- 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)

69 percent (United Church of Christ)

63 percent (Anglican Church)

56 percent (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

52 percent (Presbyterian Church USA)

51 percent (United Methodist Church)

43 percent (Disciples of Christ)

40 percent (American Baptist Churches USA)

Source: Survey and analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released March 19.

Quotes of note:

“So how’s that ‘hope’ and ‘change’ working out for you?” — Bumper sticker from Rightwingswag.com.

“This career track offers rewarding, fast-paced, and high-impact challenges.” — Current recruiting ad for the CIA.

“There is ample evidence that Jesus Christ was a vegetarian.” — PBS’ “To the Contrary” host Bonnie Erbe.

“There were some George Bush-ish moments.” — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, on Mr. Obama’s speech on terrorism.

Days of yore

Happy anniversary today to Powhatan Indian princess Pocahontas and English tobacco planter John Rolfe, married on this day in Jamestown, Va., in 1614; she gave birth to their first child, Thomas, a year later.

Today also marks the anniversary of the first big American no-no: George Washington cast the first presidential veto on April 5, 1792. Daniel Bakeman, the last surviving soldier of the U.S. Revolutionary War, died on this day in 1869 — at the age of 109.

Happy birthday to Colin Powell, born in New York City in 1937. He eventually was named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989 and secretary of state in 2001.

And finally, it was bad vibrations on this day in 1983: The Beach Boys were banned from the Fourth of July concert at the White House after Interior Secretary James Watt suggested rock groups “attracted the wrong element” to such festivities and suggested Wayne Newton as an alternative. President Reagan overturned the ban two days later, the decision supported by Beach Boys fan Nancy Reagan.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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