Published for Real Clear Politics, March 21, 2013
The Republican Party has just come out with a new strategy, and number 13 on its list of demographic outreach priorities is to “Expand our presence on more pop culture oriented outlets to ensure our message is reaching all voters.” This finding may be surprising, and atypical for a political party’s strategy, but it recognizes an important fact: The area where President Obama most out-competed Mitt Romney in 2012 was in the sphere of pop culture fluency.
Throughout 2012, President Obama maintained a laser-like focus not on the economy, but on his cultural image. For a sitting commander in chief, Obama continually demonstrated an unprecedented and often disturbing level of pop culture fluency, showing himself to be up to date on music, movies, and especially TV. Obama, at one time or another, mentioned Homeland, Modern Family, Boardwalk Empire, and Mad Men as among his favorite shows. In addition to being on the cutting edge of the small screen, Obama also knew where to go to demonstrate how hip he was, appearing on more than two dozen “soft” entertainment-style interviews during the campaign. He “slow jammed” the news on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and let Fallon call him the “Preezy of the United Steezy.” He told the deejays on a New Mexico radio station that he likes green chili over red, enjoys working out to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, and that his superpower of choice would be the ability to speak any language. He was also a popular guest on Oprah and The View, appearing five times on the latter. At one point, he chose to appear on The View over meeting key world leaders who were visiting the U.S. for the United Nations General Assembly.
Read full post here
Gene Sperling has reserved for himself a special place in Washington lore. In the days leading up to the sequester deadline, the city found itself immersed in a bizarre debate over whether Sperling, an economic adviser to President Obama and a Clinton administration veteran, tried to intimidate The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward by suggesting in an e-mail that Woodward would “regret” his writings about the president’s fiscal policy proposals.
Though the full e-mail message, once leaked, ended up reading far more chummy than threatening — it was virtually “e-kissed,” as one reporter put it — the spat, quickly dubbed “Woodwardgate,” had a compelling historical symmetry to it. The very notion of a senior White House adviser possibly attempting to intimidate an enterprising reporter smacked of exactly the kind of arrogance that Woodward himself uncovered decades ago in his exposes of Richard Nixon’s presidency.
And history shows that, although public respect for the news media currently resides in the basement (along with respect for Congress), press enmity has proved to be an unsustainable — though popular — tactic for the White House.
Two modern administrations in particular made press enmity a guiding force in their communications and political strategy: those of Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Read full post here