The Obama administration is on the right side when it comes to the issue of health care but their communications strategy is awful. If you thought the "Harry and Louise" ads brought down the Clinton health care plan this concerted effort by the Republicans makes those ads look like the proverbial day at the beach.
One of the arguments that has been made is that President Obama let Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid design the health care reform bill rather than write his own bill as the Clinton administration did. The jury is still out about whether or not that has been the best strategy but it is clear that the Speaker and Harry Reid did not handle it well. The other argument is that by allowing Congress to take their traditional summer recess it has created a vacuum filled by protests and rancor.
What if the bill had waited till September? What if Pelosi and Reid had kept Congress in session thorough the month of August until the bill was passed?
Perhaps the worst communications strategy has been to send the president all over the map for town halls and having numerous conference calls. President Obama is a GREAT communicator and can be serious, funny and down to earth at the same time. President Bush did town halls and he excelled at them but President Obama should overexpose himself and he should talk directly to the the American people. He needs to do what Ross Perot did so effectively in 1992.
Perot got 19% of the presidential vote against a sitting president (George H.W. Bush) and then-Governor Clinton. After several television interviews he decided to take control of his own message and bought thirty minutes of time on television networks. It was dubbed the first politcal television infomerical.
In a folksy style he faced the camera and using inexpensive cardboard charts he told the viewers his economic plan. On one segment he said he was going to use a voodoo stick as a pointer since we were in deep "doo doo." Even people who had no intention in voting for him watched what he had to say.
If President Obama wants to change the argument and win support for his health care agenda he must do exactly what Ross Perot did. President Obama needs to ask for network television time (or buy it) and then lay out his proposal and tell the people why we can't wait anymore for health care reform.
He must answer the questions that people are most concerned about and he must do it in a folksy, down to earth style. He needs to answer what happens if we don't reform health care, how much it is going to cost if we do it, how much it is going to cost our country if we don't do it, how he plans on doing it and then address all the scare tactics from abortion to "death panels" to rationing. He can invite the Republicans to attack him and promise to be back in three weeks to answer their attacks. It is the ONLY strategy that will work and it can use the sheer force of his personality and communication ability. Let's hope he stops using surrogates, stops the town hall meetings and press conferences and just gives a Roosevelt like "Fireside Chat" by taking his case directly to the American people.