You are right, Pete, that health-care proponents are loath to admit that the problem lies not in their star communicator but in their bill. (Congressional Republicans now point to an astounding 68 House Democrats who have come out in opposition to the bill.) But there is a measure of truth here about Obama’s communication difficulties. He actually has several.
First, he has frittered the valuable commodity of the presidency by being everywhere and talking about anything. He is now suffering the inevitable consequence of all overbuzzed celebrities: overexposure. The public isn’t tuning in to his press conferences, and he has ceased to command the attention of the electorate.
Second, when he does speak it is in mind-numbing generalities populated by straw men. Even the New York Times has taken to complaining about the latter. Blue pills and red pills? Imagine if George W. Bush had talked that sort of nonsense. Obama has eschewed details and failed to confront the very real problems with his top legislative agenda item.
Third, he has damaged his own credibility on two very prominent occasions — by continuing to hawk his stimulus (and deny it was intended to produce millions of jobs) long after it has been proved to be a bust and, most recently, by wading into the Crowley-Gates affair. When the public thinks they are being spun, they tune out — even on topics unrelated to the spinning. Presidential credibility is a precious thing, and here it has been frittered away.
That is not to say Obama does not possess many talents and a certain eloquence. But he has not made the most of it. Instead, he’s tried to coast on generalities, false choices, straw men, and his own popularity. The latter is sliding downward, and so will his ability to communicate effectively with the American people, unless he puts aside campaign-type rhetoric and talks in frank, specific terms with the public. They still might not like what he’s selling, but at least he’d have his chance to sell the public on ObamaCare.