MEMO FROM A FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER

Sam Smith

The following memo was discovered in the White House desk of Oliver G.Chortlelywell, former presidential public relations adviser, shortly after he had resigned his post in order, as he put it, “to spend more time with my family and pursue other interests.”

HOW TO CHANGE THE OBAMA IMAGE FOR THE BETTER

1. Stop behaving like a movie actor and start acting like a politician. The actor shtick worked fine to get you elected, but once in office people want a leader, not a leading man.

2. Specifically, knock off the repeated displays of your finger pressed against your cheek and other corny efforts to appear deeply thoughtful. People will judge your thoughtfulness by the results not by the warm-up.

3. No more jogging down the last few steps getting off Air Force 1 or when going up to the podium. Not even champion marathon runners do that and when you do it, you look like the host of a third rate cable TV show.

4. My surveys found that the only person in your administration most Americans would want to have a beer with is Joe Biden. Act more like Biden and less like Bismarck and you’ll do better in the polls.

5. My surveys also found that it’s not your ethnicity that’s the big problem but class. Too many Americans think you belong to an elite class that not only is not theirs but one they don’t like that much.

6. Worse, you seem to celebrate your membership in this subculture. Unfortunately, the unintended effect is that you often seem stuck up and to be lecturing or speaking down to your audience. I read about a drama teacher who taught a chief financial officer how to speak better by reading aloud the works of Dr. Seuss. Maybe you should give it a try.

7. To the extent that ethnicity is a problem, it is largely due to the fact that you have ignored the first rule for minority politicians in America: lead the majority. The Irish understood this instinctively but among black leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the few who had a feeling for it. That’s why he’s one of America’s few cross-ethnic heroes. He consciously led not just blacks, but whites, into the future. Jesse Jackson, in his memorable presidential run, was on the same track, picking up surprising support from white farmers and other non-blacks who were struggling. So far you’ve done virtually nothing for strugglers of any color.

8. I noticed that you listed yourself as black on the census form. This is suggests another problem. Here you are – a biologic and cultural symbol of the growing multiculturalism with which America is struggling and you don’t even want to even put in writing, let alone talk about it. This is a great lost opportunity. You could have personalized a new America, but you took what appeared to be the easy route.

9. Most folks think lawyers are people you go to for legal advice, not to tell them how to run their lives. You approach issues like a lawyer and not like a politician, which is a major reason you’re in so much trouble. Design your policy based on what’s good for the country and the people, then check to see if there are any legal problems. Stop doing it the other way around.

10. Although most don’t know the term, you and your administration come across as higher functioning autistics – people with command over data and other information but unable to integrate it into normal human existence.

11. While we’re on the subject, dump Arne Duncan. He’s the worst of the lot. I heard him the other day answering a teacher who was complaining about excessive test taking by saying we needed better assessments. In other words, more tests. If you don’t want to fire him, maybe he could undergo Asperger’s therapy to help him learn that the important choices in life do not all begin with A., B., C. D. and blank boxes.

12. Keep it simple, keep clear and get it down to the ‘hood. The only visible sign I can find of the stimulus package in my community is one-eight mile of road improvement. I think of the remaining two miles of bumps and holes as the part Obama forgot.

13. About this shovel ready business: how come public works had to be shovel ready but major healthcare reforms don’t have to come in until 2014 or 2019? The future isn’t always shovel ready, but people still like to know it’s coming.

14. Thirty percent into your first term, ordinary people are still out of work, still without decent health care, and still in danger of foreclosure. All that many of them can see is the size of the deficit and where it is going – to Wall Street and not to help them. This is a major cause of their anger. Can’t your brilliant Harvard and Yale assistants come up with one or two plans that will really make people feel better?

15. Your most effective campaign organization consists of other Democratic politicians. But your programs have given them little to brag about, your funding fails to get down to a level where they can take credit for it, and your policies are on verge of ending many of their careers. This is not good politics. Get things to their level and let them have a piece of the action and the glory and you’ll find it will make you look a lot better than if you try to hog it all for your self.

16. If things don’t improve, resign and let Joe Biden take over and appoint you to the Supreme Court. I think you’d be much happier there and so would be the better part of the American public.

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