John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Jimmy Carter Redux?

Posted on August 12, 2009

Jimmy Carter Redux


            Interesting story in today’s Wall Street Journal ( about the management style of President Barack Obama.  It seems that he is a micromanager.


“In a White House ritual new with this administration, the president gathers with his advisers every weekday morning for an Oval Office update and debate on the economy. The breadth of topics is wide, from the underemployed to childhood obesity, and Mr. Obama often dives into the minutiae.In the sessions, according to those who attend, the president sometimes chafes at his advisers' limitations, quizzing them on points raised by critics or asking them to do justice to a view other than their own. At times he quotes from letters sent to the White House to counter a stance taken by his team.A president's management style can set the tone for an administration. Jimmy Carter was a famed micromanager, often at odds with his own advisers, and he caught a lot of Beltway criticism for his focus on policy details. "If the two risks are operating at too generalized a level or micromanaging, you need to find a balance between the two," says Peter Orszag, the White House budget director.  Whatever the merits or flaws of Mr. Obama's style, it sometimes has trouble translating with opponents, and the country at large. Following a smooth first few months in office, he has seen his agenda stall amid rising opposition, even from some members of his own party. His approval rating with the public in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll late last month was barely over 50%, down from 61% in April.”


            This is the new storyline put out by the White House, in an effort to show that the President is engaged, that he has a firm handle on the issues and that he knows what he is doing.


            Of course, that would conflict with what the public sees of this President.  They see him give speeches and do town hall meetings.  They see him do photo-ops and eat hamburgers.  They see him go on dates with his wife, throw out first pitches at baseball games, and attend other sporting events.  They see him act as his own press secretary.  They see him on 60 Minutes, on The Tonight Show, and in other cameo appearances.


            What they don’t see is the President actually engaging the Congress and getting real results.  They don’t see him telling Nancy Pelosi to stop governing from the far left.  They don’t see any bipartisanship action from this President.  A lot of bipartisan talk, but no bipartisan action.


            So, the White House wants us to know that the President is so engaged, he is a micromanager on the par of Jimmy Carter.  They believe that it is better to be compared to Jimmy Carter than it is to be seen to be completely out to lunch. 


            Interesting strategy.   Very troubling, but interesting nonetheless. 

Subscribe to the Feehery Theory Newsletter, exclusively on Substack.
Learn More