Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Turning to the left or to the center?

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published November 17, 2009

Is President Barack Obama governing from the left or from the center? It’s a question no one quite seems to have a clear answer to. The post-ideological positioning that worked so well during the campaign is not proving as effective at holding the electoral coalition together given the mounting pressures of governing.

During the campaign, Obama nodded to the left on the Iraq war and civil liberties, but he also sent signals to the center that he would operate in a generally bipartisan manner, pursue the Afghanistan war vigorously and not raise taxes on 95 percent of all Americans. Centrist voters are looking to see that these promises are kept.

While the White House communications have been stellar overall, the echo chamber out there has left some uncertainty about important issues in the voters’ minds. Is the administration for or against waging the Afghanistan war on an all-out basis, including taking down the Taliban? Are jobs or regulating Wall Street its top priority? Should the insurance drug companies be reined in or an accommodation reached?

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: White House is right to push back

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published October 27, 2009

Republicans suggest that the aggressive move by the Obama White House to take on people and organizations that disagree with it and oppose its policies is an unprecedented abuse of government resources.

This is, of course, nonsense.

The Obama team is engaged in a series of tough legislative and press battles and is stepping up its game, not stepping over the line. And the actions taken by the White House are mild and pale compared with those of the Gingrich and Bush years.

Let’s look at the Republican record on this.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Crossroads to action

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published October 6, 2009

We are in the midst of the Obama administration’s most important week to date, as it faces three decisions that, taken together, could very well shape its legacy.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Obama should carry, not be, the story

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published September 25, 2009

President Barack Obama can’t be faulted for following the failed Rose Garden strategy of some of his predecessors. Instead, he is inventing a new approach — a prime-time strategy that has him out, about and on television virtually all the time.

By and large, this strategy has worked. But he’s on the edge of saturation exposure. An economist I know said recently if you have the marketplace cornered with a precious good, you get the highest price by restricting the supply, not by making it available to everyone.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Health care needs a clear message

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published September 1, 2009

The Obama administration’s health care reform efforts are spinning out of control, and the White House is taking on water, seeing its ratings fall and its leadership questioned. For a president whose communication skills are so justifiably well-regarded, the biggest obstacle comes as a surprise: the need for a clear and simple message of how his team’s version of health care reform will benefit ordinary Americans.

The administration must answer a series of questions before selling its plan to the public. What is the simple goal of health care reform? Control costs? Get a public option? Cover everyone? Cripple the insurance industry, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) describes as the villain of the health care system?

The Obama team must also consider what Americans really want from their health care system. From the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, America has been a country of no limits on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Americans want universal care as they define it — the unlimited right to have all the health care they need and access to the latest technologies to live longer and extend the lives of their loved ones. Voters are looking for health care reform that offers tangible benefits.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: End class warfare

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published July 29, 2009

It sounds so simple: Just tax the few to pay for social programs that benefit the many.

Yet no political idea — embodied by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call to tax the wealthy to cover health care for everyone else — has ever proved more contentious. The country was founded on the principle of unlimited and unbounded opportunity. Despite what poll questions often appear to say, class warfare language, outside the Democratic primary electorate, has always been politically counterproductive, because it divides Americans from one another and from their own aspirations and dreams.

And class warfare could be especially problematic now, considering that many of the Democratic Party’s newest supporters are among the highest-income categories — groups that had previously voted overwhelmingly Republican.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: The 10 percent unemployment tripwire

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published July 9, 2009

Unless some tough decisions are made soon, rising jobless figures will most likely hit what could be a public opinion and political tripwire: 10 percent unemployment.

If and when the country crosses that line, it will be the No. 1 news story for days, recent stock market gains could recede, and consumer confidence will fall. And whether or not the economic crisis is coming to an end, such a high unemployment level has the potential to undermine the hard-won confidence enjoyed by the Obama administration. The Republicans will quickly claim all we have is more debt and fewer jobs.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: Health care reform done right

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published June 18, 2009

Everyone knows the story of what went wrong in 1993 with health care reform: virtually everything.

The plan was written by a White House task force, all the health care interests bitterly opposed it and spent heavily against it, the Republicans moved to kill it, Democrats in Congress got cold feet, and the reputations of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton administration were thrown for a loop. The 1994 midterm elections changed both houses of Congress, and for years afterward, health care reform was achieved only incrementally.

While Hillary Clinton and others spearheaded the move to cover 6 million children with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, little else got done. Medical records remain a shambles, the medical malpractice system is broken, the number of uninsured is up and the Medicare trust fund is looking like a subprime mortgage.

The core political problem of health care is really not about all of the rhetoric or posturing. It’s about the math of universal health care.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner with Mark Penn: N. Korea, Iran nukes

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published June 3, 2009

To: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

While America has been preoccupied with the fight over the Guantanamo detainees and now the GM bankruptcy, and the United Kingdom has been distracted by the expense forms of its parliamentary members, two other countries have decided to move forward with their plans for nuclear weapons: North Korea and Iran.

Their actions have become remarkably brazen.

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Politico: The Strategy Corner: Pelosi’s Action Plan

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published May 20, 2009

To Hon. Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

The accusations that the CIA did not properly disclose its waterboarding activities to you in 2002 are making you a lightning rod for criticism from the right and causing a split within Democratic ranks at a time when party unity is essential for the big fights ahead on health care and energy reform.

President Barack Obama has planted his feet firmly in the center on the war against terror and upped the troop levels in Afghanistan, allowed modified military trials and quashed the torture abuse photos that would have captured headlines and sympathy. Given that, he is making you appear out of step with his strategy and goals.

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