Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Five questions tonight’s GOP debate may answer

Tonight’s debate among Republican presidential candidates is a benchmark in the 2016 race for the White House, but how helpful will it be for voters who want to make educated and informed decisions when they cast their ballots?

The 2016 election is more than a year away – a virtual eternity in politics, so the landscape may look much different when the campaign heats up and the general public begins paying attention.

Those who do choose to watch tonight’s debate are unlikely to learn substantial information about the candidates and their agendas. With 10 candidates on stage for two hours and with time needed for the panelists to ask questions, each presidential hopeful will be lucky to get 10 minutes of airtime – hardly ample time to make a convincing case for the Oval Office.

But even if the debate is light on substance and policy, it may very well provide some early clues Continue reading

Tension on display between public officials and the press

Hillary Clinton is not the only public figure trying to put journalists in their place.

Earlier this month, the former Secretary of State angered reporters when staffers from her presidential campaign kept the media at bay – with a rope – while she marched in a Fourth of July parade in Gorham, New Hampshire.

This week, two highly visible exchanges illustrated the less-than-affable nature of the relationship between today’s public figures and the men and women who cover them. Continue reading

Obama, India and me

President Obama’s trip to India brought back memories of one of the more peculiar moments of punditry I’ve been involved with.

On the morning of Obama’s first inauguration, I was home. For me, the big story had been the historic 2008 presidential campaign and election. The inauguration was just a ceremony – more pageantry than news.

indiaThen my cell phone rang (Note to self: Do cell phones ring?). It was a friend of mine – an Asian journalist who had been working in America for years, but still had many contacts back home in India. She told me that a producer of an Indian news program needed commentary from someone involved in American politics to supplement coverage of the inauguration.

I agreed to do it, and Continue reading

A PR Lesson Courtesy of President Obama

podiumPresident Obama’s news conference on the IRS started about 20 minutes late yesterday. It’s not unusual for a president – or a governor or a mayor – to run behind schedule. They usually try to fill their days with as many events and activities as possible, and the demands of their jobs often send preset schedules off kilter.

But Obama’s tardiness yesterday came at a most inopportune time and represented a public relations miscue of sorts.

Because cameras already were set up at the White House, cable news viewers were shown the image of an empty podium while pundits discussed the president’s upcoming remarks. This created two problems. Continue reading

Chris Christie, NJ Dems and the Odds on November’s Election

Anyone who believes the outcome of New Jersey’s next election for governor is a foregone conclusion has some compelling arguments to support that opinion. But the race is far from over.

To explore the possibilities, let’s start with the factors that make incumbent Republican Chris Christie a tough man to beat. Not only has Christie enjoyed high poll numbers since taking office in 2010, but in the aftermath of his performance in response to Hurricane Sandy, those numbers are higher than ever.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie presser on Hurricane Sandy

NJ Gov. Chris Christie

In recent polls, respondents gave Christie approval ratings of 73 percent (Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind) and 67 percent (Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press). In addition, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 67 percent of New Jersey voters feel Christie deserves re-election.

What bodes particularly well for the Republican governor is the support Democrats displayed in the polls.

Continue reading

It’s Time to Bring Political Debates into the 21st Century

In 1960, telephones were tethered to cords and only were used for conversation. The news came to us just a few times a day — when the paper landed on our doorstep and when networks aired their news broadcasts. And when John Kennedy and Richard Nixon took part in the nation’s first live televised presidential debate, they stood before cameras and answered questions.

Today we get our news 24/7 on phones and computers. Smartphones allow us to text and to email, to surf the web and to capture and share pictures and videos. Advances in technology have radically changed the way news and information is gathered and disseminated, but as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaign this fall, the format we employ for presidential debates is essentially the same as what it was more than 50 years ago.

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The devil’s not in the details; the devil is the details

Progressives are having a lot of fun watching Mitt Romney avoid taking a stance on President Obama’s decision to refrain from deporting young people who were illegally brought into the U.S. as children. It reinforces a theme that has included hammering Romney for failing to provide details of his plans to reinvigorate the economy.

But there’s a lesson to be learned from New Jersey and the state’s 2009 gubernatorial election. Democrats criticized then-candidate Chris Christie for being vague about how he would fix the N.J. economy. As we know, Christie won anyway and now has emerged as a national figure.

Voters apparently were not troubled by Christie’s lack of specifics. He took advantage of the fact that, when the economy is bad, the man on the top gets the blame. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

Before the Obama campaign and the president’s supporters get too giddy when Romney stumbles and makes gaffes, they would be well-served to recall the message that James Carville drove home during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. It was the economy then – and it’s still the economy today.

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An Event that Altered the Dynamics between Politicians and the Press

(co-authored with Anne W. Lee)

Twenty years ago on June 3, 1992, during his first campaign for the presidency, Bill Clinton joined the house band on the “Arsenio Hall Show” and played a rousing version of “Heartbreak Hotel” on the saxophone.

Had Clinton’s appearance taken place today, it would not have made the impact it did two decades ago. In 2012, we have grown accustomed to seeing political candidates and elected officials conversing with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, joking with the cast of “Saturday Night Live” and slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon.

But in 1992, candidates who wanted to be taken seriously went on “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation” and “Nightline.” They didn’t go on Arsenio Hall, and they certainly didn’t don sun glasses and rock out Elvis tunes with the band. Continue reading

What Did We Learn from the Iowa Caucuses?

Now that the Iowa caucuses are over, what do we know about the 2012 presidential contest that we didn’t know before voters in the Hawkeye State took part in the first major electoral event of the campaign?

The truth is we don’t know a whole lot more than we did before the caucuses. At best, the Iowa contest confirmed what we already suspected about Mitt Romney: Despite his frontrunner status, the former Massachusetts governor Continue reading

Obama Response to Romney Offers Clues to 2012

The Obama administration’s response to criticism about his decision to end the war in Iraq may offer a clue or two about the fate of next year’s presidential election.

While each of the GOP presidential contenders had harsh words for Obama, the president focused his response on Mitt Romney – acknowledging Romney’s frontrunner status and the likelihood that the former Massachusetts governor will be the Republican standard bearer in 2012.

More telling, however, was the tone of the administration’s response, delivered by Press Secretary Ben LaBolt:  “Mitt Romney’s foreign policy experience is limited to his work as a finance executive shipping American jobs overseas.”

As I wrote in an August 19 column, throughout most of his time in the Oval Office, the president has been a punching bag, absorbing hits from Republicans and occasionally from members of his own party. He doesn’t generally strike back as forcefully as he did in this response to Romney.

In that August 19 column, I was writing about the Obama administration’s quick and strong response to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments on the state’s loss of federal funding. Such displays from the president and his administration, however, been few and far between. To win re-election in 2012, Barack Obama is going to have to engage in street fight politics. That’s not how he got to the Oval Office, but if he wants to stay there, it will take more than eloquent speeches and a charismatic personality.