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February 25, 2009

Pulling The Plug

Kevin E. Dayhoff

One of the key talking points of the new Obama Administration is its commitment to lead our nation by maximizing technology. Yet within a few scant weeks, the new kids in the Oval Office have endured their fair share of glitches, error boxes and system crashes.


It is in this context that – when President Barack Obama faced a profound lack of public support for his stimulus legislation – he found himself back on the campaign trail trying to drum-up public support with the force of his will, cult of personality, partisan politics, and the support of the old traditional elite media.


Technology was to be the basis of the Obama revolutionary approach to appealing directly for public support by using direct e-mail, interactive web sites, YouTube, instant messaging and text messages.


Let’s be clear, although predicting history is fraught with missteps and fleeting illusions usually borne of attempting to focus and frame an expedient political agenda, President Obama will go down in history as being the first technology president – the current challenges notwithstanding.


Just as the world changed during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, which led President John F. Kennedy to be our first television president, the face of information dissemination which began changing in 2000, shifted during the presidency of George W. Bush.


Mr. Kennedy capitalized on the paradigm shift from newspapers to television in his contest against Richard M. Nixon, just as Mr. Obama capitalized on a shift from television to the Internet in his contest against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Arizona Sen. John McCain.


We have witnessed the end of the golden age of “presidential television.” The new vertical integration of a president getting his message out to the public is the Internet.


It is no less a profound change than that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of the radio.


To state the obvious, we have witnessed a huge paradigm shift in how Americans get their information.


Paradoxically, President Obama, who was elected in part on a wave of unprecedented media bias, will come to understand that the very media that really elected him will not sustain him. Only 40 percent of the public reads a daily newspaper, whether it is printed or on the Internet, or watches the traditional network news.


This is important to understand because the new Internet information system looks past his rock-star glitz – and particularly undermines style over substance and the traditional elite media, that has so far failed to ask difficult questions of the Obama Administration.


Continuing to rely on a political party base in order to get things done is fraught with peril, as Americans have access to too much information that may not parrot the party line like the old media.


Presidential initiatives in our new era simply must have depth, integrity, and substance – all of which were lacking in the stimulus legislation.


Remember, it was on January 17, just days before his inauguration, that Mr. Obama announced the formation of “Organizing for America,” the Internet advocacy wing of his presidency.


In his video message Mr. Obama proclaimed Organizing for America as the “next phase.”


“You’ve built the largest grass roots movement in history, and shaped the future of this country. And the movement you’ve built is too important to stop growing now…,” said Mr. Obama.


“Volunteers, grass roots leaders and ordinary citizens will continue to drive our organization, helping us bring about the changes we proposed during the campaign: a solution to our economic crisis, an end to the war in Iraq, affordable healthcare for all, and new sources of energy to power our economy and protect our environment.”


Various news accounts suggest that this new application of the Obama technological revolution has as many as 13 million mouse-clicking minions.


One may suggest that the failure of the “Organizing for America” to garner support of the stimulus legislation could be tossed-up to first inning jitters.


In the end, Mr. Obama had to rely on old-style power partisan politics to get his economic measures passed by appealing to his Democrat base in Congress and lock step Obamaniacs, (along with a Super Bowl party and some rides on Air Force One.)


The Obama Administration is currently over-playing its hand. It is listening to the liberal echo chamber that insists that he won by such an overwhelming mandate that he can do whatever he pleases without critical oversight by the elite media and rely upon Organizing for America to overwhelm any opposition or legislative obstacles.


So far, the major newspaper and television outlets have been successful in labeling any disagreement or opposition as “partisan politics.”


Nevertheless, sooner than later, the other shoe will drop; especially as increasing numbers of Americans begin to understand that the opposition is based on thoughtful, well-measured, and responsible approaches to public policy.


The big question remains as to whether or not – or if – President Obama will come to understand that governing is nothing like campaigning.


Socializing health care, social security reform, legalizing illegal aliens, nationalizing major banks and industry, throwing Israel under a bus, wealth redistribution, and raising taxes are soon to be screened on the next segment of the Obama revolution.


Without coherent thoughtful legislation that is truly bi-partisan and filled with integrity, just watch, (for example,) what the 40 million members of the AARP do to the new children in the Oval Office.


This ought to be good. Stay tuned.


The Obama Administration is now faced with the difficult challenges of governing. President Obama will be best served if it reboots the computer and learns from the missteps of his neophyte presidency.


It is no longer a video game and as the honeymoon wanes, the old media, as supportive as it is, cannot help President Obama as the American public begins to pull the plug.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at




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