President Obama has a way of going over people’s heads. In Washington, D.C. he would rather address an actual crowd with his message than have it filtered through the mainstream media. He does not do news conferences with any enthusiasm, and does not take a lot of questions from reporters. In fact he would rather go somewhere other than Washington to get his message out, going over the heads of the press and directly to the people, preferably at least once a week. The Obama administration is also considering going over the heads of recalcitrant Republicans to get their next major pieces of legislation passed, though that has not yet been decided. Three examples of the “going over their heads” approach are the subject of my post today.
Directly into your living rooms — President Obama is going to troubled California for a short trip today and tomorrow. To quote Time Magazine,
His schedule includes a stop on Jay Leno’s stage in Burbank after town hall-style meetings in Orange County on Wednesday and downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.
. . . His stop on Leno’s couch will mark the first time a sitting president has hit the late-night talk show circuit. Leno is known for banter and laughs, not grilling politicians, so it will give Obama a deferential platform to talk about the economy. The show has about 5 million viewers — a Main Street audience mostly beyond the Beltway.
Bypass obstructionist Republicans in Congress —“President’s budget strategy under fire” by Lori Montgomery at the Washington Post. (3/18/09). Republicans are having a fit over the idea the possibility of using budget reconciliation with expanding health coverage and the cap and trade system to deal with greenhouse gas emissions. They say that being left out could “irrevocably damage relations with the new president.” To quote:
Senior members of the Obama administration are pressing lawmakers to use a shortcut to drive the president’s signature initiatives on health care and energy through Congress without Republican votes, a move that many lawmakers say would fly in the face of President Obama’s pledge to restore bipartisanship to Washington.
. . . The shortcut, known as “budget reconciliation,” would allow Obama’s health and energy proposals to be rolled into a bill that cannot be filibustered, meaning Democrats could push it through the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the usual 60. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both used the tactic to win deficit-reduction packages, while George W. Bush used it to push through his signature tax cuts.
A number of moderate Democrats also oppose the strategy, including Senators Blanche Lincoln, Kent Conrad, and Max Baucus. Others who oppose it argue that the resulting legislation would be temporary and is, to quote further from the WaPo,
. . . permitted only for spending and revenue provisions. All the administrative language necessary to create a new health-care program or a new cap-and-trade regime could be cut, leaving major initiatives looking like “Swiss cheese,” Conrad said.
Using Obama’s army as it was used to win his campaign — “Can grass roots supporters fire up the budget?” Jeff Zeleny asks in the New York Times (3/18/09). Can the network now under the DNC, Organizing For America, still be effective? To quote:
This week, a new test is under way . . . The timing is by design. Not only is Mr. Obama’s budget proposal facing an uphill climb in Congress, but his administration also is weathering fresh criticism over an onslaught of financial rescues and disclosures about bonuses paid out by bailout recipients. So the president’s advisers did not want to wait too long before trying to engage — or, to borrow a bit of campaign lingo, to fire up — supporters.
Anyone who donated $5 (or significantly more), knocked on doors or even ordered a T-shirt from the Obama store likely received an e-mail in recent days to sign a pledge supporting the president’s economic plan and domestic agenda for education, health care and energy. And on Saturday and Sunday, the rank-and-file are urged to reprise a staple of the presidential race: the neighborhood canvas.
I am a soldier in Obama’s army — As a result, I got a couple of e-mails this week. One was from Mitch Stewart who runs Organizing for America. He said,
The current debate in Washington over President Obama’s budget has made one thing clear — ensuring our long-term prosperity won’t come without a fight.
Partisan voices and special interests are showing real resistance to President Obama’s call for making the necessary reforms and investments in energy, health care, and education. That’s why we need to bring the conversation back into homes and communities across America.
. . . Nothing is more powerful than having people hear from ordinary Americans about the vision President Obama has laid out for our country. Join us this weekend.
David Plouffe followed up with an e-mail that concluded,
We know this fight won’t be easy. But important battles never are. Together, we have the opportunity to shape our country’s future. We believed in the power of people to win an improbable election victory. And we believe in the power of people to drown out the cynics and entrenched interests in Washington to bring lasting, meaningful change we can all be proud we played a role in.
Thanks to Twitter, another way to go over people’s heads, for the three headlines.
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
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