Tonight, the President will hold a prime time news conference in hopes of building support for his stimulus package. No matter the poll, you will find that support is falling. As such, this is a critical press conference, not three weeks into his Presidency, and so the President has lots to accomplish.
1) Quantify and be specific
In my opinion, the President is losing the debate on the stimulus because its opponents have been able to quantify that which they don't like. When opponents of the bill speak of the "pork" in it, they don't merely allude to pork. Rather, they list the project and how much it will cost. Opponents have found plenty of pork and soon it has become a laundry list of projects with a price tag. Numbers have a way of affecting the mind in a way that vague allusions do not.
If the President is to be successful, he needs to be just as quantified and specific as his opponents. I would choose a handful of projects and talk about them. Talk about how some road in some town is decaying. Talk about how this has caused delays and other troubles on the roads. Talk about how refinishing said road will bring in X number of jobs to that town. If he does that with a handful of projects, people will be able to see the stimulus at work. It isn't enough to say that this will increase jobs. We need to see the jobs.
2) Address the many 800 pound gorillas in the room.
There are several serious concerns that people have with this stimulus and so far, the President has ignored them. First, people are concerned that this massive new debt will either 1) lead to massive inflation or 2) lead to massive debt for the next generations. These are not inconsequential concerns and they must be addressed. The President should make it clear that this spending is entirely temporary. He should be clear that as soon as the economy recovers he will be committed to not only balancing the budget but paying it down. The President must make clear that this spending is only being done for a temporary jolt. Once the economy is stimulated, he will make a commitment to very serious fiscal responsibility.
Other people are concerned that this stimulus will lead us toward a socialist Democratic government like France. Newsweek had an article about this very phenomenon. Americans generally do NOT want our economy to look like France. This massive government infusion cannot be seen as an ideological ploy. The President must make clear that he is committed to the free market in the long term. He has to make clear that this government infusion is short term. It will not lead to any sort of long term ideological shift. The folks cannot believe that President Obama is looking to transform our economy into something like France. He must make it clear that this is NOT his intention.
3) no more partisanship and no more blaming Bush.
There is nothing worse in the mortgage business then when a loan blows up and everyone points fingers at everyone else about why it happened. It's simply not good enough for the President to sell this plan by saying it's all Bush's fault. This is the President's plan. There are alternatives to this plan. Rather than deriding Bush and the Republicans, he should sell the plan on its own merits. Pointing out that he won the election is not indicative that this is a good plan. Such rhetoric needs to stop or he will lose the debate. He must sell his plan on its own merits.
Deriding your opponents and bashing your predecessor is NOT Presidential. It wins no converts. It only appeals to the choir known as your base, and they are already converted. The President needs to stick to what is in this plan and why it will be stimulative. That's it.
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