Recently CNN.com ran a story on its website which asked whether President’s Obama message, such as speeches and official White House communications, had become “incoherent”. However, is President Obama making contradicting statements, or is he actually expressing complicated legal opinions which have left some of the country scratching our heads? Listed below are some miscommunications that the White House has made and possible explanations.
1. The Cordoba Center, also known as the Ground Zero Mosque
First White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs commented that the issue was a local issue and that the White House apparently wouldn’t comment. Then President Obama commented at a Ramadan celebration at the White House that muslims had the right to build a mosque anywhere, including near the 9/11 site in New York. This is self evident and obvious as the New York City zoning and planning commission already approved the construction project. It would be a disgrace and much larger news story if any zoning commission declined a permit for building a religious center, be it a mosque, a church or a synagogue based on dislike of a certain religion. Then President Obama said that he didn’t comment on the “wisdom” of building the mosque.
A muddled message to be sure.
I think that President Obama should have stayed silent on the issue as the Constitution was upheld and the mosque will likely be built. If New Yorkers aren’t happy with that then they can exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully protest at a distance from the mosque. Though I doubt many would have protested beyond a certain amount of time. By weighing in on the issue the President has in a way has validated the opinions of those who want the mosque moved.
2. The BP Oil Spill
The explosion on the DeepWater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers, and unleashed a ton of oil into the gulf was a disaster on many levels. It took the White House a while to respond to the disaster and when they did the message appeared generic. While stating that they had been there since day one, many believed that it took the government a while to understand the full impact of the disaster. While the government declared weeks ago that much of the oil had miraculously evaporated, new reports indicate that much of the oil remains in the water and its true toxic effects won’t be known for years.
Who was in charge of the oil spill clean up? Many people believe that the feds pretty much ceded control of the operation to BP and it looked like the White House was playing damage control.
Another muddled message.
I think President Obama should have made more of an effort to investigate claims of BP intimidating fishermen and the media and should be more proactive in determining the toxic effects of oil. Rather than trying to sweep it under the rug.
If there was a conspiracy involving the oil spill it was that both the White House and BP wanted the spill to go away fast. It appears that the Coast Guard and federal scientists underestimated the size of the spill and mistakenly believed that most the oil has been cleaned up or evaporated. Either that or they were happy to entertain the fantasy that the oil spill had been overblown.
It has been university scientists studying the spill who discovered massive underwater oil plumes and now oil on the bottom of the ocean. The lesson of this story: don’t trust the Coast Guard when it comes to natural disasters.
For whatever reason, the White House gave control of the government’s response to the Coast Guard and then faded into the background.
3. The Economy
The message coming out of the White House has been either overly grim, or overly optimistic. On the one hand President Obama has used a number of analogies to describe the economic situations by noting that economy isn’t out of the woods yet, and that the Republicans drove the economy into the ditch. The “Hey it isn’t my fault” message may be true, but can anybody envision Bill Clinton saying such a thing?
Instead of repeating overly grim economic forecasts President Clinton reiterated several times that he “felt our pain”. Perhaps in times of economic uncertainty the president needs to be more like a cheerleader in chief, rather than just give an emotionless running commentary on the economy.
When President Obama does show his anger it is usually with conservatives, such as when he blasted the Supreme Court during his State of the Union Address, and when he describes the legacy of George W. Bush. This is all fine and good, and this is some “red meat” to help inspire democrats to go to the polls this November (it sure motivates me to vote for the dems). But the White House needs to move beyond their perpetual campaign mode and do some empathizing with the general citizenry.
On the other hand, Joe Biden inaugurated the summer of 2010 as the “summer of recovery” in which the economy would finally right itself. This hasn’t happened, and some economists are changing their once optimistic forecasts. Positive and general statements such as “America’s best days are ahead of it” are mildly inspiring and keep Americans optimistic.
Declaring an economic turn around before it has happened makes it look like the White House wants the credit for a future economic recovery before it has happened, and conveniently before the midterm elections. By jumping the gun this possible act of cheerleading looks more like smoke and mirrors to convince voters that the White House has fixed the economic problems before they head to the polls.
4. Health Care
President Obama may well be remembered as a great American president years from now, and it will likely be because he passed healthcare reform which helped millions of poor people to get the medical care they deserve. The reform package itself is massive and it was courageously passed through Congress when it looked like all hope was lost, despite what the political consequences might be this fall.
However, the initial message was that the healthcare bill won’t change much how Americans receive medical care. I am in support of the bill, but I also believe that this isn’t true as it appears that the health care law, once enacted, could potentially fundamentally change how healthcare is delivered. Due to this low key approach to the legislation, many people are surprised, and unsure, about how healthcare reform will affect them.
Some states have passed laws making it illegal for the federal government to require people to buy health care insurance, which may or may not jeopardize the health care bill. I think that President Obama should have touted the passage of the health care bill proudly and should have asked that the legislation take effect much earlier than what is planned. As the legislation hasn’t taken effect yet, people are afraid about what the legislation will do.
The message on health care is muddled, partially because the legislation is more complex than other major pieces of social legislation like Social Security.
While it is surprising to see CNN blast the president for his “incoherent” message, which is sort of a disrespectful description of a sitting president; such politician bashing is more American than apple pie and a right of passage than almost every U.S. president much endure.