Martin Schram: Obama should use summit to target unpatriotic business
by Martin Schram
June 16, 2011 12:00 AM | 844 views | 1 1 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Martin Schram
Martin Schram
We are reporting live from the 2012 presidential campaign trail, where there has just been a collision at the intersection of the news media, policy and politics.

On Monday night, seven Republican presidential candidate bandwagons converged simultaneously upon this intersection for CNN's first (way too early) debate of a New Hampshire presidential primary season. But the GOP hopefuls came, debated and went without crashing - not even a scrape-up or fender-bender.

(Not even from ex-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who just a day before had attacked early frontrunner Mitt Romney on a Sunday TV talk show, calling President Obama's health plan "ObamneyCare." The term combines Obama's plan and Romney's similar Massachusetts plan, get it? But with Romney present at Monday's debate, Pawlenty became milquetoast, declining to repeat his criticism despite prodding from CNN moderator John King.)

But there was a major collision Monday - a most unusual one-bandwagon crash. It involved the man who wasn't there in person but appeared in every candidate's answer: President Obama.

Actually, Obama's political image/message strategy collided head-on with his policy reality on the issue Americans care most about: jobs.

First, you saw the reality of the bad news on TV everywhere: U.S. job-creation numbers for May were far weaker than experts expected, as unemployment remains unacceptably high, above 9 percent.

Next, you saw the president trying to generate a sense of good news by taking two image-and message-making trips. At an Ohio automobile plant, he tried to show the much-criticized auto bailout was a big success, after all. (Which it was.) At a North Carolina lighting company, he showed some high tech jobs were created.

But feel-good images cannot drown out bad economic realities that are ruining the lives of voters or their families and friends.

The result: To voters, Obama has seemed infuriatingly oblivious to the still-dire economy and people's genuine fears. He has tried to show that things are better than people think, even when the statistics are worse than experts expected. That won't work. Perhaps worst of all, Obama and his top strategists seem not to realize their good news image/message strategy has collided head-on with bad news policy realities.

Another result: Their image and message effort made all the Republican candidates appear right when they attacked Obama for failed leadership - even though the GOP hopefuls only spouted buzz words and bromides, avoiding the realities and tough-choice consequences of their own jingo.

Now for the good news for Obama and his strategists: They can fix what has gone wrong - if they allow Americans to see the president doing his damndest to get this nation's economy working again and getting businesses hiring again.

Here's an idea I've mentioned once before, one Team Obama can easily do immediately: Use the bucolic presidential retreat, Camp David, for a summer-long series of presidential jobs-creating leadership summits.

Invite small groups of leaders of big corporations, mid-sized companies and small businesses to work alongside the president and his advisers from Fridays through Sundays. Have different groups come each weekend of the summer.

Companies are making fine profits again - but aren't hiring employees at a comparable pace. Why not? Because the mood in corporate boardrooms is just like the mood in ordinary voters' living rooms: There is no confidence anyone is leading, firmly and wisely.

So let Obama spend each weekend showing the nation he's doing just that. Let him ask each business leader what government must do to help them make it happen immediately. Let Obama tell every CEO that America's way of life is challenged now much as it was after Pearl Harbor. Let him be firm, finally, by telling business leaders that today, as in World War II, businesses that hoard profits are worse than unhelpful - they are unpatriotic.

Let America see Obama leading firmly - finally! - each and every weekend of the summer.

Let him show his skill by persuading business leaders to re-invest their profits in the American way of life.

Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 20, 2011
All that sounds very hunky dory - "

persuading business leaders to re-invest their profits in the American way of life."

But, no President has been able to pursuade business leaders to reinvest in this country. In fact, we seem to hear a continuous clamor for more tax cuts, as if thirty years of tax cuts don't prove to us that tax cuts do not replace the jobs we have lost overseas. More, we now hear that we should reduce taxes so that those "business leaders who invested overseas" will repatriate the profits they made overseas.

Let's see. We give them tax breaks and they invest overseas, create jobs overseas, make profits overseas. Now we should give them a tax break to bring their profits back here.

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