Monthly Archives: November 2009

Obama’s Approval Rating Slips Below 50 Percent

I’ll tell you why that’s a good thing

Last week, President Obama’s approval rating slipped below 50 percent in the Gallup poll for the first time since he took office, making him the third-fastest president to fall below that bar since World War II.  Ford did it in his third month, Clinton in his fourth, and Reagan in his tenth.  I challenge anyone to argue that these men were unpopular presidents.

Long term perspectives were seldom considered by our reactionary media this week as pundits and commentators responded to Obama’s falling numbers.  Some fated him to a failed presidency.  Another argued that his numbers will “make re-election an uphill struggle.”  Susan Page of USA Today reported that others are still willing to give Obama some time to deliver on the promises he made from the campaign trail, but “not too much more.”

Only one article that I came across seemed to get it right; Domenico Montanaro, NBC News political reporter, had this to say:

“Three, taking George W. Bush out of the equation due to 9/11, every president who has ended up winning re-election since 1980 saw his approval rating drop below 50% in his first year. Moral of the story: If your goal is to get re-elected, it’s better to have your political struggles early (Clinton, Reagan) rather than later (Bush 41). Kind of like a college football season, right? Better to lose early than late. So be careful what you read into what Obama’s approval rating right now means for his presidency. There’s really no correlation between how quickly a president’s poll numbers drop and the overall success of his presidency.”

I would have to take issue with Montanaro on one component of his argument.  He proposes that there is no correlation between dropping poll numbers and presidential success, but I would argue that dropping poll numbers early in a presidency foretell future success.  Seems to defy logic, right?  I’ll explain.

If at first you don’t succeed, be sure to fail

Ronald Reagan addresses Congress

Clinton and Reagan are good examples to use, especially since they represent opposite political ideologies.  When Reagan assumed office, he shocked the political system by powering through his Republican agenda and overhauling the financial system all within his first year.  His popularity took a hit at first, but change, especially drastic change, is a taste acquired over time.

courtesy of blognetnews.com

Clinton provoked a similar stir when he signed the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 and adopted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy during his first year in office.  His numbers fell too, but rebounded once people realized he was getting things done.  These significant government reforms made people uneasy at first, which explains both men’s fallen poll numbers.  Both resurged, however, when the public realized these presidents were willing to act and actively address the problems facing our country.

Nobody trusts a rookie to catch the ball

Don’t confuse long-term action with inaction.  Too many critics are blasting Obama for sitting on his hands and doing nothing.  This is simply not true.  Since taking office, Obama has:

  • Pushed relentlessly for the adoption of landmark health care legislation even in face of almost unanimous Republican opposition in both houses of Congress and resistance from Blue Dog Democrats as well
  • Banned the use of “harsh interrogation,” and ordered the closing of the Guantánamo Bay Prison
  • Repealed Bush’s environmental legislation that re-allowed industrial plants to pollute waters with previously banned toxins, among other things
  • Signed the $787 billion dollar stimulus bill
  • Announced American withdrawal from Iraq
  • Repealed bans put in place by Bush that disallowed federal funding for stem-cell research
  • Introduced the incredibly successful “Cash for Clunkers” and “First-Time Homeowners” rebates that economists are crediting as having helped facilitate our economic recovery

Take a deep breath, relax… and ignore O’Reilly

These are just a few of the more notable things Obama has done in his eight months in office, but you rarely see them mentioned in news stories.  That’s because Fox News is too busy covering the developing “bow-gate” scandal and O’Reilly is seriously contemplating whether or not Obama is Lucifer with Lou Dobbs.

Good public relations in the presidency require that you have a product to promote.  In order to have something to promote, you have to introduce social and governmental reform, and that change agitates the public.  This unease will pass, and eventually we will realize that Obama’s strategy is right on point.  Considering the fact that Bush’s approval rating fell from 91 percent in his first year to 22 percent when he left office, I think a slow start really is best.

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Palin’s New Book Goes Rogue on Truth

Where do the fact checkers begin?

Sarah Palin "Going Rogue"

AP Photo/Harper

Sarah Palin’s highly anticipated book “Going Rogue” is set for release tomorrow and it already has the media in a frenzy. Some contend that the book is a symbolic decree that Palin will seek the presidency in 2012, one commentator calling it “a shot at redemption and revenge.”  Others argue that Palin penned the book as a means to generate some revenue from her prolonged 15-minutes of fame.  Whatever her intentions, there is no denying that the book has people talking, and in most cases, for all the wrong reasons.

Palin makes some serious accusations in “Going Rogue,” including the claim that the McCain campaign billed her $50,000 for the cost of her vetting, botched the handling of her daughter’s pregnancy announcement, and refused her access to the media.  She takes shots at certain members of the media, including Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, who both played a role with their interviews in deflating the McCain/Palin popularity surge in the polls.  She does, however, thank certain members of the media in her acknowledgments when she thanks them “for not taking our Freedom of the Press for granted, you bold and patriotic, fair and balanced media folks.”  These “professionals” include Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Kristol, Glenn Beck, Greta Van Susteren, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Hey Sarah, did your nose just grow?

The Associated Press snagged a copy of the book prior to release.  Here is an excerpt from the AP’s review:

“Ignoring substantial parts of her record if not the facts, she depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayer’s dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician roguishly indifferent to high ambition.”

Included in the review is a rundown of some of the more “blatant” factual liberties taken in the book.  Among them:

  • Palin claims frugality was always a key concern when traveling as governor.  She fails to mention the four nights she and her daughter spent at a $707 per night hotel in New York while visiting for a five-hour women’s leadership conference.  She also billed Alaska more than $20,000 for her children’s travel, including events where they hadn’t been invited.
  • Palin claims she ran her campaign for governor on small donations, turning back checks from big donors.  Apparently she does not consider the $76,000 donated by Republican Party committees, representing more than half of her campaign funds, to be a big donation.
  • She vehemently opposes taxpayer-financed bailouts, attributing all of them to Obama.  This, in direct contradiction to a statement she made during the vice presidential debate, where she said “it is a time of crisis and government did have to step in.”   In fact, it was McCain who claims to have helped lay the groundwork for the $700 billion federal bailout, which was approved under the Bush Administration.
  • Palin is critical of Obama’s handling of the recession, suggesting he should consider strategies Ronald Reagan used to get the country out of the recession in the early 1980s.  Those strategies, she claims, include “cut(ing) capital gains taxes and slay(ing) the death tax once and for all.”  She fails to consider the fact that the estate tax, or death tax, was not repealed under Reagan, and capital gains taxes are lower now than they were under Reagan.
  • Describing her state as “a practical, libertarian haven of independent Americans who don’t want ‘help’ from government busybodies, Palin expresses her opposition to federal stimulus programs.  She neglects to include the fact that Alaska receives $1.84 for every dollar it pays to Washington in taxes, and is one of the states most dependent on federal subsidies.

Read the rest of the Associated Press report here

Mussolini, Kennedy… Palin?

The cult of personality that is Sarah Palin has blinded too many for too long.  Gone are the days where she can badger media personalities for misrepresenting her words; written statements that have been scanned by countless editors pretty much guarantees that Palin said what she meant to say.  That is what makes this book so disturbing.  It reads like a 400 page excuse. Palin blames everyone else for getting it wrong, yet ironically fails to fact check while casting countless aspersions.

Courtesy of TVguide.com

I find myself dumbfounded that “going rogue” has become Palin’s catchphrase.  Does anyone remember the original context of the attribution?  Palin was said to be going rogue when pundits criticized her off-the-cuff, damaging statements that contributed to the demise of the McCain campaign.  Saturday Night Live satirized it during McCain’s appearance on the show, when Tina Fey (portraying Sarah Palin) proclaimed “I’m going rogue,” and began campaigning for the 2012 presidential election even as the 2008 election was yet to be decided.

Webster’s dictionary defines a “rogue” person as “dishonest or worthless, mischievous, and an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation.”  Palin confounds messages and misrepresents the truth.  Going rogue is not a positive thing in politics for a reason: extremism isn’t popular.  There is a reason only 9 percent say they would definitely vote for Palin in 2012.  Simply stated, she just can’t be trusted.

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This Tea Party Isn’t Very Fun

Why District 23 Might Spell Doom for the GOP

Last Tuesday, conservatives across the nation rejoiced as Republicans Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey won their respective state’s gubernatorial elections.  Despite these significant victories for the GOP, it was a Democrat Cinderella who captured the media’s attention and dominated the headlines.

In a special election, Bill Owens became the first Democrat elected to New York’s 23rd congressional district House seat in 140 years.  Owens, a once significant underdog, garnered momentum after the conservative-right opted to back third party candidate Doug Hoffman over the Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava.  Among those who threw their support to Hoffman were Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh–all heavy hitters from the far-right.

What prompted these political heavyweights to pick a dog in this amateur bout?  The congressional election in New York’s 23rd was a microcosm of a larger war that could, if promulgated across the country, threaten the GOP’s prospects in next year’s mid-term elections.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Boston anymore

Described as “the insurgent tea party candidate,” by New York Times columnist Frank Rich, Hoffman became the rallying point of despondent conservatives unhappy with the GOP’s recent centrist tone.  This group represents a rapidly growing minority within the Republican Party that intends to bring its agenda back to traditional conservatism.  The rift is growing as this group continues to appeal to more and more conservatives who love their God and hate big government.

Health Overhaul Capitol Rumble

Tea Party Demonstrators(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Conservatives have registered the Tea Party as an official third-party in Florida

Most pundits have argued that the gubernatorial losses spell trouble for the Democrats in the upcoming 2010 elections, suggesting the public now favors conservative candidates.  While it may be true that more people are becoming frustrated within the Democratic ranks, even more are aggravated within the Republican Party.

McDonnell and Christie both won elections in states that voted for Obama in 2008.  While Virginia has a long history of voting against the party in power in the White House, McDonnell and Christie both won because they forsook conservative ideological stances and adopted fiscally conservative platforms.  They knew that conservative social stances against abortion, gay rights, and affirmative action are still largely unpopular with most of the electorate.

Palin, Beck and the other prominent tea partiers don’t seem to understand this concept, and threaten to drive us into a three party system.  This could set up 2010 and 2012 elections that eerily resemble this year’s New York contest.  Republicans may find themselves struggling to choose between the moderate majority or the trendy extremists, splitting the votes and leaving the Democrats with a sizable advantage.

GR_PR_091106_Huckabee

Palin, Romney and Huckabee

Bad news gets worse for the Republicans.  GOP pollster Bill McInturff has identified the three leading candidates for the 2012 presidential race: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney, all of whom have strong conservative social agendas.  The GOP has a great opportunity to take advantage of the economic crisis and advocate for conservative fiscal reforms.  These ideas are popular right now, and the public could well support a conservative economic agenda.  However, this is not the time to preach for social reform as the “tea party” does.

Christian Science monitor breaks down every U.S county into one of 12 distinctions.  Needless to say, it’s tough to key in on any specific group

Drinking and politics: Enjoy both in moderation

Conservatives need to realize that their social reform agenda is outdated and unpopular.  McDonnell and Christie understood this concept, and as a result, won the governorships of their states.  The Republican Party was most powerful when it unified in its fight against the Democrats (as I indicated in my first blog post), endorsing a unified message.  This is consistent with one of public relations most fundamental rules: always have a consistent message. Infighting threatens to tear the GOP apart, and as long as the Democrats can figure out a way to band together, they could be sitting pretty in 2010.

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Chamber’s Attack on Green has Some Members Seeing Red

As if Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t enough, President Obama has engaged in yet another war, and this one might be felt a little closer to home. Obama’s foe?  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Logo

Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announced plans to spend $20 million annually for several years on a public relations campaign.  The campaign aims to discredit much of the Democrats’ agenda while promoting less regulation and other free-market principles.  This is the largest PR campaign in the organization’s history.

Donohue’s fervor, however, seems to have overcome reasonable judgment in his zeal to lead the charge against the Obama agenda.  The Chamber has adopted extreme stances that seem to defy conventional beliefs.  One of the more controversial examples is the Chamber’s official stance on global warming and environmental legislation.

Global warming ain’t all that bad…

Donohue maintains that the scientific data suggesting that global warming is the result of carbon emissions is, in fact, insufficiently researched.  He has tried to undercut environmental policy initiatives and has engaged in efforts to fight tougher air-quality laws.  He has also taken a positive view of global warming—if it does indeed exist– by claiming it could reduce the number of deaths related to cold weather.

The Chamber’s actions have evoked some unintended consequences.  Many member firms disagree with the Chamber’s official stance on these issues and have been forced to reconsider their membership in the organization.  Several notable firms have already left the group, including Nike Inc., Apple Inc., and Duke Energy Corp., claiming the Chamber’s overly partisan initiative does not resonate with their companies’ principles. Donahue vehemently maintains that he is unfazed by his critics.

Thomas Donohue

“One thing I can tell you: They can go out and chase me and chase the Chamber and put stuff in the newspaper. It only . . . drives more and more support. . . . You think we are going to blink because a couple of people are out shooting at us? Tell ’em to put their damn helmets on.”

Read the Wall Street Journal article here

“They’ve put Main Street business in a precarious place by taking a position that’s not credible and doesn’t allow them to shape legislation to their members’ benefit,” said James Rogers, chief executive of electric utility Duke Energy Corp, claiming that the Chamber has adopted an “over the top” stance on climate issues.  Duke Energy supports legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions, which is seemingly counterintuitive, considering that Duke Energy is the country’s third-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

Presidential perk #1: You make the rules

The Washington Post reported on Oct. 20 that the feud between Obama and the Chamber has escalated as a result of proposed health-care reforms.

“Instead of working through the Chamber, President Obama has reached out to business executives, meeting repeatedly with small groups of CEOs in his private White House dining room. He also has dispatched top aides Valerie Jarrett and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to corporate boardrooms.”

The article continues to suggest that “Obama is attempting to rewrite the rules of the game in Washington” by circumventing the Chamber when dealing with business related policies.  It is the aggregation of several extreme views promulgated by the Chamber’s PR campaign that has put the organization in the precarious position of potentially becoming marginalized.

It’s not all about you, Donohue

It seems that Donohue failed to take into account the most basic tenet of public relations before launching his campaign – you have to relate to your public. Donohue did not consider the views of the companies his organization represents.  A successful campaign must focus on representing the client and appealing to the values and needs of its target public.

In this case, Donohue so disregarded generally accepted ideas in a blatant effort to oppose Administration policies that he sacrificed credibility, losing the support of several Chamber members in the process.  Organizations must consider the negative ramifications of their public relations efforts before engaging in a campaign. Seeing how this battle is playing out in the media, it won’t be long before Donohue reigns in the troops and raises a white flag.

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