Commentary Magazine


Topic: bipartisan public relations template

Face the Voters

On Face the Nation, there was some serious talk as to why the Christmas Day bombing is so perilous for the Obama team. It is not simply that once again Democrats may be perceived as weak on national security. There is a more basic issue now rumbling through not just conservative circles but also in the mainstream media: can these people be trusted to do much of anything? Jan Crawford took up the competency angle:

The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high. And so now we have a situation where a terrorist can get on an airplane, seemingly could have  been caught if some officials had just done a basic Google search of the database. And the Homeland Security secretary is insisting the system worked.

Really, what have the Obami done well? Not the stimulus plan. Not crafting a popular and coherent health-care bill. And not instilling confidence that there are competent people who can, when bombarded with intelligence, put it together to prevent an attack or even craft a policy designed to extract information after an attack. But Bob Schieffer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, really laid into the Obami. The problem is not only competence but also trust. The Democrats are consumed with political spin even on national security. He notes that Janet Napolitano was getting hammered but explains that this is a symptom of a bigger issue:

But she was just following the modern bipartisan public relations template in this age of information management. First, play down the problem. Second, emphasize what did not go wrong. Assure us that those in charge are investigating, and most important, emphasize no one in any position of responsibility is at fault. It’s not lying. But it’s not exactly the whole truth, certainly not the whole story. All she left out was that part about asking us to respect the privacy of those involved. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the government spin mixed up with the Tiger spin. Here is the difference. Tiger can hire as many people as he wants to make his excuses. It maydo him no good but it’s his money to spend as he wishes. When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing. As we learned during Katrina, self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation. It makes it worse. Because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says. Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position.

Yowser. Now that’s a narrative that should concern the Obami. Unfortunately, one wonders if they know what to do with a problem not solvable by spin and attack-dog tactics. At some point you really have to govern. Sadly, that is not their strong suit.

On Face the Nation, there was some serious talk as to why the Christmas Day bombing is so perilous for the Obama team. It is not simply that once again Democrats may be perceived as weak on national security. There is a more basic issue now rumbling through not just conservative circles but also in the mainstream media: can these people be trusted to do much of anything? Jan Crawford took up the competency angle:

The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high. And so now we have a situation where a terrorist can get on an airplane, seemingly could have  been caught if some officials had just done a basic Google search of the database. And the Homeland Security secretary is insisting the system worked.

Really, what have the Obami done well? Not the stimulus plan. Not crafting a popular and coherent health-care bill. And not instilling confidence that there are competent people who can, when bombarded with intelligence, put it together to prevent an attack or even craft a policy designed to extract information after an attack. But Bob Schieffer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, really laid into the Obami. The problem is not only competence but also trust. The Democrats are consumed with political spin even on national security. He notes that Janet Napolitano was getting hammered but explains that this is a symptom of a bigger issue:

But she was just following the modern bipartisan public relations template in this age of information management. First, play down the problem. Second, emphasize what did not go wrong. Assure us that those in charge are investigating, and most important, emphasize no one in any position of responsibility is at fault. It’s not lying. But it’s not exactly the whole truth, certainly not the whole story. All she left out was that part about asking us to respect the privacy of those involved. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the government spin mixed up with the Tiger spin. Here is the difference. Tiger can hire as many people as he wants to make his excuses. It maydo him no good but it’s his money to spend as he wishes. When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing. As we learned during Katrina, self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation. It makes it worse. Because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says. Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position.

Yowser. Now that’s a narrative that should concern the Obami. Unfortunately, one wonders if they know what to do with a problem not solvable by spin and attack-dog tactics. At some point you really have to govern. Sadly, that is not their strong suit.

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