The Prime-Time President

A president, especially one very gifted in public speaking, can move mountains simply by going on television and appealing directly to the people. (Much, much more effective than hiring a Tom Daschle or anyone else.)

Reagan's experience as an actor on the screen and on television gave him an enormous advantage as politics moved fully into its television era. His mastery of the television medium earned for him the title, "the great communicator."He perfected the art of "going public," appealing to the American public on television to put pressure on Congress to support his policies. The rhetoric of this "prime-time president" suited television perfectly. Whether delivering a State of the Union address, eulogizing the crew of the Challenger, or speaking directly to the nation about his strategic defense initiative he captured the audience's attention by appealing to shared values, creating a vision of a better future, telling stories of heroes, evoking memories of a mythic past, exuding a spirit of "can-do" optimism, and converting complex issues into simple language the people could understand and enjoy.

(emphasis added)

Museum of Broadcast Communications

Our current president could do the same thing as Ronald Reagan did. He could go on TV in prime time. Explain his stimulus plan (or healthcare plan, or energy plan) in simple terms.  Illustrate how the plan makes sense with everyday examples. Be compelling. Appeal to patriotism, to our common goals as Americans to move the country forward. Urge all Americans, Democrats and Republicans and Independents, to write and e-mail and call their Representatives and Senators.  Urge Americans to tell Congress, especially the loyal opposition in Congress, to support this sensible plan. United we stand...

President Obama's career has been as a legislator. He's already accustomed to the tools and strategies of that arena. As president, he now must become accustomed to using a powerful new tool - the bully pulpit.  The sooner, the better.

Tags: Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, television (all tags)



Re: The Prime-Time President

 This is excellent advice, and very timely. I hope that Obama and his crew are listening. After all, they have shown almost zero appreciation of the power of television and the new media in reaching people with their message over the last 14 months or so. They better get on the stick!

by QTG 2009-02-05 01:55AM | 0 recs
Re: The Prime-Time President

Team Obama obviously made great use of the new media in the campaign. But I think a polished, scripted address on primetime TV remains the very best the way to capture the attention of the nation and motivate citizens to rally in support of administration policy. It's not something a president can do very frequently; the networks aren't as willing as they used to be to give presidents free airtime. But the networks do still, at moments of great import, offer a president the opportunity to make a primetime address to the nation.  That's an opportunity Obama should seize.

by Rob in Vermont 2009-02-05 02:34AM | 0 recs
Re: The Prime-Time President

I'd love to see him reprise the "Fired-Up, Ready-to-Go!" speech with appropriate modifications for  beating down the nay-saying Republican neo-hoovers.

I can never get enough of that one.

by QTG 2009-02-05 07:11AM | 0 recs


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