Obama's "Brand"-Busting Video

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Mar 03, 2010 4:44 PM
This morning, I posted on the video of Barack Obama's numerous earlier statements deploring "Karl Rove" style politics -- and a "50 votes plus one" strategy to passing universal health care.

It strikes me that this video has the potential to wreak profound political damage on the President, because it degrades his brand.

Every successful politician has a "brand," which undergirds voters' understanding of who they are.  For example, a key part of Obama's brand during the campaign was his supposed potential to transcend race -- which is why his recourse to race-talk during tough times posed a particular political danger to him.

Here, a similar dynamic is at work.  Obama ran for office on the idea of being a bipartisan pragmatist, someone who could unite members of both parties -- and someone who cared about doing so.  The video highlights the efforts he made to promote this image.  And the contrast between the statements on the video and his actions now -- encouraing the jam-down of unpopular, partisan legislation through a legislative trick -- couldn't be more clear. 

It doesn't just degrade his brand as a uniter . . . it destroys it.  What's more, it drives one of two damaging narratives.

If Obama really believed what he said in the video about eschewing "divisive" politics when he said it, then he's:

1. An opportunist, someone who will cut his principles to fit this year's partisan fashions, and

2. A partisan, someone who puts political victories above his own, earlier and oft-stated beliefs.  Finally, it will mean he's apparently been

3. A naif, who ran for President -- and opined about how to hold the job -- without any idea whatsoever of what it might entail.  Oh, yes, and don't forget:

4. Arrogant, and someone who caught "presidentitis" to the extent that he's willing to force unpopular (hated, really) legislation on Americans through procedural trickery just because it's what he wants. 

Worse yet, if Obama didn't believe what he said in the video, then he ran for the country's highest office as a

1. Cynic, who was willing to say anything to get elected; and a

2. Manipulator, who used Americans' genuine desire for partisan comity in Washington in order to win their votes, without any intent of living up to his promises.

Either way, opting for reconciliation pretty much lays to rest any pretensions Obama might have had about his own bipartisan inclinations -- and effectively poisons the well for him with Republicans from here, forward.