Monday, March 15, 2010

What Reagan can do for Obama

President Obama's current woes might be lifted, would he only learn from the Gipper. In the New Republic, John B. Judis suggests that the White House follow Reagan's strategy for the 1982 midterms. This argument for more coherent and effective (and negative) communication is echoed by Elanor Clift in Newsweek.

Obama, though, appears to have renounced Reagan-esque communication, favouring the verbal over the visual. Though a reaction to the blithe triumphalism of the Bush presidency, the White House's decision to avoid staged performance amounts to a rejection of the presidential image that was defined in the eighties. Director of communications Dan Pfeiffer explains: "We don’t want to participate in the artifice of politics that have turned so many people off. Great images are important but they should be believable to people who did not study at the knee of Michael Deaver." The aura of illusion, fantasy and falsehood that Reagan brought to the presidency must be purged, even if it means sacrificing the magic and mystique. Given the style of Obama's campaign, though, this abstinence from glamourous pseudo-events seems more like penitent self-denial than principled reform of the presidency.

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