By Kevin Foley
"For the past years, our energy policy in this country has been simply to let the special interests have their way opening up loopholes for the oil companies and speculators so that they could reap record profits while the rest of us pay $4.00 a gallon."
— Barack Obama, June 22, 2008
The president is blamed for gasoline prices approaching five bucks a gallon when it’s actually oil futures speculation driving up the cost of petrol.
It’s a very simple explanation supported by facts that seems to have eluded the President’s policy and communications staffs. It’s not the first time they’ve let their man take the hit when he could be making hay out of a crucially important economic issue.
Wall Street wise guys are having their way with middle class wallets, banking millions on oil futures contracts while millions more decide to forego luxuries like summer vacations with grandma in Des Moines.
Main Street pays off Wall Street. Again.
Here’s a slam dunk issue for Obama. But he has done almost nothing to help Americans understand they’re just ATMs for guys with lavish vacation homes on Martha’s Vineyard, where they’ll repair to this summer to enjoy the good life while teachers, firemen, truck drivers and factory workers are forced to decide between gas or groceries.
When he made the above remarks, Obama also proposed a crackdown on oil futures speculation that has yet to happen. Why isn’t Obama standing in front of a gas station advertising four-seventy a gallon gas demanding that oil futures market be strictly regulated? Why isn’t he blasting the real culprits’ hubris and greed that drives up the price of gas along with everything else?
It’s been apparent for awhile that Obama has lost touch with the trials and tribulations of the middle class and working poor and it’s hurting him badly just as things were beginning to look up. But remember that Obama is a lawyer through and through and there is nothing so abhorrent to an attorney as a public relations campaign.
If you’ve been in PR for any length of time you know the phrase, "It has to go through legal." And you also probably know that after it goes through legal, much of the important information is blanched beyond all recognition if not deleted. You end up with corporate pabulum that ensures your message achieves its goal of avoiding exposure but not in the way the lawyers meant.
So it is I envision Obama looking at something like spiking oil prices and telling his people it’s the way the markets work. He doesn’t want to sound like he’s against free enterprise so he rejects any call-out of the few speculators shaking down the many Americans struggling to pay their bills.
What Obama forgets is that many of those average Joes and Janes put him where he is with their five and ten dollar donations back in 2008. Guess what Mr. President? The five and ten dollar donations are going into gas tanks in 2011.
In the months since he took office, the Obama White House appears to have drifted away from messages of principle based on the president’s core convictions. Pundits from the left and right are now tagging Obama as indecisive and squishy, most likely because he’s adopted the conventional corporate PR wisdom of "playing it safe" out there in the "middle of the road."
Down here in Georgia, the only things we find in the middle of the road are squashed opossums.
Foley is president of KEF
Media Associates, an Atlanta-based producer and distributor
of sponsored news content to television and radio media.