- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

Does President Obama need more FDR, less Jimmy Carter and a dose of Ronald Reagan to ensure the staying power of his personal brand?

Media discretion could be the secret of commanding the global stage.

“Let’s face it, a president should probably be rarely heard and seen and then only strategically. There’s a reason why the Wizard of Oz stayed behind his curtain. There is something about the office of the presidency that just doesn’t do well with too much accessibility and too much of a human touch. Ronald Reagan understood this and played the presidency with the right doses of warmth, balance and gravitas,” says John Tantillo, a Manhattan marketing expert and Fox News contributor.

He was the man who persuaded Fox to change “The O’Reilly Report” to “The O’Reilly Factor” and thus tweak the course of history.

“But it’s not Reagan who President Obama should take a page from. Obama is a crisis president and one crisis president should follow the lead of another: FDR. So how did Roosevelt strike a balance? Two words: Fireside chats. Roosevelt’s fireside chats let the people in, but just enough, and only to show what he wanted to show. The people knew he was bright, but they didn’t want or need to hear all the backroom deliberations and wavering. Most important, they came away comforted because they knew Roosevelt was in charge.”

Mr. Obama’s appearances on late night TV “diluted his brand,” Mr. Tantillo says. And while he gives the president points for his town meetings, he cautions against overexposure. One thing got kudos, though. Mr. Obama recently likened America to a huge ship that takes time to alter course. Mr. Tantillo praised that allegory.

“Now this was Roosevelt, the master of lowering expectations while instilling hope. President Obama should apply his ship example to his presidency. A presidential brand can go in either a good or bad direction. It does this gradually, mistakes or triumphs gradually mounting up. If the negatives are not kept firmly in check from the beginning, a toxic image can be created that might never be erased.”

They’re desperate

And speaking of branding, the “war on terror” and “enemy combatants” — two gutsy terms of the previous administration — are no more. They’ve been erased from the Obama lexicon by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who calls terrorism “man-caused disasters,” and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who officially confirmed that the phrase “war on terror” is also no longer officially active.

But she also has insight on terrorists themselves.

“The Taliban consists of hard-core committed extremists with whom there is not likely to be any chance of any kind of reconciliation or reintegration. But it is our best estimate that the vast majority of Taliban fighters and members are people who are not committed to a cause so much as acting out of desperation,” Mrs. Clinton said recently.

Oh. So that’s it. Now we know. Someone be sure to tell Centcom.

By the numbers

What percent of Protestant denominations say homosexuality should be accepted?

70 percent (Episcopal Church USA)

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