One of the challenging aspects to a democratically elected government at any level is balancing the very different rhetorical styles in campaigning versus governing. The campaign rhetoric has to be shaped to present the candidate in the best light and his opponents in the worst light. The governing rhetoric has to not only find a way to work with opponents but address a wider range of listeners and interests. Those in power have to measure their words much more carefully than those seeking power, because the governing rhetoric can have a strong impact immediately among a wider audience. Not balancing Campaign and governing rhetoric with their proper weight can give a leader real political headaches.
The Obama Administration is learning that fact. The Obama campaign was one of the best campaigns ever waged in American politics. However, bringing that campaign rhetoric to the White House is having some mixed results.
The Obama Administration seems bent on presenting the United States economy as depression like. It seems to want to create low expectations for success in the next couple of years. It is smart campaign rhetoric. It creates a dire problem, and woe is me expectations. Which, when things turn around, as they naturally do in such situations, around 2011 or so, the 2012 campaign can be waged portraying Obama as the hero who beat the great problems better than even he thought he could.
However, such rhetoric is risky as it is being espoused by those with power. President Obama took a campaign approach to the economy in his Monday night press conference, and that was followed by the Secretary of Treasury coming across as a guy who hoped things would work out but was not sure in his Tuesday morning speech. The result was a sharp drop in the stock market Tuesday. Such was an indicator that gaming for 2010 Congressional elections and 2012 could actually cause people to lose their confidence in a recovery and thus do things that prevent a recovery. A big part of economics is psychological. If the leaders do not appear confident of recovery, the people will not, and thus they will not spend or invest, and the cycle deepens.
The President faces a tricky political situation. On one hand he probably has pressure from Democratic insiders to keep blaming Republicans for making things as bad as they can get and portray himself and Democrats as working to right things. On the other hand, the President, as the leader of the United States, has an obligation to reassure the American people that recovery can and will happen, and frankly, that things have been worse in this country's history. The former will reduce the Republicans to way of the Whigs if it works. If the the latter is eschewed and the campaign rhetoric goes too far and deepens the recession and lack of confidence in the economy, it will destroy Obama's Presidency and the Democratic party.
Such a balancing act is just on the economy. Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, etc, all are all balancing acts with such dilemmas. Over the next few months we will learn about President Obama and the people around him. Will they govern or will they campaign?