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January 20, 2010


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Will M

I would argue that healthcare, with the right framing, could have been done by now. "Healthcare reform: so losing your job doesn't mean losing your family's healthcare" would have done a hell of a lot better than "Healthcare reform: so we can spend less on your treatment" did for the first 6 months of this teeth-pulling effort.

Frankly every single issue that the White House talks about from now onwards needs to be tied to jobs. Large numbers of floating voters are watching cable and sucking in framing of issues that the White House has historically been bad at. Unless they can start explaining to the country why their proposals will improve floating voters lives, they may as well give up.


I agree that it could have been better communicated. As I say, it's odd that he's been such a mediocre communicator in office, in some ways. He makes great speeches in the foreign policy arena. It's a joy and a reassurance to have a president that can make speeches like the one he did in Cairo or the Nobel speech. But when it comes to bread and butter issues, and when it comes to simple "framing" of issues, he has, as you suggest, fallen short.

Yes i'm sure from here on in, it will be jobs and Wall-St bashing that are at the forefront until November.

Will M

I wonder if it reflects the limited staff overlap between Clinton West Wing and Obama West Wing.

This problem showed itself against Clinton and McCain, but in each case their medium / long-term positioning (ground game, alignment on issues to direction of the economy, coherence of message) meant that they could ignore the media cycle (which, as archives of 2008 will note, Obama mainly lost when he wasn't winning primaries and caucuses). Now he needs to actually win these new cycles (because cable influences floating voters, Congressmen, broader media narrative / echo chamber, etc), and they seem barely aware of what victory looks like, never mind how to get there.

Seeing if Paul Begala wanted to return to government work wouldn't be a stupid idea, imho.


But, Ian, the main reason the White House did not and could not lead the communications strategy for Health Care Reform (HCR) was because Obama left it to Congress to provide the specific details of the reform. And the reason he did THAT was because driving all the details of HCR from the White House has been tried twice before and failed, once by Nixon in the early 1970s and again in the early 1990s -- when it was led by someone with the intials HRC. We've been down that road, and we know it reaches a dead-end.

Health care reform may or may not be dead now. But even if it is dead, I am not convinced that any alternative strategy by Obama over this last year would have got as far as where we stand today: a clear majority, shown by votes, in both Houses of Congress in favour of HCR.


I think the Democrats need to do something they haven't done for 50 years, act like Republicans and get this bill passed and not give a shit what anyone thinks.


Will you make a good point about the difference between a campaign and being in power.

Peter - yes, good point - but even so there's no reason that Obama couldn't have done better at framing the broad question of why HCR, why now, what's in it for you - along the line's of Will's suggestion in his first post above.

SLM - sure they can do that. But they'll pay a big electoral price in November.

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