Monday, March 22, 2010

The post-news-cycle presidency

Obama's great strength is patience. He has, as no one I can think of has had in recent times, an ability to just completely ignore the 24 hour news cycle. Whether it was his pre-Iowa nomination lull, or his summer 2008 doldrums, or his methodical planning for Afghanistan, or, over and over again, his refusal to panic on health care, the pattern is about as clear as any could be.
Precisely.  Here's what I wrote last August:
Back during the spring of 2008, Obama was getting some heat for not standing up stronger to the Clinton campaign, which was mocking him mercilessly and raking up wins in key states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Obama didn't change his strategy and he didn't get flustered. He stayed relatively positive, knowing that he had enough delegates to prevail in the nomination race.
In September of 2008, Obama was again getting heat for not being tougher on McCain, who was suddenly tied with Obama in the polls. Again, Obama didn't change his strategy and he didn't get flustered. He knew that McCain's poll strength was based on a post-convention bump and would likely subside, which it did.
I think the same sort of thing is going on today. There's a certain mentality among political types that you have to win the media cycle every day. That certainly seemed to be the mindset among the Clinton folks in the 90s, and they got pretty good at it. Obama seems to think that's not necessarily the way things have to go. As Obama said at his June press conference, "I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I'm not. OK?" In other words, you don't have to win every battle to prevail in the war.
I think this is one great advantage that Obama has over the Clinton administration and over current Republicans, who jump from one set of talking points to the next.  He plays the long game.  He recognizes that he and his party will be judged on their ability to deliver on a few major things, and those things are produced through months, even years, of patient pressure and negotiations, rather than daily spin wars.

Obama is very good at dealing with the media.  But perhaps a greater strength is knowing when to ignore them.

1 comment:

Robert said...

That's astute.