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Will White House Beers Recalibrate Obama?

The following editorial was written by Al Neuharth, the founder of USA TODAY.

Thursday night's beer bull session at the White House among the president, the policeman and the professor in the Cambridge controversy captured the attention of the news media and the public.

Whether it soothes feelings between Harvard faculty members and cops who patrol streets remains to be seen. More important, will it recalibrate President Obama's misuse of words?

When Obama began his first news briefing on the Cambridge case last Friday, he opened with these words: "I wanted to address you guys directly." But he was talking to an impressive mix of men and women.

"I could have calibrated those words differently," he said then about his charge that the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in handling the case.

Obama also could calibrate his words to the press corps differently. "Guys" is a term he often uses with them, even though Webster's dictionary's preferred definition is "a man or boy; fellow."

Obama has done an OK job overall. He talks a lot, which generally is good for press and public. Unfortunately, he isn't coached well enough by press secretary Robert Gibbs before he meets with the news media.

We in the press make our living reporting and/or commenting on public figures. In the case of presidents, I've done that for over 50 years. During that time, this team did the best job of public expression:

- President Dwight Eisenhower.
- His press secretary, Jim Haggerty.

Ike was a plain-spoken guy. But Haggerty helped him choose his words carefully as well as express himself clearly.

Obama also is pretty plain-spoken. But he needs someone to whisper the right words in his ear before he talks to the ladies and gentlemen (not "guys") of the press.


"Good speakers aren't always good communicators. President Obama admitted he should not have said the police acted 'stupidly.' It's unfair to blame Robert Gibbs. Presidents are humans, not programmable robots."
- Dana Perino, press secretary for President George W. Bush

"Ike too was capable of putting his foot in his mouth, but he didn't think it was his job as president to comment on ongoing police investigations, or to lecture the American public."
- Michael Korda, author of "IKE" Plain Talk

1 Responses »

  1. Obama's "beer summit" was another example of the "great communicator's" stumbling ability to solve much of anything. Very good in the "talk" department, but once again his ego got the best of him. Called the "foot in the mouth" approach.

    Any comparison with former Presidents is "apples and oranges" to say the least.

    As to any blame to Robert Gibbs, well as a mouth piece he has his own problems. His continued "twelve year old" comments are good for some chuckles.