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Bring Back Political Diplomacy

In an interview last week, President Obama asserted that his “core decisions” have been right, but he “identified political diplomacy as his greatest shortcoming so far.”

“What I have not done as well as I would have liked to is to consistently communicate to the general public why we’re making some of the decisions,” he said. “Because we’ve been so rushed over the course of the last year and a half, just issue after issue and crisis after crisis, we haven’t been as effective.”

Here’s a suggestion: hold a prime-time news conference, like the last one … 279 days ago.

Not that the last one was an unqualified success. The president began it by saying he wanted to “talk for a few minutes” about health-insurance reform — and proceeded to deliver a 1,388-word statement asserting that his plan would “keep government out of health care decisions,” give everyone “the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it,” and finance two-thirds of itself by “reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs.” He thought there were only “a few issues to work out” and reaffirmed his August 1 deadline for doing so. Congress returned home a week later to discover that many citizens found the president’s “political diplomacy” unconvincing.

But that is no reason not to try again. There are questions only the president can answer — about Iran, North Korea, the Middle East peace process, disparate treatment of allies and adversaries, the federal budget, immigration reform, climate control, the cost of ObamaCare, continuing high unemployment, the economic impact of the stimulus, huge projected tax increases at the end of this year, financial-reform legislation, and various other issues on which the public would undoubtedly welcome an explanation of his views.

Part of the process of making “core decisions” in a democracy is subjecting them, on a regular basis, to the questions of a variety of experienced reporters, in a forum the entire citizenry can conveniently observe. President Obama has now ignored that basic presidential responsibility for more than nine months. It is most probably not due to his being so rushed, but — whatever the reason — it is time that meeting that responsibility should resume.



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