Friday, February 20, 2009

Time For A New Message

Something is sorely missing from the message department of the White House. Have you figured out what that missing element is yet? The missing element is the message of hope. The missing message that we are going to get through the coming months of economic and political uncertainty and we will be ok.

Why did President Obama win in November? He won because he offered a message of hope and change. As vacuous as that was, voters fell for it and voted him in. The economic downturn was his magic carpet and he rode it all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Once there, he turned up the volume on the doom and gloom rhetoric in order to put the largest spending bill in U.S. history into action. All the omnimous, stern lectures of how we have to manage catastrophic events in our economy and in relationship to crashing world economies were for political gain for the incoming administration.

So, how's that working out?

True, President Obama received his wish of speedy passage of the unbelievably poorly written spending bill - rushed through before the members of Congress even had time to read the 1100 pages of pork-filled and power grabbing gobbley-gook. There was no input from Republicans in the House and none voted for the final passage, bringing along 11 Democrats with them in disapproval. Only three Republicans in the Senate voted in favor of passage and the President had to send a jet to fetch Sen. Sherrod Brown from his mother's wake in Ohio to garner enough support.

So much for the flowery statements of bipartisan support and transparency in legislation.

The president is talking down the economy long after his method is necessary. The DOW continues to fall. The glory days of the number 14,000 from 2007 are long gone, just a distant memory. No one is showing much faith in the competence of his boy wonder, Secretary Geithner, and the voters are up in arms over the slow drip of information as it pertains to the contents of the spending bill.

The mood is sour throughout the country. No one expects the administration to work miracles, especially with only a month into office, but a change of tone would work wonders. Though it is common with the revisionist writing of history, a lesson could be taken from the previous administration under President Bush.

As Mark McKinnon writes on The Daily Beast, "George W. Bush was president through some of the darkest days of our history and yet his optimism never waned. He is optimistic by nature, but he also understood the importance of always communicating a sense that things will get better. And it's in part why John Kerry lost in 2004. He painted a terrible picture of the future. And as Bush said, "You can't say things are going to be awful, follow me and expect to turn around and see a crowd."

In recent years it became popular to mock President Bush for telling Americans they could participate in the economic recovery of our nation after the attacks of 9/11/01 by simply doing something as basic as going shopping. The message was that we must continue to live our lives. We must remain hopeful of future events. We must continue to purchase items for our homes and families, show patronage of local merchants, support your community as you support your country. It's simple but it must be said. It's back to basics time.

Times are bleak, to be sure. But, we'll survive. It is common for the politicians to mimic the President's expression that times haven't been this tough since the days of the Great Depression. It's not factual, certainly in economic terms, but it sounds scary and keeps an audience's attention. It is fear mongering for fear mongering's sake. And, it is wrong. It is a cheap political trick and it is backfiring. Americans have hunkered down and are too nervous to make purchases, though the majority of Americans remain employed. Americans are too nervous to purchase new homes, though most Americans remain in their homes. Lenders have not released all the monies they've received and contribute to the frustrations. It's all adding up.

The early days of Ronald Reagan's administration were dark days indeed. We all remember the mess Jimmy Carter left. Historically speaking, those days were worse than what is faced now. Unemployment was higher, interest rates were skyrocketing, inflation had taken hold, and public confidence was at all time lows. We are in better shape today than then with the potential for a speedier recovery. President Reagan never stooped to doom and gloom speeches. He is remembered for his sunny disposition throughout the tough times and his unyielding optimism in the future of our country.

Hope is good. The President has a duty to inspire Americans with the feeling of hope and confidence in the days ahead. It is time for President Obama to re-group and bring his best efforts of renewed faith in the American future to her people.

President Obama will give a speech to a joint session of Congress in the coming week. He has the perfect opportunity to begin to send a new message. We're waiting.


namaste said...

here here! well said, karen. we're all certainly waiting in my corner of the world.


srp said...

my dad has always said "prepare for the worst, but hope for the best."

Incognito said...

So true! The message of hope has all but disappeared.

Jennifer said...

I agree his message could be more hopeful. It would be a psychological boost, which is like prozac for Wall Street in the "perception is reality" sense. But he also promised to be honest with the American people. Given the times we're in - globally - it's a difficult line to walk, tempering the truly sober realities with a hopeful message. That said, and you know where my perch is on this perspective, I think Obama is a man who can walk that line, and will. We'll see tonight.

I'm also looking forward to Jindal's response.