Obama’s Secret Strategy
President Obama and his newest staff, John Podesta, are using the same executive action strategy we used during the 1995-96 Clinton campaign to gain traction in public opinion despite a hostile Congress. But Republicans and conservatives do not understand exactly what his moves are about and are at a loss to counter them.
The Gallup Poll amply demonstrates the effectiveness of the president’s new strategy, showing his ratings rising from a low of 39 percent, to a recent 43 percent, to 46 percent in the latest three-day rolling average. This steady advance in poll numbers duplicates exactly what happened when we applied the same strategy during the Clinton years.
Republicans and conservatives are outraged that the president is usurping Congressional prerogatives with his executive orders and new federal regulations. They see Obama’s actions primarily in terms of their public policy implications and the impact on the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government.
But there is far more at work than meets the eye.
Obama has two objectives in his current approach:
1. Do everything he can to distract public attention from his disastrous health care program.
2. Highlight popular positions on the minimum wage, environmental protection, fuel efficiency standards, sexual harassment in the military, gun control, employment of the long-term jobless and immigration.
But he knows that presidential speeches and proposals are often not covered by the media or consigned to the back pages. So, where possible, he accompanies his rhetoric with an executive order so as to force prominent coverage since it then becomes hard news. The media has to cover executive orders. They have a reality — even if their actual scope is quite limited — that mere speeches do not.
As a result, Obama is out there day after day speaking out on well-polled topics where he knows he will get a favorable reception, emphasizing how his program is much more varied and appetizing than his health care program is turning out to be. A few years ago, a paint company wanted to position itself as an alternative to Home Depot and sell a range of home improvement products, so it adopted a slogan that its offerings “ain’t just paint.” Obama’s is “It ain’t just health care.”
How can Republicans answer? Neither House Speaker John Boehner nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can hope to equal the president’s outsized megaphone or to compete with the range of policies he can pursue. Indeed, the media has become so used to one-house bills that aren’t going anywhere in the Senate that they no longer afford them prominent coverage.
But legislative hearings are quite another matter. Their drama, force and impact are huge, and they make great copy for media and print outlets.
Republicans must not sit passively by and watch Obama pile up good poll numbers. They have to hit back with hearings of their own, using their control of the gavel in House Committees to emphasize their issues.
–The GOP should hold hearings on the actual damage being done to doctors, hospitals, employers and covered Americans by Obamacare.
–We need to revisit Benghazi to come to understand how the fictitious talking points about the Internet video came to the forefront.
–The IRS leaders have some explaining to do concerning their scores of White House visits and meetings with the president, especially one by former Commissioner Douglas Shulman the day before he issued new regulations on how to treat conservative groups applying for tax exemption.
–We need to learn the genesis of the decision to confiscate the AP phone records.
–And get to the bottom of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ solicitation of donations from interested parties to publicize Obamacare enrollment.
And the list goes on.