[Seven] Stories Obama Doesn’t Want Told

Presidential politics is about storytelling. Presented with a vivid storyline, voters naturally tend to fit every new event or piece of information into a picture that is already neatly framed in their minds.

No one understands this better than Barack Obama and his team, who won the 2008 election in part because they were better storytellers than the opposition. The pro-Obama narrative featured an almost mystically talented young idealist who stood for change in a disciplined and thoughtful way. This easily outpowered the anti-Obama narrative, featuring an opportunistic Chicago pol with dubious relationships who was more liberal than he was letting on.

A year into his presidency, however, Obama’s gift for controlling his image shows signs of faltering. As Washington returns to work from the Thanksgiving holiday, there are several anti-Obama storylines gaining momentum.

The Obama White House argues that all of these storylines are inaccurate or unfair. In some cases these anti-Obama narratives are fanned by Republicans, in some cases by reporters and commentators.

But they all are serious threats to Obama, if they gain enough currency to become the dominant frame through which people interpret the president’s actions and motives.

Here are seven storylines Obama needs to worry about:

  • He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money
  • Too much Leonard Nimoy
  • That’s the Chicago Way
  • He’s a pushover
  • President Pelosi
  • He’s in love with the man in the mirror
  • But, as the novelty of a new president wears off, the Obama cult of personality risks coming off as mere vanity unless it is harnessed to tangible achievements.

    That is why the next couple of months — with health care and Afghanistan jostling at center stage — will likely carry a long echo. Obama’s best hope of nipping bad storylines is to replace them with good ones rooted in public perceptions of his effectiveness.

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