John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Obama and Ahmadinejad

Posted on September 22, 2010
I wonder if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has an early copy of Bob Woodward’s new book.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly. (photo courtesy AFP)

The bearded one has been on a successful public relations tour before his United Nations speech tomorrow.  Before leaving for the Big Apple, he released one of the American hikers that his government has been holding hostage, and hosted NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in Tehran for an interview last week.  He starred in hilarious home-erotic tribute from comedian Adam Samberg on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, and chided the United States for moving forward on the execution of a female murderer.  He got Esquire magazine to run an article entitled “5 Reasons Ahmadinejad Might Just Be Good for the World.”  And he has done a bunch of other interviews, trying to put himself in a more positive light.

This, my friends, is called strategic communications.

Mr. Obama and his team could learn something from the guy we like to call “crazy”.

Ahmandinejad reportedly is in tough shape back home.  The Iranian people are getting sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Their economy is a mess.  A bunch of Iranians are still sore about how their President stole the last election (in fact, two high-ranking diplomats just defected to show their displeasure).  They are tired of being isolated.  And none of Mahmoud’s campaign promises have been kept.   So, coming to New York is a welcome reprieve for the Holocaust denier extraordinaire.

Obama’s public relations team set up a town hall meeting with CNBC, which made a star out of an African-American businesswoman and Obama voter who said that defending this President exhausts her.  The event may have been packed with folks who voted for Obama two years ago, but they aren’t going to vote for him again.

Obama’s team also fell victim to the charm of Bob Woodward.  The President and his squad, according to the excerpts I read, look divided, distracted, and disappointing.

Woodward quotes Obama as saying, “we can survive a terrorist attack,” a statement, while it may be true, is not something that voters want to hear 40 some days before an election.  Woodward also claims that Obama’s strategic vision in Afghanistan is much different than his top military experts.  Where the generals want to win the war, Obama wants to win re-election. The Post writes, “Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the “classic” terms of the United States winning or losing.  “I think about it more in terms of:  Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end,” he said.

But according to the New York Times, he later said:  “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”  So, while he won’t think of the war in terms of winning or losing, he does think that way when it comes to his own political future.

The book is chock full of other tidbits.  David Axelrod doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton.  Joe Biden thinks that Richard Holbrooke is “the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met,” apparently confirming that Biden has never met himself.  David Petraeus has minimal high regard for David Axelrod, a “complete spin doctor”, according to the book.

In the good news department (unless you are a left-winger) Obama has kept in place or expanded 14 intelligence orders issued by President Bush, which provides the legal basis for the CIA worldwide covert operations.  Maybe Bush wasn’t that dumb after all.

The striking thing about this book is how dysfunctional the Obama team looks from the inside.  History will give them a lot of credit for running a top-notch Presidential campaign in 2008, but campaigning is much different than governing.

Their failures aren’t just about public relations.  Their policies are bad too.  But on the PR front, they can learn something from Tehran’s bearded wonder.  He may be crazy, but at least Mr. Ahmadinejad can execute a strategic communications plan.

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