The president gave the Library Room speech on January 10. Tony Snow had briefed some bloggers before the speech, and made a few appearances on talk radio afterwards (including on my program.) The Vice President appeared on Fox News Sunday four days later, and the National Security Advisor made the rounds of the other shows. Senator McCain, Governor Romney and Mayor Giuliani –the big three of the GOP presidential campaign—all endorsed the plan. The president appeared on 60 Minutes.
And that was it.
Media offensive over.
It never stood a chance.
First, business-as-usual dictated that the White House released all the crucial details before the speech, thus draining the address of audience and drama. Ratings were in the tank as a result, as one would expect from the closest thing to a rerun the political world sees. I asked Snow why the rush to gut the audience, and he explained how this allows the White House to get inside the MSM’s news cycle and thus positively affect the coverage.
Tony no doubt believes this. It is nonsense, though, and the new news cycle doesn’t care what the morning papers say or don’t say. Americans respond to first person appeals, not the laundered spin of the MSM –an impact that is not merely blunted but wholly destroyed by the promiscuous peddling of talking points prior to launch. If the president is going to have a chance of persuading the public, the public has to actually watch him. They didn't. He didn't. It isn't that complicated.
When I suggested that Steve Jobs built audience and interest by holding all details about the iPhone in the deep freezer, Tony responded that the war in Iraq isn’t the iPhone –completely true, of course, and completely beside the point. Creating audience and gaining credibility with it, whether the financial and electronics press, or the American public, always begins with the audience’s attention.
Want to kill all of the State of the Union’s impact? Tell everyone what is in it.
Want to build audience? Tell no one. Don’t even give a copy to the Speaker. Make her listen and react, and all the Congresspeople as well.
That’s point one. Now to the "follow up" that wasn’t.