John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Limits of the Bully Pulpit

Posted on July 26, 2011
President Obama has not been shy lately in trying to use the power of the bully pulpit to get his way on Capitol Hill.

It is not clear that his bully pulpit approach is working.

I listened to the President’s address last night on the radio (yes, I went old school), and predictably, I found his comments to be unconvincing. He talked about his balanced approach (which, to be clear, is different than a balanced budget; which is a pipe dream in his vision of the future), he blamed Republicans for being stubborn, he talked about raising taxes on the wealthy (which nobody in Congress includes in their plan), and then he used the same rhetoric he has used time and again.

I doubt the speech worked well for the President. He has been pounding on these message points for weeks, and if anything, his poll numbers have grown worse. Both Gallup and Rasmussen have found that the President has hit historically high disapproval ratings.

Democrats in the Congress are doing worse. They trail the Republicans by four points in the latest polls. This is after the President has thrown everything he can at them. He has tried every trick in the book. He played the Social Security card. His team has played the Medicare card. He has thrown the tax cuts for the rich card, he has implied that the Republicans are unpatriotic and that the Tea Party is stupid. He has tried to drive a wedge between Boehner and Cantor, between McConnell and Cantor, between Congressional Republicans and Republicans who are running for President. Nothing has worked to put more than a dent in the GOP armor.

The Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader finally kicked the President out of the room, a move that so infuriated the White House that Bill Daley used the “V” word over the weekend. But that will hardly slow the Congress. They will pass something and dare the President to veto it.

Mr. Obama has said a lot on the debt limit, although little of what he said is at all interesting. He may think he can pound the bully pulpit and get his way, but that is not how it works. The President’s best bet is to get the best deal he can and get this thing off his plate.