By Dan Froomkin
12:58 PM ET, 02/ 3/2009
The embarrassing disclosures about his nominees' tax problems are making big headlines and the naysayers are dominating the debate over his stimulus package.
So what's a (still) hugely popular president to do? Commandeer the spotlight, that's what.
President Obama sits down this afternoon with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News to make his case directly to the American people.
Obama will appropriately be questioned about Thomas A. Daschle's decision today to withdraw his nomination to be secretary of health and human services, after it turned out he had failed to pay more than $100,000 in back taxes. Why did Obama stick by Daschle as long as he did? Why did Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner get a pass for his own tax problems? And what's the backstory behind this morning's withdrawal, also apparently because of tax problems, of the nominee to be government spending watchdog?
But Obama inevitably will get a chance to make a pitch for his high-stakes economic stimulus package. And that appeal could be particularly powerful, as I wrote yesterday, if he follows up on his extensive outreach to Republicans by openly discussing the views of his critics, explaining why he disagrees, tracing his thinking and discussing why he made the choices he did.
Andrew Malcolm blogs for the Los Angeles Times about the media blitz: "Obama and the Democrats are losing the Washington-based word war about the economic stimulus package.
"Watch the cable channels. Read the newspapers. The editorial pages if you can. If it's not about the latest would-be Cabinet member to discover inadvertent income tax errors in his favor, it's about how the Democrats, mainly in the House, larded up the economic stimulus legislation with every conceivable favorite Dem goodie from the arts to sexually-transmitted diseases to bee subsidies.....
"So tonight through the network interviews, which will be replayed Wednesday morning, Obama will seek to re-set the focus on economic stimulus. Get the talk back on home turf. Stop playing D."
Mark Silva blogs for Tribune: "Two weeks in office, President Barack Obama confronts an immediate challenge: Holding public support for an economic stimulus plan that he considers essential in the face of strengthening Republican resistance.
"It's a message game, and at the moment, the president may be running behind..
"At a time like this, when most Americans have confidence in the new president - his job approval running at 66 percent in the Gallup Poll's daily tracking surveys - Obama has a receptive audience for his message: Swift action, with a massive spending boost, will help rev up the economy....
"The question, for Obama, will become not only how well he sells his plan today, but how deeply the opposition's message already has sunk in."