December 03, 2009

What on Earth is Obama Doing?


As a marketing professional, I stress Expectations Management as one of the most vital tools in a company's communications arsenal. And strictly from this standpoint, Barack Obama is committing suicide.

He ran on a peace platform, and promised to quickly end the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. So, that is exactly what we all expected him to do upon reaching office.

So, when he gives a speech like he did the other night about increasing the troop count in Afghanistan by 30,000 and prolonging this war, we're simply left scratching our heads saying, "Really???"

For those who voted for Obama primarily on his anti-war rhetoric, they feel cheated. For those who voted against Obama because they want to "win" both these wars, they're just confused. They're not cheering his turn toward their cause. They just think he's a whack-job for flip-flopping.

From a pragmatic, objectivist standpoint, we should be glad that this man took the time he did to thoughtfully think through both the short- and long-term consequences of our actions, regardless of his final decision.

From a marketing standpoint, he's hanging himself.

(Tomorrow, we will continue this discussion with a guest post by Jarrett Harris. If you would like to contribute a post to this forum on any subject in order to spur debate, please e-mail it to me.)

12 comments:

John said...

During his campaign he said he would bring a swift end to the Iraq war but would do what is necessary in afghanistan. He said that in several debates with McCain when he was challenged on being weak. He's been as transparent as he can reasonably be. Isn't that all we wanted before?

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me what he has done beside anger the credit card companies that are now taking it out on the public???

Eric Olsen said...

John, that's exactly what his and advisors know that he SAID. but, i'm talking about public perception based on what we expect from him. even more than a pragmatist, he ran as the anti-war candidate. so, it's just confusing for some, and shocking for others when we hear his opinions now, even if he believes they are fully consistent with his long term stance.

John said...

But at the same time he can't be faulted for doing something that is seemingly necessary. Would we rather him sit on his hand? Also I don't believe he ran on an Anti war campaign at all. He consistently addressed that fact throughout it. He always said he would do what was necessary. Perception is reality I know but it seemed he tried to disspell that perception along the way. Also the idea that he "hasn't done anything" is uninformed and silly. And I am not a Barack apologist btw. Haha.

Eric Olsen said...

yeah, i don't even understand the context of anonymous' comment. maybe you're right john, and it'll go over better than i think. maybe i was projecting my expectations of him on a macro-level.

for instance, when all these pundits say "he ran on healthcare reform. therefore, his election is a mandate to provide it..." i think they're all crazy, because in my head, he avoided the healthcare debate as much as possible, especially early on in the campaign. maybe we hear what we want to hear?

chris said...

Barack Obama was an anti-IRAQ war candidate but has consistently held the position that he wishes to ESCALATE the war in Afghanistan (and even his Iraq war position is a bit weak when you consider how un-politically-risky that stance was when he was primarily representing UofC faculty in the Illinois state senate; furthermore this longstanding PRO Afghan war position is the reason why so many of us on the left have opposed him from the very beginning of his campaign).

I meant to highlight this point a few weeks back when you posted about the Nobel Prize (claiming he "ran on a peace platform"). He ran as BOTH a pro-war and anti-war candidate but most folks only recognized the latter (maybe because of his brilliant marketing strategy during the campaign - maybe because those on the right still thought we were engaged in only one war?)

Sure perception matters, but when the guy has been stating unequivocally for three years that he wants more war in Afghanistan he can hardly be accused of flip-flopping (granted, he is a flip-flopper, see public option).

People (on the right and left) are only confused because they've chosen to ignore his policy positions over his person. As much as I've hated his pro-war position - then and now - it's a stretch to argue that they are anything but consistent. If you were left scratching your head it's because you simply weren't paying attention.

Looking forward to TJH!

John said...

I dont know who this Chris character is but I love his action. Nicely said.

Dianna said...

If you'll forgive me throwing in my two cents, I think this whole discussion brings up a very interesting point. Because John and Chris are right. Obama's actually been consistent on his stance toward Afghanistan. From a speech he made before the election in 2008:

It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world’s most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

He's made other comments to address that same point, and if he's ever contradicted himself on Afghanistan, I've missed it (internet tone alert: NO sarcasm intended there; he may very well have given a speech while hanging from the roof of the White House, screaming "NO WAR IN AFGHANISTAN!!!" I just haven't seen it, yet. :D).

BUT, if so many people have perceived him to be against BOTH the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, I think your marketing point is valid. He didn't market himself -- or flip -- as being against the war in Afghanistan, but he HAS to figure out a way to get America's perception of him (and his policies) to better match the reality, for his own sake. I may have disagreed with a lot of what Bush was doing, but at least I knew where he stood, so that I COULD disagree. Obama, so far, hasn't always done a good job of emphasizing the issues that are most important to him, and where he stands on them.

He allowed Afghanistan to get lost in the shuffle of health care reform, so when it's suddenly thrust in the spotlight again, I can't blame people for failing to remember that Afghanistan was the war he supported. When people aren't sure about what you're selling, that's usually poor marketing.

Eric Olsen said...

great stuff, guys. My wife read this thread last night and said, "Yeah... you're ALL right! Just because he's consistent doesn't mean it's smart marketing."

For the record, Chris is our Harvard-bred socialist, who has a small circle of overlap with me (which makes those days fun when we team up on fools) but is mostly here to steer the debate to the other side when I go too far one way.

I'll admit to personally being surprised at Obama's decision, and confess that I must not have been paying enough attention the past 2 years. But if a guy who reads two weekly news periodicals has that reaction, I can't imagine what the general populace thinks.

Kara said...

While the key substantive issue of this post has already been addressed, I would like to add that the use of the phrases "committing suicide" and "hanging himself" with reference to Obama is at at the least inflammatory and disrespectful, in my view, even though they were not literal. Moreover, as Obama is a black American, the second phrase can be linked to lynching, a horrible legacy of this country. I am not suggesting that this was your intention, and there is a long history of disrespect of presidents from all political persuasions. Just something to keep in mind.

Eric Olsen said...

the fact that the ultra-PC Chris didn't bring it up makes me feel pretty safe. he has successfully helped me completely remove both the words "retarded" and "homosexual" from my vocabulary.

But a good thing to keep in mind.

chris said...

Don't speak too soon, Sabai! Actually "hanging himself" set off an audible gasp from me but I (cowardly) kept quiet because I was afraid my last few comments were already too combative! Kudos to Kara and glad you're watching your language ;)