Salena Zito

A Tip O’Neill quote is inscribed on Jerry Ford’s monument in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall:

"God has been good to America, especially during difficult times. At the time of the Civil War, He gave us Abraham Lincoln. And at the time of Watergate, He gave us Gerald Ford – the right man at the right time who was able to put our nation back together again."

Ford knew the right thing to do for the country, and he did it knowing it could cost him an election: He pardoned Richard Nixon.

Experience, humility and an understanding of the greater good are required to make such decisions.

Barack Obama has faced bad economic circumstances from the moment he walked into the Oval Office. A generous press and electorate – remember, not just Democrats supported him; he had independents and Republicans, too – gave him broad sway to implement policies to spur growth.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have the experience, humility or understanding of the greater good to make the critical decisions.

He picked fights with Republicans from the outset and, human nature being what it is, Republicans gladly reciprocated. Meanwhile, the nation’s economy went from bad to worse.

President Obama and his team issued plenty of “We’re going to pivot towards jobs” exclamations. Yet none lasted much longer than the photo-ops with factory or construction-project backdrops.

Unfortunately for both the president and for American workers, too many of those factories he used as backdrops closed shortly after the grandiose promises (or the workers whose sites he visited lost a day’s pay because of the disruption of his visit).

A disconnect has developed in the messaging between Candidate Obama and President Obama, according to Chris Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University of Ohio: “Where the campaign was so good, the governing has been awful.”

Campaigns are about micro-targeting select publics, to energize them on behalf of your candidacy; governing from the White House means addressing the general public.

Obama has not spoken well to Main Street. He has allowed others to speak, or he tries to communicate via niche media.

That has led, in part, to the problem he now faces, said Kelley, which is messaging.

He gravitates too comfortably to the elite – which makes America’s “flyover country” view him through that prism.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.