Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Barry Got His Groove Back

I'm watching President Obama's town hall meeting in Fort Myers, FL. He looks like Obama the campaigner. He's relaxed. He's joking around with the audience. He's walking with a swagger. He's in his element. In White House press conferences and photo-ops Obama looks dreary-eyed and sleep-deprived. I would too if I was forced to live in DC.

On one level he's being his usual long-winded self by trying to explain the macro-economic forces of our current crisis. But he succeeds by connecting the complex with the relevant.

While Obama isn't introducing anything new, this town hall meeting underscores his skill as a communicator. He boils down systemic issues such as energy grids and rural broadband access into singular outcomes such as jobs and commerce. He harnesses the winds of public opinion to power his message. He adds a level of accountability by asking his audience to judge him by his one success metric: job creation.

There's still a populist in him, and I worry he's just telling people what they want to hear. One woman named Henrietta Hughes could barely speak when she got up to the microphone. She begged him for help because she had no job and had lost her home. Obama walked down and hugged her. The crowd stood up and cheered. One woman in the audience looked like she was at the Kentucky Derby, shaking her fists as Obama walked towards Hughes.

Here's his most salient sound bite: "This is about turning crisis into opportunity." So true, given his set-backs since taking office (Republican rejection, Daschle tax evasion).

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