Marc Ambinder on the complete insincerity of political communication

John does an excellent job with this Marc Ambinder piece, in which the go-to writer for administration off-the-record messaging is told by Team Bipartisan that they’re now worried about appearing weak.

In the words of “one White House aide,” Obama’s “leadership brand” has declined. (If it sounds like Obama is a product, say, dish soap, it’s because they think of him as one.)

It seems that polls are showing Obama’s rating as a “strong leader” has fallen from 73% to 52% in the last two years, and probably further, thanks to the debt ceiling debacle.

But I want to highlight something else in the Ambinder piece — the administration’s proposed solution to this decline. Note the language:

According to the two senior officials, the plan to arrest that decline is for Obama to no longer be seen as above the fray. … [T]hey will try to show the president as having specific plans and then show him fighting for them.

This is the language of appearances and appearances only. It’s like having a doll that you dress in beach clothing because the disco outfit is no longer fashionable, or you change into camouflage because “manly” polls better. It’s still just a dress-up doll.

“Show him as having plans”? “Show him fighting for them”? That’s entirely different from actually having plans, and actually fighting for them. In other words, these “senior administration officials” are telling Marc Ambinder that their plan is to manipulate surfaces in a way that’s entirely insincere.

And note: That insincerity must be invisible to the Beltway pundits and consultants who tout it — otherwise Ambinder and his “sources” wouldn’t present it as a feature.

Something to listen for as the 2012 dish soap contest approaches — the language of insincerity and advertising. (I plan to present myself as unimpressed as soon as I get the chance.)


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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