he said the legacy of the Jim Crow era is still felt, albeit in different ways today.
“Make no mistake, no mistake: the pain of discrimination is still felt in America,” Mr. Obama said, by African-American women who are paid less for the same work as white men, by Latinos “made to feel unwelcome,” by Muslim Americans “viewed with suspicion” and by “our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights.”
I’m sure the press will fact check all of this (who, btw is viewing “Muslim Americans” with suspicion and taunting and attacking “our gay brothers and sisters”? Is it those “white men” who’re being paid more than African-American women?), but there it is, the very part that Benjamin Jealous (I love that last name) decided to remember.
The put-away-the-X-Box-go-to-bed-and-study stuff – well, as I said, Bill Cosby has been giving that speech for years. Given the fact that Obama feels compelled to give it now should tell you why the NAACP chooses to ignore the “no excuses” portion in favor of the “racial disparities” portion.
Addendum: And, of course, I’ll be the racist for pointing this out – just hide and watch.
Funny how the same people who threw hissy fits when challenged on actually rooting for the War in Iraq to fail, now find it perfectly acceptable to question anyone’s patriotism who doesn’t step in line with a hearty “Jawohl!” Well, more sad than funny really:
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has had an eventful couple of weeks to say the least, believes House Republican opposition to climate change legislation and the stimulus indicates they’re cheering against the good ol’ US of A.
“It appears that the Republican Party leadership in the Congress has made a decision that they want to deny President Obama success, which means, in my mind, they are rooting against the country, as well,” the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman told WAMU radio host Diane Rehm on Tuesday morning, promoting his new book, “The Waxman Report.”
Just to be clear, opposition to the President’s agenda means that you also oppose America, according to Waxman. Doesn’t that mean that Waxman and most of the rest of his Democratic allies, including our current President, were “against America” for not supporting Bush’s agenda?
Ah well. That was a different time, I guess. Things are so completely different now that questioning one’s patriotism is absolutely justified. At least that’s what Steve Benen seems to think:
This sounds like intemperate rhetoric, but under the circumstances, it’s hardly over the top.
It’s not immediately clear what “circumstances” we’re under that render such accusations perfectly acceptable to Benen, but one can’t help but recall Obama’s famous call to bi-partisanship: “I won.”
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Letterman/Palin controversy, and the situation in Iran.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
… that was then, this is now!
[I]t wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement… without a source of funding.
No sir. That wouldn’t be “entirely consistent with free-market principles.”
So I’m sure Pres. Obama will come up with something better than (a.) letting the Bush tax cuts expire and (b.) ending the Iraq War as a means of funding his massive new entitlement. Because those things won’t even handle the existing structural deficit, much less a new program.
Over the past several weeks we’ve been pondering Pres. Obama’s handling of the economic crisis. For the most part we’ve all agreed that Obama’s lack of leadership (whether from a dearth of experience or ability) is only serving to exacerbate the situation. But we also have somewhat divergent views as to whether there is a method to Obama’s madness.
Bruce is pretty convinced that the problem is a lack of executive experience, and the fact that Obama is learning on the job, while in the one government position that simply won’t allow for that sort of training. Being devoid of leadership skills or abilities, and being overly confident in his abilities to talk his way out of trouble, is driving Obama into mistake after mistake. Call this the Boy-King scenario.
Dale has suggested that Obama is simply disinterested in things like foreign and economic policy, thus he’s put little effort into guiding those efforts, and instead has handed these messy areas off to subordinates. That those on whom he is depending are not terribly proficient is not helping matters (e.g. Hillary and the “reset” button). But at bottom, the real problem with Obama is that his only real concern is with implementing his social agenda. This is bascially the Louis XVI problem (the King who famously recorded “Rien” as the sole entry to his July 14, 1789 diary, referring to his hunting exploits that day).
Last night on the podcast, I ventured that, in addition to a lack of experience and a disinterest in anything other than social policy, Obama is perfectly happy to let the economy flounder because (he thinks) it will drive more people into the arms of government dependency, and allow him to push forward with the radical transformation he envisions for this country. What he wants most, in my opinion, is to greatly expand the desire and need for government, to instill “democratic” controls into as many areas of life as possible (and especially in economic affairs), and to revise what he sees as a top-down power structure into a bottom-up one. Regardless of whether Obama is right or wrong in any of his thinking, it seems to me that his apparent lack of concern with respect to the economic crisis (only one of seventeen post filled in Treasury, despite the frightening prospects of a new depression?) has more to do with the fact that he does not envision the crisis interfering with his social agenda, and perhaps sees it as an enabler of that agenda. Call this the Commodus explanation.
I’m loathe to suggest that Obama is some sort of Manchurian Candidate, aiming to secretly impose socialism on the US, primarily because we’ve been teetering on that edge for several decades now, and he’s not been shy about wanting to give the final nudge. At the same time, I believe that Obama truly wants what’s best for this country. It’s just that what he views as “best” is something similar to European social-democracy, to which I am absolutely opposed.
So, I’m curious. How do you all see it? Is Obama the Boy-King, Louis XVI, or Commodus? Some combination of the three? Something different altogether?