2015 Archives

Obama tries to seize the messaging war


The following is from the Dec. 14, 2015, edition of Politico. Jeffrey Engel, Director of the Center for Presidential History at SMU, provided expertise for this story.

December 16, 2015

By Austin Wright

The highly public war council that President Barack Obama convened Monday at the Pentagon was billed as a strategy session on the 16-month-old campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But it was also a pointed effort to demonstrate to rattled Americans that the commander in chief really has everything under control. 

Just a week after an Oval Office address that was widely panned as uninspiring — and several days before he is scheduled to leave for Hawaii for the holidays — the president chose the imposing backdrop to preside over a meeting of the National Security Council. He then appeared with the top brass in tow to insist, for the third time in as many weeks, that the U.S. strategy of precision bombing, training local allies and targeting ISIL leaders is sound — and is making real gains.

The timing also seemed aimed at blunting the criticisms that are expected Tuesday from the GOP presidential candidates during a prime-time debate. . . 

The message that Obama and his national security team are on the case is expected to be repeated in the coming days. Obama is scheduled Thursday to be briefed on threats to the homeland at the National Counterterrorism Center before departing Friday for his annual Christmas vacation.

Like the war strategy, however, his is a public relations offensive that the president will have to press harder and harder, said Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University.

"There is this cacophony of a 24-7 barrage against him from people whose basic approach is, 'Don't just sit there, do something,' whether it's accurate or not," Engel said. "Obama has an ingrained structural problem. His measured, long-term approach doesn't have the titillating effect of screaming at the top of your lungs like the Republicans are good at doing."

Read the full story.

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