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White House Cheat Sheet: An Economic (Re)Focus?

President Obama's motorcade waits. (AP Photo by J. Scott Applewhite)

President Obama will address the state of the economy in a major speech today at Georgetown University even as some Republicans are increasingly skeptical that his message is reaching the American people.

"The president wants the opportunity to update the American people on where we are, what we have to do going forward, and lay out the steps that are being taken to help our economy recover," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs at Monday's daily briefing when asked about the goal of the speech.

Obama also wants to reaffirm -- in a highly visible way that is sure to lead every newspaper and evening news broadcast in the country -- that he is deeply engaged in bringing the economy out of its doldrums despite having spent much of the past two weeks either traveling internationally or dealing with the pirate crisis.

Carter Eskew, a senior Democratic strategist, explained that "the economy is [Obama's] leverage for his entire agenda ... so he should lean into it."

Republicans retort that today's speech is an attempt by Obama to convince a skeptical public that the economy is his first priority.

"The president is finding it's tougher to drive a message in the White House than advertised," wrote Alex Conant, a former communications operative at the Republican National Committee, in a blog post titled "Obama's MIA Economic Message."

Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster, added that the content of Obama's speech today and how he frames the crisis are critical in determining how the message is received by the public.

"If he gives another speech like those he has given so far, the actual message America perceives will quickly change from 'it's the other guy's fault' to 'I don't know how to fix this,'" predicted Wilson. "When that happens, not only does Obama 'own' the problem, he starts to drown in it."

What's clear -- no matter where you come down on whether Obama has been focused too little, just enough or too much on the economy -- is that the American public cares about almost nothing else at this juncture.

In a Gallup survey conducted at the beginning of March, 80(!) percent of the sample said economic problems were the most pressing issue facing the country. Those numbers echoed the Washington Post/ABC polling done in January that showed more than one-third of Americans said the economic situation was causing them "serious stress."

Those kind of numbers suggest that no matter what else happens between now and November 2010 (unless it is an event of historic catastrophe) the economy and how the Obama administration handled it will be the critical issue on voters minds in the midterm elections.

Given the stakes, expect the president and his staff, as well as Republicans on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, to search for the high political ground on the economy every day between now and next November.

What To Watch For:

Tuesday's Fix Picks: The transition ends Friday. Not to digital television (that's June 12), but to finding the Fix Picks in this space. The top left of the Fix homepage is where they will be starting Monday.

1. President Obama eases travel restrictions with Cuba.
2. Is the Democratic stranglehold over Congress and the White House permanent?
3. California Democrats hope to channel Obama in 2010.
4. Is Chuck Todd getting a weekend show? We hope so.
5. Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector: Guilty.

New Enviro Ads: The Environmental Defense Action Fund and the United Steelworkers are combining forces for a multi-million dollar ad campaign in eight states (Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) urging members of Congress to support President Obama's plan to cap carbon emissions -- one of the most controversial elements of his broader budget plan. The ads, on which the to groups will spend $2 million over the next month, feature the mayor of Braddock, Pa. -- a goateed and tattooed John Fetterman making the case that the bill will help create rather than eliminate jobs in the Rust Belt. "We're doing it now because the debate on a cap is reaching a critical moment," said Keith Gaby, communications director for the Environmental Defense Fund. "Along with health care it's at the top of the president's agenda ... and the opposition seems to be ramping up." The bill, which is being carried by Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Ed Markey (Mass.), will be taken up by Congress next week when it returns from its Easter recess.

Chocola to Club: The Club for Growth formally named former Indiana congressman Chris Chocola as its new head on Monday -- roughly a week after Roll Call reported the move. Chocola, who held the 2nd district from 2002 to 2006, told the Fix that he took the gig out of because "what's going on in the country gives me great concern." He chalked up the GOP losses in 2006 (of which he was one) and 2008 to an insufficient commitment to Republican core principles. "In large part we are where we are because Republicans strayed," said Chocola, adding that if the Republican majority in Congress had moved on entitlement reform, tax reform and tort reform "we would have picked seats up." Chocola added that during his time in Congress "the enemy was not Democrats, it was Republicans" who would not support the GOP agenda. Given the Club's willingness to challenge sitting Republican incumbents (see Specter, Arlen), Chocola should fit right in.

Click It!: The best photo from yesterday's Easter egg-travaganza at the White House.

Guinta (Likely) to Run for House: Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta (R) is leaning heavily toward challenging Rep. Carol Shea Porter (D) in 2010, according to sources familiar with his thinking. Guinta has told local news organizations that he will not seek a third term and instead will run for higher office but has not yet publicly revealed what office that will be. The state's governor -- John Lynch (D) -- remains extremely popular and would be a tough target and those who know Guinta suggest he might struggle to raise the sort of money required to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg (R). House Republicans have put on a major recruitment pitch for Guinta to challenge Shea Porter and all indications are that he is headed in that direction. Shea Porter won her 1st district in an upset over then Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) in 2006 and then beat Bradley far more convincingly in 2008. Shea Porter runs, um, unconventional campaigns and ended 2008 with just $35,000 in the bank. Republican recruiters are touting Guinta as a rising star. We shall see.

Feeney to Heritage: After losing his reelection bid by a whopping 16 points in 2008, former Republican Rep. Tom Feeney is joining the Heritage Foundation as a visiting fellow. At Heritage Feeney will "participate in selected government, media and community relations projects," according to a release announcing the news. Feeney is also a partner in his former law firm in Orlando. Did we mention that Feeney remains under investigation for his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff?

San Francisco -- Political Doormat No More: New polling conducted by Research 2000 for the liberal Daily Kos blog shows that the often-derided locales of San Francisco (as is "San Francisco Liberal") and France (as in "freedom fries") are actually quiet popular. Two-thirds of those polled nationally had a favorable opinion of San Francisco while just 24 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the City by the Bay. The same trend held when asked about their views on France; 66 percent felt favorably toward the country while 26 percent felt unfavorably. One fascinating sidepoint in the data: the South had widely less favorable opinions of San Francisco and France than did the other regions of the country. The South's view of San Francisco (48 fav/42 unfav) and France (46/44) were some twenty points lower than in the Northeast, Midwest and West.

Miller Heads to Clean Coal: Lisa Camooso Miller, who cut her political teeth at the sides of New Jersey Govs. Christine Todd Whitman and Donnie DiFrancesco as well as then House Speaker Dennis Hastert, is joining the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity as its communications director at the end of the month.

Say What?: "They might have bitten off a lot more than they could chew." -- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on the Somali pirates.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 14, 2009; 5:55 AM ET
Categories:  Cheat Sheet Share This:  E-Mail | Technorati | Del.icio.us | Digg | Stumble Previous: Election Contest Falls in Franken's Favor
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"I am old, but not THAT old - I have no personal recollection of the fireside chats."

I zipped over to wikipedia to see what they said about the chats. Apparently President Roosevelt began the practice prior to his presidency - as Governor of New York. His first national 'chat' was only 8 days after his swearing in; he held several more throughout his first year in office, approximately monthly. The interesting parallel to modern times is that a President used a new medium to communicate more directly & effectively with voters in order to build support for his policies, rather than using traditional vehicles. Prior presidents had to literally use the 'bully pulpit' and stand in front of a crowd in order to directly reach the people - then hope the newspapers reprinted the message he intended for the wider audience.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 14, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

hey mark in austin:
you think that was bad at 2.

i had to sit through both weddings of the Nixon girls at the white house.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AWWWWWWWWW !!!!!!!

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

(((shades of Peter Finch in Network)
yes, i want everyone to STAND UP and GO TO WINDOWS ---now

and throw your microwave ovens out....

news just in---
Bo, the dog, did NOT find a power cord yesterday that caused the blackout -
it was a Square D Circuit Breaker !!!!!!

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, I am old, but not THAT old - I have no personal recollection of the fireside chats.

I was forced to sit through FDR's funeral broadcast on the radio as a 2 year old and I remember the unpleasantness of being with my grandparents, uncles and aunts, and parents, for some interminable time in my grandfather's farmhouse in the pine paneled den he built with everybody sad and making me be quiet and still - but not the actual broadcast.

So I amend my post to the period from HST onward.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 14, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

QUOTE: mark_in_austin to scrivener

"I have suggested he document as well as he can the evidence to support his contentions and take them to the proper authorities."

Mark, I can assure you:

The "proper authorities" ALREADY KNOW all about the human and civil rights abuses of what I have termed the "extrajudicial punishment network."

There is NOTHING to investigate.

What is needed is for disbelieving, naive politicians and a compliant media to force the new administration to act upon what it KNOWS to be true:

...end the human rights abuses arising from "directed energy weapon" proliferation...

...and end military/intel/security agency misuse of volunteer community policing and anti-"terrorism" programs to create an American Gestapo...

...a federally-trained and equipped community "gang stalker" army that has targeted individuals for financial and physical ruin.

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

good point bsimon:
i agree....anyTHING that comes up (even with his campaign) - the President comes out immediately with good damage control or just states the facts and squashes any controversy that may come up....(as in, if he let it go for a week, etc).

so did i miss the speech?

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Am I imagining that I heard SecDef suggest slashing the "death ray" funding and Lieberman criticize Gates for it? Is the "death ray" manufactured in CT? Did KOZ threaten Scrivenr so that Scrivener will have to report KOZ to the ACLU?

Stay tuned.

As I have suggested before, I think Scrivener's fears are misplaced, but I have come to accept that they are indeed his fears.
Thus I have suggested he document as well as he can the evidence to support his contentions and take them to the proper authorities. That he is airing unsubstantiated fears here, again and again, is some evidence that he does not know this is not the appropriate vehicle for resolving his angst.

Vic, I often receive the "Held" message. In my case, it is usually because the post iss too long. Sometimes it is because the WaPo filters a word I used - and the WaPo invariably gets unusual words wrong. Sometimes it is because I posted immediately previously to the same thread.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 14, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

EYES ONLY to king_of_zouk and his merry band of trolling disinfo agents:

You misstate the protocol.

Untold thousands of Americans may be getting the microwave radiation "directed energy weapon" rays already.

Who knows? Maybe even some of the nation's political leaders have been targeted.

This is a silent, "slow kill" weapons system. Physical degradation occurs over time. Those skin blemishes, discolorations, premature graying, may be symptoms of deeper damage -- physiological, neurological.

But mainstream media and the politicians refuse to believe that saboteurs and Dr. Strangeloves lurking in the dark recesses of government could ever commit such a social (and physical) genocide.

It's the silent, stealth nature of directed energy weapons -- deployed nationwide under various government programs -- that makes this possible.

When will Team Obama wake up? Only David Axelrod seems to "get it."

Educate yourself here:


Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

criminey sakes...
i'm surprised the repulsives didn't come out on Easter and slam our President for going to the Easter Egg Roll instead of
"concentrating every waking hour on the stimulus package".
my gosh, what happens if they catch him sneaking out for a smoke---
oh, wait....the dog. YES !
The country is going down the tubes because the dog cut the power !

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

We ignore zouk and scrivener around here. They post in every comment section and they never make any sense. Mental patients both of them

Posted by: chrisfox8 | April 14, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Dear Scrivener,

This is the "company". Stop releasing secrets or you will get the death ray.

Spooks out.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | April 14, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse




Once again today, my attempts to post comments to this board have elicited the "held for blog owner" message -- although The Washington Post does not "hold" posts unless its software detects foul language.

Invariably, the content of my comments seems to be the determining factor. Today, I wrote a comment voicing the opinion that the economic crisis cannot be solved until Team Obama dismantles the "extrajudicial punishment network"...

...a series of secret federal "programs of personal destruction" coupled with a nationwide network of local "community gang stalkers" who violate the civil and human rights of so-called "targeted individuals."

These "targets" may number in the millions. They have been charged with no crime. But they remain under seemingly endless investigation, and claim to be subject to harassment and even physical abuse.

I am posting my apparently censored comments to the folowing link at ACLU's "Blog of Rights," where I have memorialized a litany of apparent infringements:


This censorship appears to be emanating from the Department of Homeland Security- administered "fusion center" near my home:


If my rights to freedom of apeech and unreasonable search and seizure of my telecommunications can be violated on a daily basis, so can YOURS.

I believe my experiences indicate that freedom of speech, especially political speech, is dying in America -- and that we are being transformed, slowly and insidiously, into a fascist police state.

As someone who has worked in the mainstream media for more than three decades, I must say that our journalistic gatekeepers are asleep at the switch. I will continue to raise a warning in this space -- that is, unless the authoritarians who apparently are censoring political speech in America shut me down.

Team Obama, please wake up. This state of affairs is an much a threat to your agenda as it is to any single individual's constitutional rights.


Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

These "major" economic speeches are more for the antsy media than the American people as a whole. They have already invested their full confidence in Obama's policies for recovery.


Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 14, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

djo4 writes
"Perhaps Obama will talk about how March retail sales plummeted, how February's were revised further downward and how layoffs are sweeping the nation and forcing people into foreclosure. Does he think we don't know what a disaster his economic policies are?"

Perhaps you should elaborate on how the President's economic plans have impacted Feb & March retail sales, layoffs and foreclosures. Which specific policies have contributed to which specific problems? What should he have done differently - and what effect would those actions have had?

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 14, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps Obama will talk about how March retail sales plummeted, how February's were revised further downward and how layoffs are sweeping the nation and forcing people into foreclosure. Does he think we don't know what a disaster his economic policies are? I can't wait to hear an update from Obama about the state of our economy and what he will do going forward. So far all he has done is continue the policies of George W. Bush by throwing tax payer money at corrupt, failed banks and other financial institutions. All he does is talk. I am getting sick of hearing his empty, shallow words.

Posted by: djo4 | April 14, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"Am I correct in thinking no prez has ever made as many public appearances and policy statements as quickly?"

Where would you put FDR's 'fireside chats'?

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 14, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Another long windy speech? Doesn't this guy ever take a breather. He does tend to go on ............and on.

When all you have is a hammer.

I should say when all you have is a TelePrompTer, the worlds problems look like they can be solved with a good rousing speech.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | April 14, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

now that we have completely eliminated the privacy scourge in Somalia, can we get on to the severe consequences that were promised for N Korea?

Posted by: king_of_zouk | April 14, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Should say: "...but NOT public appearances."

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 14, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Am I correct in thinking no prez has ever made as many public appearances and policy statements as quickly? LBJ may have rivaled on policy statements, I suppose, but public appearances.

I cannot imagine anyone except those who are committed against the Prez falling into the category of Americans described by Chris Wilson. At the same time, while "progress reports" are welcome, I actually suspect that they are not required every fortnight.
The danger to the Prez may be that he will begin to appear to be micromanaging; it is not likely that he will appear to be clueless.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 14, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

James Carville may never be proven wrong. I only wonder if taxation can trump economic distress in 2012 (believing the 2010 is too soon).

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 14, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

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