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Elizabeth Sherman

Elizabeth Sherman

Assistant professor of American Politics at American University; founder and former director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Overexposed, under-communicating

I would say Obama's most unexpected leadership strength has been his willingness to appoint former antagonists to his administration, especially his decision to name Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Had she stayed in the Senate she would have maintained an independent
power base from which she could have potentially launched another run for the presidency if the Obama administration stumbled. Short of that, her Senate seat provided a formidable podium for her to criticize the administration and widen the rift with Obama after the bruising 2008 primaries. Instead, the president offered and she accepted the position of Secretary of State where she had demonstrated her typical can-do approach to the job, brought intelligence, personality and her awesome work ethic to the post, and proved her bona fides as a loyal
and valuable part of the Obama team.

One year on, Obama's biggest weakness, surprisingly, has been public communications. He needed to give serious, well-constructed and well-argued addresses from the Oval Office to the American people explaining the economic crisis, why he supported the TARP (which caused
so much outrage) and the stimulus package. He needed to take the same approach to the health care reforms and clearly explain the stakes.

Instead, his communications have been a mishmash of speeches, press conferences and the speech to the Congress, none of which focused on the American people as the main audience. He can turn things around if he begins to speak from the White House in direct talks to the nation. His campaign featured a 30-minute talk shortly before the election that was cogent, calm and very well received.

He has been overexposed doing too many venues, and he has not used his position to communicate from the formality of the presidency the kind of clarity of vision and policy substance that would effectively inform and convince the American people about his policy goals, why they matter so much and how the American people can support them.

By Elizabeth Sherman

 |  January 19, 2010; 6:02 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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He's been on too many TV/talk show, there have been too many stories about his dates, Michelle's wardrobe, their vacations, their lavish entertaining at the White House while the country struggles, and all his global and national travels. How can he even think about communicating when he's on magazine covers, hiding in back rooms with Democrats and chatting up "reform" for everyting. He's putting this country in a mess because he can't focus on one thing for very long. Maybe he has attention deficit disorder. They are just too much into celebrity, making themselves into the "king" and "queen" of the country.
Lord, help us get out of jam.
The country got what it deserved when it let the mainstream media and celebrity hype put Obama in the White House.

Posted by: kathy26 | January 19, 2010 2:28 PM
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Lionel, I agree with you on the powerful special interests controlling our government. My wish is that a president goes for broke by going after the powerful lobbies on both the right and the left, taking unpopular positions (entitlement reform) accepting that he or she will be limited to a four-year term.

As for Obama, he is just not inspirational. He needs to be more like Reagan or JFK and get us to buy into some bigger vision. As it is, he appears very tactical, too pragmatic, too wiling to compromise, too "wonkish" and professorial. I really do not connect with him.

Posted by: alonzoQuijana | January 19, 2010 10:41 AM
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Maybe Obama has appointed some former antagonists to some positions, but for the most part he's stuck with his team of third-rate people from Chicago, or with their friends who are hardly more capable.

This regime will be best known to history for the almost total vacuity at the top. It's like Obama is not comfortable around people who can be both smart and sane, and prefers the mentally ill, and folks who can only be described as "drop outs".

Posted by: muawiyah | January 19, 2010 10:40 AM
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The Presidency is irrelevant in America. Lobbyists control the Presidency, Congress and the Fed. Not even Linconesque charisma can help a President push through the needed agenda of regulation in America. Without term limits we are doomed to financial, moral and socioeconomic bankruptcy. End of story.

Posted by: lionelroger | January 19, 2010 9:17 AM
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