The Blog

Has Obama Lost Control of His Message?

A rocky couple of weeks at the White House.

12:44 PM, Feb 10, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

In an interview with Bloomberg News, President Obama said he does not "begrudge" the bonuses handed out to mega-bankers Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. This is a stunning reversal for someone who has spent the past three years as a candidate and a president campaigning against the banks. As you can imagine, the left is upset, and with good reason. Paul Krugman is apoplectic. Simon Johnson, whose post on the Euro Zone is something you should read, says Obama "still doesn't get it."

This is not an isolated case, however. It is increasingly clear that the president has lost control of his message. A few weeks ago, the president said in his State of the Union that his top priority was jobs; his chief of staff told the New York Times that health care reform was on the back-burner. Suddenly, however, on Super Bowl Sunday, the president re-launched the health care debate with his invitation to House Republicans to attend a "summit" on the issue at Blair House.

The president says he wants to work together with Republicans and move beyond "petty politics," even as he and the Democrats attack Republican and conservative ideas and his press secretary mocks Sarah Palin from the White House podium.

The White House has gone from saying the FBI learned all it could from the Christmas Day bomber in the initial 50-minute interrogation, to leaking to the press that the bomber is now singing like a canary, to accusing congressional critics of furthering the goals of al Qaeda.

This is a far cry from the smooth communications operation the president launched when he announced his presidential candidacy three years ago today. For three years, White House spokesmen from the president on down were confident, controlled, measured, cool, and in command. That lasted until Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, which the White House clearly did not expect until it was too late.

One suspects the White House believed that most of the Obama agenda would be enacted by the time the president delivered his first State of the Union. That did not happen, of course. And so the White House is firing all its guns at once, and in different directions.

A course correction? Afraid not. Try "unmoored and adrift" instead.

Recent Blog Posts