The President and his surrogates are thumping the message; “Don’t go back to Republican policies of the past”. The President remains convinced that his policies are correct according to the New York Times magazine, he just failed to market them sufficiently or correctly or often enough.
The President has, in effect, also admitted that he or the people he relies on simply did not have a clue about “shovel ready”. Apparently unaware that it can be nightmarish to accomplish bureaucratic approval of a fence in your yard let alone major construction projects. I once went about getting approval for an exterior brick finish for a commercial building only to have the one that I proposed initially, and after 6 alternative proposals, finally approved, a year later. That building was fully designed financed and, wait for it………..shovel ready!
Let us engage the President on marketing and PR. It stretches rational credibility, or as Hillary put it, the ability to suspend disbelief, to accept the premise that the marketing, messaging and PR associated with one of the most creative Presidential campaigns in modern history, relying on exactly the same people, has forgotten how to market ideas and generate positive PR? Continual appearances by the President; story after story about how the White House “has” to get the President “out there” to defend and explain policy as the “communicator in chief”, “only he can do it”; two and three appearances a day in some cases and somehow public opinion worsens. Why?
We have evidenced a disregard for the fact that administration policy may have reached the point of being impossible to sell to a majority of Americans, agree or disagree. If policy and the basis of thinking in support of that policy exclude the possibility that the policy is flawed we have to assume we will see more flawed policy associated with a death struggle to find a way to “market” it as opposed to fixing it and therein lays one of the President’s fundamental challenges regarding public perception.
Blaming marketing and communication is consistent to the flawed logic associated with a misunderstanding of what shovel ready is; that being ignorance of how things actually work. The obvious irony being that governmental mandates at all levels: zoning regulations, public approval hearings, environmental impact studies, traffic studies, historic district commissions etc. are significant reasons why shovel ready is meaningless short of all approvals being firmly in hand, waiting for the money. Who should know that better than the folks who insisted on and rely on ever more regulation.?
Marketing success requires credibility. Credibility born of the fact that the product is actually doing what you said it would do. The President’s position that ideas and policies require a new “marketing” solution, or improved communication strategy is flawed to the point of being self delusional. If a policy, idea or product is widely viewed as not working as advertised there is no communication strategy on earth that will save it. In point of fact the insistence that marketing and communication is THE problem will only serve to expedite and accelerate negative perceptions. An Edsel is an Edsel, is an Edsel! It’s not a Mercedes it’s an Edsel.
The President gravitates toward generalities; loathe to be held to logical sequence or specifics enough to be challenged. In point of fact I would agree with the President about Republican policies, if he were a bit more specific. If he means the policies on display during the mid to late 1990’s the President and I have points of agreement. If he means 1980 or 1994 we could not disagree more.
Republican economic policies, even in the 1990’s, stood up to a mild recession at the outset of the Bush Administration, the collapse of high tech the following Summer creating a variety of regional recessions and September 11th on the cusp of those two events. The economy stood up to unfunded entitlements and no one anywhere was panicked about U.S. budget deficits, the status of the dollar, or generational debt, just saying. Granted, all of that was brewing but the reality of Democratic policy in Congress precipitated the housing crisis. Congressional Democrats dismissed and derided Bush Administration warnings about Fannie and Freddy. Rep. Frank could not have been more dismissive of the warning or more firm in his statement that everything was fine and that there was nothing to see here. The Bush Administration, according to Mr. Frank we’re essential morons for even bringing it up. Bush could have fought harder and shares the blame at that level, but he did identify the problem to a recalcitrant Congress.
The administration as reflected by its senior advisors will not succumb to the idea that flawed policy is the problem. They cannot! They will fixate on marketing and communications. They will do so because it’s all that’s left short of an admission of failure. They will rely on the President as the communicator in chief. The numbers will not change for the better. It will exhaust the administration.