30 May 2014

Who Would Have Believed that Obama Would be Worse at Communication than Bush?

About the time the US went from silent movies to talkies, presidents seemingly stopped talking and became images instead of leaders who provided a narrative.

Obama press secretary Jay Carney's retirement is a good opportunity to look at Obama's effort to communicate.


George W. Bush was able to initiate two wars, a department of Homeland Security, TARP, and a massive tax cut. His record of legislative initiatives was not as great as LBJ's list of Great Society initiatives, but at least he matched LBJ for the average number of press conferences per year. It didn't matter that he had a penchant for butchering the language, he put effort into talking directly to the American people.
Obama? Not so much.

Obama's average of 20 press conferences per year puts him below either of the Bush men or Clinton. Congress has made it clear that no issues are as important to them as obstructing any of his initiatives, but Obama hasn't exactly made extraordinary efforts to communicate directly to the American people. In this age of 24-7 news coverage, you might think that he could at least dictate the topic, if not the position on them. (I remember feeling so flabbergasted at George W. Bush's administration's ability to convince the American people that of all the things we could be focused on, Iraq was the one that deserved the most attention. As much as I opposed the war even then, this is pretty great example of what it means to control the narrative, to dictate the topics that receive attention.)

FDR averaged nearly as many press conferences per year as Obama has average per term. And he passed legislation at least the scope of Obamacare about once per year. Can you imagine what FDR would make of the incredible possibilities offered by continuous news coverage?

Just judging from the paucity of press conferences, it doesn't seem as though Obama believes that he can talk over the heads of Congress directly to the American people. I wonder what FDR would say to him about that?

2 comments:

Jason Brunson said...

I have always thought the lack of press conferences was one of Obamas biggest positives.

Thomas said...

Wow- half as many as "Silent Cal!"