Obama Was Unprepared for Media Focus on Blago

Obama Was Unprepared for Media Focus on Blago


At the New York Post, Kirsten Powers notes that the Barack Obama team has bungled the media management of the Rod Blagojevich scandal.

The Obama camp has managed to violate almost every tenet of crisis communications – starting with Rule No. 1: Get all the information out quickly, accurately and fully.

It’s imperative that reporters don’t learn something from a third party that you could have told them. And, in the era of nonstop news, “quickly” means within 24 hours. Any longer, and reporters begin to get frustrated (they’re under pressure from their editors) and feel that you’re stonewalling them. And why would you stonewall unless you were hiding something?

Powers points out that the Obama team’s innocence in the matter is readily apparent and they had no need to procrastinate with details or shift communication methods so awkwardly. Powers details how inconsistent answers and a poorly managed approach have turned what should have been a one or two day news story into a week-long headache.

Undoubtedly, the Obama team could have handled the Blago matter with more finesse. But I think they were caught off guard by a media that has already switched from covering the young, inspiring candidate to covering a sitting president. Obama can no longer expect much benefit of the doubt. He’s not challenging power. He is power.

Given what we know about Obama, I doubt he will let his team make these kinds of communication mistakes again. The playing field has changed. Team Obama now has to change with it.

  • Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg

    “Obama can no longer expect much benefit of the doubt.”

    Yeah, that transition from hourly, tag-team fallatio to ‘once-a-day’ is a bitch, ain’t it?

    Thank God Donklephant will be there ask the hard *cough* questions no one else has the courage to ask.

  • mike mcEachran

    Who would have thought for a second that this story would dog team Obama when Blago himself in the FBI tapes exonerates them? Only a hyper caffinated media, and hyper gullible audience could make something out of this. It is so disengenuis of the media to act tough on this so they can claim they’re “balanced” when they know it’s all complete and utter nonsense. Has the media been tough enough on Obama now so they can counter the liberal media accusations? That’s what they’re after. It’s all a dumb show for the ignorant. Have a great time.

  • kranky kritter

    I agree with you Alan. To the extent that there’s any Obama story here, the story is that they didn’t handle this very well. It’s disappointing that whoever’s running the PR isn’t smart enough to understand that evasiveness can cause problems.

    There was no reason for anyone in the Obama camp to obscure the fact that the campaign had been in contact with the guy, because it was to be expected under the circumstances. The campaign and the candidate focused too much on framing their statements to put distance between them and Blago. Eventually they got around to the right answer, which is that of course there was contact because there had to be under the circumstances, and they are confident that no one on the team was involved in the illegal dealings.

    Now that Obama is going to be President, the staff (and Obama) need to do better than to come up with the right answer on their 2nd or 3rd swing. If they can’t put out most of the fires with the 1st squirt, they’ll get gobbled up once Obama’s @ss sits on the throne.

    Substantively, I don’ there’s anything to this…I don’t think Obama and his folks were involved in the sale of the seat, unless they got wind of it and actually helped to put the hammer down on Blago. But the reason the story lingered is because they failed to be clear and forthcoming from the get-go. So for me the story is not about Team Obama’s alleged involvement. The story is that they fumbled a chipshot.

  • http://thepurplecenter.blogspot.com/2008/12/blog-post.html John Burke

    I hardly think Rahm Emmanuel or David Axelrod or many of the other core members of Obama’s team are the sort who can be “caught off guard” by much of anything, from a communications standpoint.

    In this case, they were — and are — faced with a challenge the true extent of which only Patrick Fitzgerald knows, and he’s not telling.

    The question Obama had to ask himself, first, was who among my staff, my high-profile Chicago and union supporters might have done something wrong, and who among them might have done or said something that might appear to be wrong (or “inappropriate”) to others.

    That’s not an easy question to ask or answer. Obama and his team are, to a large extent, flying blind.