New White House communications strategy: More retorts to Republicans, more 'high-profile' Obama events 

Good news! According to the Washington Post, the White House is retooling their communications strategy:

White House officials are retooling the administration's communications strategy to produce faster responses to political adversaries, a more disciplined focus on President Obama's call for "change" in Washington and an increasingly selective use of the president's time.

The messaging adjustments are the result of an end-of-the-year analysis in which White House advisers said the president's communications team had not taken the initiative often enough and had allowed drawn-out debates in Congress, and relentless criticism by Republicans, to drown out his message.

"It was clear that too often we didn't have the ball -- Congress had the ball in terms of driving the message," communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. "In 2010, the president will constantly be doing high-profile things to be the person driving the narrative."

There are no words for how insane this all sounds. So the White House feels they need to respond to criticisms more aggressively then they already have? In fact, the White House has been so aggressive on this front they look defensive and petty.

Remember when they tried to shut  Fox News out of press pool events and the interim White House communications director went on CNN and said Fox News was "the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party"?

Remember when Linda Douglass, Director of Communications for the White House Office of Health Reform, asked for citizens to monitor their neighbors and send in "fishy emails" spreading "misinformation" about health care reform?

And then there's this:

Second, White House advisers promise a quicker, more aggressive response to GOP attacks on the president and his policies. They noted that Obama and his top White House advisers have pushed back hard against Republican accusations that the FBI mishandled the interrogation of the man accused of trying to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day -- and as Biden did on Sunday.

The reference to Biden's attack on Cheney this past Sunday is certainly telling, especially in context of the Christmas day terror bombing. It took the White House four days -- after they got their facts wrong and said Abdulmutallab was acting alone -- to hold a press conference and acknowledge the severity of the al Qaeda terror attack. Meanwhile, the President was snorkeling and playing golf. But when Cheney criticized the administration's initial response, the White House had a retort to the former vice-president up on their website within hours.

Responding quickly to Republican attacks is one of the few things the administration knows how to do. It is, unfortunately for them, not of much use when there is some degree of substance to those attacks and you didn't have command of the issue to begin with. The White House is doubling down on fixing the wrong problem.

And finally, the first paragraph of the story says the new communications strategy will involve "increasingly selective use of the president's time." But that isn't really substantiated in the story -- in fact, two paragraphs later White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said. "In 2010, the president will constantly be doing high-profile things to be the person driving the narrative."

Really? The president gave 29 speeches on health care last year. Yes, if health care reform is still about as popular with the American public as chewing on wads of tin foll, it must have nothing to with the underlying policy. The president just isn't doing enough "high-profile things to be the person driving the narrative."

Any new White House communications strategy should begin and end with a long, sobering talk with the man in the mirror.

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Mark Hemingway

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