John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Remarks Before A Business Group

Posted on November 12, 2008





  • It goes without saying that Barack Obama made history last week.  The question you want answered is how will he make history with the new Congress.  And how will that history impact you and how you do your business.

  • When Obama addressed those monster rallies in Manassas, in Chicago, in Denver, in Berlin, he wasn’t just doing it to impress the media.

  • He was doing it to collect names, emails, potential donors, and a ready-built grass-roots organization.

  • Don’t think that grass-roots organization will only be used to get Obama elected.  It will also be used to get Obama’s agenda passed.

  • Having the media on your side doesn’t hurt.  Chris Matthews said that on Morning Joe the other day that he felt it was his responsibility to help Obama be a successful President.  And Matthews is not alone.  He has had the active support of the Press from day one.  And if you don’t believe me, ask anyone from the Hillary Clinton campaign.

  • Obama will be very disciplined in his approach, especially in his messaging.

  • His appointment of Robert Gibbs as his chief spokesman is indicative of this approach.  Gibbs is bland, unexciting, rather droll, and very disciplined. 

  • Just about every word coming out of the Obama’s mouth has been carefully vetted, poll-tested and scrubbed to insure the maximum impact.  And you think George Bush was scripted!

  • I think Obama will first complete work on low-hanging fruit. He wants to have the President pass the stimulus for two reasons.  First, because I think he really wants to help the auto companies before they go under.  Second, he can focus on other things once he becomes President.

  • I would divide next year into three parts.

  • First, there is the stuff he has to do. 

  • I would include in that whatever additional stimulus, a big highway bill and a budget.

  • Second, there is the stuff that he has to sign to keep his party happy.

  • I would include among that Card Check, expanded Children’s health care, and climate change legislation.

  • Third, there are things he wants to do position himself as an agent of change.

  • That includes energy legislation, pulling our troops out of Iraq, and stopping the Reagan-star wars missile program.  I would also include comprehensive health care reform, but I would guess that he would want to do that in year 2.

  • His strategy will be to get as much out of the House as he can, so he has more to negotiate with once he gets to the Senate. 

  • Look for the budget to include a myriad of tax increases, and not just on the rich.  Expect to see sin taxes increased, like tobacco, beer, gambling, transfats, to pay for programs like S-chip. 

  • While Obama did well in this election, he has not suddenly changed the country to become left leaning.  It is still a center right country.

  • The Blue Dogs have grown to be a bigger force, and they understand that they have only 2 short years before they face the voters again.

  • That means they will look for ways to distinguish themselves from Pelosi, Rangel and Waxman.

  • And that means an opportunity for you to build alliances among the unwilling who are worried about facing the voters.

  • The budget is important because with the budget Obama can get reconciliation, and with reconciliation, he can get his tax increases through the Senate with 50 votes. 

  • So, in the first six months he will pass card check, Schip reuthorization, something on Stem Cells, and some other parts of the Democratic wish list.  He will move some additional troops moved out of Iraq, and he will attempt to make quick progress on a budget that includes his plans for a middle class tax cut, with a sharp increase in taxes on “rich people” and a myriad of sin taxes.

  • He will use his huge database to attack the special interests, to call for shared sacrifice, and to push for his health care, energy and climate change programs. 

  • As representatives of the business community, your job is not just merely to raise money to give to candidates.  It will also be your job to mobilize your own grassroots network, using the latest technology, to build alliances to start the process of getting your side of the story out.  Obama will seek to divide you, to pit one industry against another.  Your job is to fight back to defend, as best you can, the free-market. 

  • Only by organizing and communicating can you compete with the new President, who will not only have the bully pulpit, he will also have a vast grass-roots network and the media on his side.