A couple of interesting things have happened over the last few weeks that offer an insight into professional politics. It’s all about the spin, baby.
First, consider this: It is pretty much optional for a president to get involved in a weather event like Hurricane Irene. Oh, maybe there’s some political risk to not being out front, but if Hurricane Katrina is any lesson, it’s that getting out front can be a liability. Nobody thinks, “Good job, Bushy” when they recall the president at the time saying, “Good job, Brownie.”
Why do you suppose President Obama made such a point of involving himself and federal resources in battling a weather event that was well handled by states, localities, and people? Because it gave him a chance to be presidential. In a way that he wanted.
Hurricane Irene allowed everyone in the political-watching classes to take a day or two off from the economy and joblessness. President Obama got to reinforce his image as the president-not-presiding-over-a-continuing-bad-economy. And he made the most of it.
The economy is not going away, of course, and President Obama has planned for some time to address the economy in September. An interesting thing happened on the way to the speech, though. He doesn’t seem to have checked with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives before scheduling his speech in the House chamber for tomorrow, September 7th.
Speaker Boehner said, “Mmmmm, no. Why don’t you come back on Thursday, a night on which there isn’t a Republican presidential debate.” Shorter version: “It’s MY House!”
Political watchers take that as either a notable gaffe on the part of the president and his team, or a notable thumbing-of-the-nose on the part of the House Speaker.
You don’t have to agree with the way we’ve told the story here. Doesn’t matter. All of this goes to the kabuki dance that dominates so much of politics. Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s getting the best table at the fancy steak house?
When questions like that filter out to the public, it can make the difference. If people generally feel good about a president, he can command a lot more attention, he can move votes in the House and Senate, he can raise more funds. If he doesn’t look all that good, nothing goes as easily.
It’s interesting to watch the politics. We put more emphasis here on the policy. What actually gets into bills and into law matters more. But when that’s not available—and it is really hard, despite us, to follow what goes on—politics is good entertainment.