Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

It’s Not a Communication Problem, It’s A Listening Problem

Posted by Ryne McClaren on March 4, 2010

While browsing around the Internet this evening, I found a transcript of an interview that Charlie Cook gave to National Journal.com last month.  Like most “pollsters,” he’s always right until he’s wrong, but he provides lots of food for thought.

The entire thing is an interesting read, as Cook is a very astute, so I suggest that you check the whole thing out.  But the line that really caught me was this one:

NJ: If Obama has a communications problem as you suggest, then what should he do to reach out to the American people? Should he try to appear more populist?

Cook: I sort of reject the notion that there is a communications problem with President Obama. I think it’s just fundamental, total miscalculations from the very, very beginning. Of proportions comparable to President George W. Bush’s decision to go into Iraq. While Bush went, “We’re going to go after Afghanistan as a reaction to 9/11,” and then just pretty soon got distracted and obsessed with going into Iraq with varying rationalizations that sort of evolved over time.

Charlie Cook is quite right.  Obama’s ability to communicate is not in dispute — YES WE CAN! — and over 60 million Americans — HOPE AND CHANGE! — voted for him.  His ability to craft and deliver a “message” is evident, and it’s the entire reason the man is sitting in the Oval Office today.

Look at what he had to overcome to get where he is today!  Namely, the complete lack of experience or any sort of viable record on the really important issues of the day.  (And don’t give me any of that stuff about how he was “against the war.”  He may have done that, but it was a pretty intense political gamble he just happened to win.  I don’t believe, based on his actions as President, that he’s any more or less “against war” than any other politician.)

Even in the sound-bite driven, Dumb and Dumber, 30-second attention span world of cable news channels and the Internet, it’s laudable for a man with absolutely no credentials other than being elected to his home state house and the US Senate to become President.

He won, in the absence of a record or concrete ideas because he’s a good communicator.

But here’s the thing.  If Barack Obama’s problem were a piece of e-mail software, it would come only with a send button, and no ability to receive messages.  If Barack Obama’s problem were a telephone, it would only relay your voice, and have no receiver in which to hear what the other party’s saying.  If Barack Obama’s problem were an overnight delivery service, you could only send packages, and never have one show up on the front porch.  I think you get my drift.

And it’s not conceivable that Obama isn’t capable of listening.  After all, not even a US President insulated by a cadre of ward heelers and political heavies could avoid the all-hell-has-broken-loose Tea Parties.  And the President even went so far as to host a health care “summit,” where a number of Congresspeople raised all sorts of hell with his HCR math.

He hears the words that you’re saying.  The problem is that he doesn’t care.  Whenever this President has been confronted with opposition, the extent of his communication has consisted of: I won, and I’m the President.

Barack Obama’s manifest political destiny was written on his shaving mirror by his audacity to hope, by his ability to raise beaucoup cash for Congressional colleagues just with the sound of his voice, and by his ability to surround himself with some of the most wicked and paralyzing political hacks Washington has ever seen.

Eventually a few slivers of daylight may break through Barack Obama’s human wall of David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and Valerie Jarrett.  But the question is, will he actually notice it?  His miscalculations have been many and often, and I think what I’ve detailed above is as much of a reason as I can come up with.

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