It’s All About Access
by David Goodloe
In general, Americans seem to have the attention span of gypsy moths.
Lately, that attention has been focused on the attempted Christmas Day bombing and Janet Napolitano’s mishandling of it.
Don’t get me wrong. Security is extremely important. But, like most things, I expect this matter to recede from view, and something else will move to center stage.
I hope that something else is job creation. I feel it has been getting the short end of the stick, and it is a very important issue for me because, as my regular readers know, I am one of the unemployed. And my situation is getting worse. My unemployment benefits have expired, and my COBRA coverage runs out at the end of next month.
So when public attention shifts — perhaps later this week when the Labor Department releases the latest jobs report — I would like to see it shift in the direction of job creation, but if that’s going to happen, the voters are going to have to turn up the heat. This president has shown a disturbing tendency to pre–empt things he doesn’t want to talk about.
Even when he is supposedly addressing them.
It has been my opinion for a long time that he does this because he doesn’t know what to do about it — although he sure sounded like he knew what to do when he was campaigning for the job. Now that he’s got it, though, he’s been passing the buck on unemployment.
At the much–ballyhooed “jobs summit” last month, Obama spoke of how important it was to find once again “a sense of seriousness of purpose,” then claimed, absurdly, that, during his trip to Asia in November, “not one” of the journalists who interviewed him asked him about the economy or Asia. He then indulged in some partisan diversionary tactics by claiming that he had been asked if he had read Sarah Palin’s book.
The implication was that the shallow media had more interest in whether he read Palin’s book than his thoughts on the continent he was visiting or the economy in the country he had been elected to lead. The media, which has rarely passed on an opportunity to gush over “The One,” should have been outraged by that. It was patently false, and PolitiFact.com proved it.
“We decided to check the transcripts to see what Obama was asked on his trip. We wanted to see if it was true that he hadn’t been asked any questions about the economy or Asia,” PolitiFact.com writes.
“We reviewed the transcripts and found several examples to contradict Obama’s statement. On Asia, Chuck Todd of NBC News asked Obama about human rights in China, and Major Garrett of Fox News asked Obama about trade agreements with South Korea. Both Todd and Garrett asked about the administration’s efforts to create jobs. Todd asked how the announced jobs summit would actually create jobs, and Garrett asked if job creation efforts would add to the deficit. …
“The other interviews we found were with Ed Henry of CNN and Chip Reid of CBS News. … Henry also asked a viewer question about what Obama was doing to hold banks accountable for lending to startups and refinancing mortgages.”
Now, if he doesn’t remember being asked about job creation by reporters from NBC News and Fox News, I’m sure he won’t give a second thought to an inquiry from me.
But he’s my president. I live in the United States, and he is president of the United States. And no matter how affordable he thinks he’s going to make my health insurance, nothing is affordable if you have no job. So, the way I see it, job creation should be his top priority. But it hasn’t been.
If the president reads my blog, he would know how I feel about that. But I’m sure he doesn’t — although, if you have visited the White House’s website, you have seen that there is a link to a White House blog. That blog doesn’t appear to have been written by the president (unless he’s been doing some ghostwriting), but I assume that those who do write for the blog conduct internet searches to see what bloggers are saying about the president and his policies.
And, if that is true, then someone in the administration must have stumbled across my blog at some point in the last year.
Well, time is short for me. I don’t have the luxury of being able to wait for someone in the West Wing to find my blog and read what I have to say about this problem. So today, I went to the White House’s website to send a message to the president.
But this White House, which told us it wanted to be the most accessible in history, doesn’t make that task terribly easy.
The first problem is that, to send a message to the president or the vice president or either of their wives, you first must click on a link labeled “Contact Us.” Each site does things its own way, but, in my experience, most sites label an e–mail link “E–mail.” In my experience, a link labeled “Contact Us” takes the visitor to a page where the individual e–mail addresses can be found. Then you click on the one you want. So “Contact Us” means an extra step. My mind instinctively directs me to look for a shortcut.
Perhaps we could consider that a design flaw. Maybe changing the label to “E–mail” would resolve that problem. But that is a modest problem compared to others.
Once you arrive at the “Contact the White House” page, you are required to fill in certain information — name, e–mail address, ZIP code, subject (your choices are “Message of Support,” “I have a policy comment” and “I have a non–policy comment“) and the message itself.
If you say you have a policy comment or a non–policy comment, another pulldown menu pops up giving you a variety of choices that elaborate on your subject. I suppose this helps with organizing and filing the thousands of messages that are received, but it may come across as cumbersome to visitors who feel needlessly detained when something can’t be done in lightning speed. If it is seen as cumbersome, a certain portion of the visitors will decide not to leave a message after all. Some might not be of any consequence, anyway, but some might be worth passing along.
If one is frustrated by things that aren’t lightning fast, that person probably isn’t going to be inclined to type a lengthy message. But if you have a lot to say, be aware that the White House imposes a 2,500–character limit. That isn’t as much as you may think it is — even if you’re one of those people who likes to use abbreviations like “u” or “r” for “you” or “are.”
It is easier to submit a question, suggestion or comment on job creation than it is to find information about job creation policy on the White House’s website. To do that, you will have to go to “Issues” and follow that link to “Economy.” Clicking on that link will take you to a long list of policies and partisan propaganda.
Scroll down and you will find this brief item on “job creation:”
“President Obama’s first priority in confronting the economic crisis is to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan signed by the President will spur job creation while making long–term investments in health care, education, energy, and infrastructure. Among other objectives, the recovery plan will increase production of alternative energy, modernize and weatherize buildings and homes, expand broadband technology across the country, and computerize the health care system. The recovery plan will save or create about 3.5 million jobs while investing in priorities that create sustainable economic growth for the future.”
Well, that’s not too reassuring in a nation where unemployment has climbed to double digits on this president’s watch. It’s a lot of talk.
Spending a few minutes on the White House website really seemed to illustrate an article I read only a couple of hours earlier. It was a piece by Rex Murphy in The Globe and Mail in which he explored the reasons why TIME chose not to make Obama the man of the year. “Mr. Obama has exploded his own credentials as the agent of (genuine) hope and change,” Murphy writes. “The promise to remodel the essentially harsh nature of modern politics, to seek transformation in the tone and substance of public life, to end Washington’s buying and selling, is seen now, and seen very reluctantly such was the real hope he inspired, as empty. His White House is as dagger partisan as Richard Nixon’s.”
Those Obama apologists who insist on reminding everyone that the economic problems began under the previous president show a distinct lack of comprehension of American political history. Murphy’s comparison of Obama to Nixon is appropriate because Nixon was elected, in large part, because of American dissatisfaction over his predecessor’s handling of the Vietnam War. But, by the time Nixon’s first year in office ended, the American public saw Vietnam as “belonging” to him, not Lyndon Johnson.
Anyway, I left a message for my president. I’ve been out of work since the week he was nominated, I told him. And I’ve been waiting for my government to take the lead in encouraging job creation. But it hasn’t. I asked him when he was going to do something.
I asked for a reply, and I hope someone sends one. It would be nice to know someone is listening.
It would be even better if something was being done.
David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.