Obama Hands Republicans Video Gold in Sawyer Interview

During a political campaign, the most effective tool a candidate can hand over to their opponents is a video clip reinforcing the key criticism opponents have assigned to them.

In 2004, George W. Bush’s campaign got a lot of mileage out of airing a clip of opponent John Kerry stating that he voted for a bill before voting against it. It turned up in a seemingly endless barrage of campaign commercials, and it was an effective attack on Kerry because it promoted the already popular narrative that he was a flip-flopper.

To a lesser extent, John McCain gave a gift to the Barack Obama in 2008 when he stated at the beginning of the economic meltdown, “I have a great belief that the fundamentals of the economy are very strong.” As the stock-market continued to spiral downward and financial institutions were falling to their knees, it played into the narrative created by the Obama campaign that McCain was detached and ill-prepared for the realities surrounding him. The quote turned up in numerous Obama ads and it certainly did some damage to McCain.

In an interview yesterday with ABC News’ Diana Sawyer, President Obama hand-delivered what should be one of the most played sound-bites in anti-Obama commercials from now until the election… That is, if the Republicans are smart.

When Sawyer asked Obama if he had second-guessed any of his decisions during his first three years in office, he answered, “I second-guess constantly”. That was the quote that ABC News used as the headline, but it’s not the one that’s significant. The next sentence from Obama, as The Drudge Report perceptively highlighted, is incredibly significant: “I make a mistake every hour, every day.”

This should have, as Chris Matthews puts it, sent a thrill up the leg of every Republican strategist in the country.  It’s enormously meaningful because it goes right to the heart of the precise narrative that Republicans should be focusing on in this election: Obama’s Incompetence.

Obama’s obvious Achilles’ heel is his handling of the economy. The way I see it, the Republican party has three broad angles available for attacking him on it.

The first one would be corruption and crony capitalism. We’ve already seen 527 organizations going after Obama on the air over his administration’s dealing with Solyndra, the solar energy company they poured a ton of taxpayer’s money into despite knowing that it was doomed to fail. The video clip of President Obama making a stump-speech from the Solyndra plant and saying, “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra” certainly leaves a lasting impression. However, I tend to think that this narrative might be a little over the heads of many voters. While it’s absolutely a legitimate criticism, the reality is that the Republicans are going to have a hard time portraying Obama as a corrupt thug who’s working shady deals out of dimly lit parking garages. Obama is personally likeable enough that the message just won’t resonate with people who don’t follow the news as closely as others. The Democrats tried this same tactic during George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004 by constantly harping on Halliburton and Vice President Cheney’s conflict of interest with the company. It didn’t work, and the reason it failed wasn’t because people saw through it. It’s because they didn’t get it. The same thing would happen in 2012 if Republicans put too much stock in the crony capitalism stuff.

The second angle would be to go the route of painting Obama as a socialist or an ideological crusader who’s purposely pursuing America’s decline for the sake of social justice. This would be a HUGE mistake. Although there’s certainly plenty of evidence to support the accusation, it would come across like a harebrained conspiracy theory to a good portion of voters. Barack Obama is no Howard Dean. Regardless of his radical policies (and they are radical in my opinion), he doesn’t strike anyone as a radical person. This sort of stuff should be left up to the Sean Hannitys of the world to pursue. If I see a single anti-Obama commercial mention the name Saul Alinsky, it will be hard not to throw a chair through my television screen. That strategy is a guaranteed loser.

The third choice, and by far the best one in my opinion, is to show voters that the president simply doesn’t know what he’s doing. We’ve seen Mitt Romney employ this tactic regularly when he states that the president is a “nice guy” but is “in way over his head.” It’s the easiest and most effective case to make. Most Americans want to like Obama, so demonizing him is a tough thing to do. It was Hillary Clinton herself that said many times during the 2008 campaign that our country couldn’t afford a president who required “on-the-job training”. There is a plethora of examples Republicans have at their disposal for demonstrating simply and convincingly that what we’ve been seeing over the past three years is exactly that: On-the-job training. The student is failing in a big way, and it’s time for the parents to stop paying the tuition.

Now, with the Diane Sawyer interview, the president has essentially established the legitimacy of that portrayal by admitting that he’s not only constantly second-guessing himself, but that he is routinely making mistakes. I am absolutely convinced that this is not a trait that Americans want in their president. They don’t want someone who is chronically unsure of what he’s doing, and is using a trial and error approach in making some the most important decisions not just for our country but also the world.

What makes this clip even more relevant is that his words were absolutely not taken out of context. In an environment where quotes are so often presented to be misleading for the sole purpose of afflicting a blow, Obama was indeed speaking of his job performance as the President of The United States – not helping his kids with their homework or playing Pictionary.

Imagine that clip as the grand finale in a montage of deprecating statements including, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected”, the proclamation of “Recovery Summer”, the promotion of the Chevy Volt, his confession to Barbara Walters that there’s a laziness in him, and any number of others. It presents a very coherent message that our president his winged his presidency from day one, and our children and grandchildren are paying for his haphazard ventures… literally!

Christmas came very early this year for the Republicans. I hope they don’t leave the present under the tree.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • Apiizz

    I take plersuae in, lead to I discovered exactly what I was having a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  • DOOM161

    I’m wary to give Republicans as much credit as you. I distinctly remember that Senator McCain refused to delve into the Senator Obama’s connections with hate-filled preachers and domestic terrorists.

    • John Daly

      McCain was fine with pointing at Bill Ayers, but you’re right in that he did refuse to go after the Jeremiah Wright connection. It was a big mistake in my opinion.

  • Gena Taylor

    Hope the republicans listen to you. Right now they are so busy self destructing they probably don’t have enough time to look into or consider fighting Obama, the real enemy. The nastiness and viciousness of the republican primary campaigns is really distressing to me, and I expect the general election season will be even uglier. Wonder if I can go into some sort of self induced coma until election day, and just skip all the nasty crap up until then. Wake up, vote, and hope for a better future.

    • Asavi

      , there is smetohing wrong with you.Oh, and instead of derailing the thread, how about you comment on how the obama admin rubber stamped an obviously bad risk AND the campaign contribution angle?Reply

  • wally

    Very good article. I would like to see and here ads that portray Obama as socialist but I think your right your right that it may not be effective. The best approach would be to attack Obama by his own admissions since most people do do follow politics so Obama’s actions would not be evident to them.

  • Ken Hansen

    Remember how the left took Bush’s insistence that he did not regret any decisions he made as President (best he could do, given the information available to him at the time)…

    I fully expect the left to race out and embrace the humility and honesty of this President – much to the surprise & horror of any sentient voter…

    The Solyndra case can be made fairly clearly, but it might be hard to squeeze into 30 seconds:

    Solyndra applied to Gov’t for a loan while Bush in office, it is refused.

    Solyndra executives donate to Obama campaign.

    Obama takes the White House.

    Obama’s DoE re-opens/re-considers Solyndra’s loan application.

    Gov’t analysts warn against loaning money to Solyndra.

    Gov’t decides to go forward with loan despite their product being more expensive than otger mosels.

    Biden goes on-site to praise.

    President praises Solyndra as model of our future economy.

    Solyndra needs more money.

    Gov’t violates the law and puts our $535M loan behind the latest loan, made by an Obama donor. When the company goes belly-up, the campaign donor gets paid first.

    Solyndra goes belly-up.

    Obama administration looks surprised.

    The deadline for giving out remaining loan guarantees approaches.

    DoE approves some 72 green energy loan applications on one day.

    How many campaign contributors are among those 72 last-minute loans?

    • Majch

      Obama looks to FDR and JFK as his Democratic Party role-models. Unfortunately FDR, today’s more serious hantoriiss and economists agree, prolonged the Great Depression with his Programs and tried to expand his power to such an extent that Bush’s shredding of the Constitution looks like a folded crease.Obama’s statement I’m not asking you to believe in my ability to bring about real change Washington I’m asking you to believe in yours is clearly a derivation of JFK’s famous Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country. The thinking behind JFK’s statement is put into perspective best, imho, by economist Milton Friedman, who states:Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic what your country can do for you implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, what you can do for your country implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. Capitalism and Freedom, 1The policies of FDR, JFK and BHO all have this in common: government intrudes into citizens’ lives to provide a means for the planners’/socialist politicians’ end. This intrusion can come in the form of what your government can do for you e.g. social justice, or it can come in the form of what you can do for your country, such as Obama’s plan to tax wind-fall profits.

  • ProfChuck

    Obama’s “humility” reminds me of the song “It’s so hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way.” There is a difference between humility and hubris.

  • ProfChuck

    When Obama calls for “fairness” it is clear that he means government must define the term. This has been done before; “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.” is the classic Marxist mantra and Obama’s call for “fairness” is nothing more than this old saw in new guise. The problem is that the few are not qualified to speak for the many. A centralized definition of fairness is no more likely to be “fair” than a centralized decision determining when to plant watermelons or wheat. We suffer under a delusional political system that accepts the notion that the only qualification necessary to run the lives of others is to get elected. As long as the voters do not insist on competence or even simple honesty these political hooligans will continue to prosper. Someone once said “ninety five percent of everything is crap”. It is clear that this applies to politicians as well as it does to most everything else.

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  • Glen Stambaugh

    John, I’m sure you’re right about the relative weakness of arguments 1 & 2, but they scream legitimacy to me. But then if there were enough people who saw things my way, he wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place. It certainly was a gift. It certainly hits him where it counts & that’s what counts. Good job.

    • John Daly

      Oh, both are absolutely legitimate. I just don’t think the resonate with enough people to be effective.

      I remember McCain using the “Chicago Politician” angle in commercials against Obama in 2008, and I don’t think most people got it.

  • S. Shuman

    No, it shows his humility – something for which Republicans are completely unfamiliar.

    • John Daly

      Yes… Because if there’s one thing Obama’s known for, it’s being humble. Ugh.

      • cmacrider

        John: if he is humble, he has a lot to be humble about .. although I think your assessment to the the correct one.

        • ProfChuck

          Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.

    • Jeffreydan

      It was his ATTEMPT to show humility.

      BO is a uniquely & supremely arrogant narcissist. Want examples, Shuman? It’d take me no time at all to find them, though a lot of time to provide a complete list, so think about it.

      • John Daly

        You could start off with him proclaiming himself to be the 4th greatest president of all time. ;)

        • Nancye

          Anyday I expect Obama to suggest that he be “put” on Mount Rushmore along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

          He’s just that arrogant!!!

  • Bruce A.

    Good one John. Years ago I heard a commentator claim it takes the first two years to learn the job as president. I can’t remember the commentators name but it seems apparent the president hasn’t learned a thing.

    • John Daly

      Sure, there’s always going to be a learning curve for a new president, but it’s extraordinarily important to first have a record of success and experience in leadership BEFORE becoming the leader of the free world.

      Before being elected, Obama lived in the world of academia and theories. He had no practical experience and didn’t surround himself with capable people.

      This is what happens when America elects such a person.

      • Bruce A.

        Exactly. The president didn’t even run a lemonade stand.

  • cmacrider

    John: Your article is very cogent. The only problem is that the propensity of the Republicans to do anything smart is highly improbable. I understand once of the C-Pacs is raising money for two wheel chairs so that they can role out a Dole/McCain ticket at the last minute.

    • John Daly

      Oh, I think they’ll pick up on this one.

      • Mike Jackson

        Man, I sure hope so!