"Already Back on the Trail"?
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Feb 09, 2009 at 08:00:49 AM EST
This morning, The New York Times ran on its front page a headline that jumped out at me: "Already Back on the Trail, Now to Sell a Stimulus Plan."
I don't mean to mince words, but the choice of the word "already" seems noteworthy from this vantage. The word "already" seems to suggest that the editors at The Times believe it to be interesting and perhaps even surprising that just three weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama is already hitting the hustings to rally support for his agenda.
For better or for worse, politics is a zero-sum game. It's a rugby scrum. If one side stops pushing, it will be pushed backwards. So when the President isn't speaking to the American people, that leaves a real vacuum which is most likely to be filled by the opposition, both in the form of Republicans on Capitol Hill and the assembled punditry. And right now, most of what's being heard from the chattering class is opposition to President Obama's agenda, particularly the stimulus.
Think back to a somewhat analogous situation in the late summer of 2006, right after Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Lamont went on vacation and Lieberman went on the attack -- and when the dust settled, a general election that should have been winnable for Lamont became one that Lieberman won fairly handily.
So it should come as little surprise that Barack Obama is going back to one of the tactics he's best at -- speaking directly to the American people. If anything, the question should be why it took three weeks rather than why it's "already" happening three weeks into the administration.