Team Obama’s answer to all negative feedback from the real world is to treat it as a communication/PR problem. Repackage the product, put the “new, improved” message out on all available frequencies, and move on to the next “public is a chump” maneuver.
As we noted yesterday, the brand mavens have been assigned to Timothy Geithner, with the apparent goal of making him seem like a nice guy, not an easy task, given the Treasury Secretary’s famed brusqueness, his cerebral orientation, and his often annoyed stance when before Congress (although he can be personable in smaller settings). But apparently, since the public knows little about him (the Wall Street found that 54% had either never heard of Geithner or were unsure of their views), this means he is a tabula rasa as far as the great unwashed public is concerned. So if they can be made to like Timmy, by extension, it will improve their perception of the Administration’s policies, right?
Earth to base: if people are unemployed, having trouble meeting their expenses, or have had to make significant lifestyle adjustments, making them like Geithner (even assuming such a thing is possible) is not going to create a halo that extends to the Administration’s policies. People are upset about overly bank-friendly policies, of which Geithner is unquestionably an architect. And his “the rescues were distasteful but necessary” line will play well only to the already converted.
And the charm offensive seems to be targeting women. I can just picture the market analysis: the segments where Geithner is least well known skewing heavily female, and women tend to be more liberal than men (having lower average lifetime earnings might have a role).
So we see Treasury kicking in for healthy eating, and Timmy doing a tour of a grocery store with one of America’s favorite female political figures, Michelle Obama. Women just love guys who do the shopping, right?
Today we learn that Geithner is scheduled to be interviewed by Vogue (well I assume an interview; even though I recall Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail commenting favorably upon the Treasury Secretary’s abs, I would not expect them to be on display). Now this seems more than a bit odd, given Vogue has allegedly been looking to interview women who were major players in the crisis, but nixed them over their looks. As Jenna Sauers reported in Jezebel:
Just a few weeks ago I happened to get into conversation with a junior editor at Vogue — which, for all its faults, is still one of the only American women’s magazines to actually include any long-form feature writing that goes much beyond Area Woman Brought Closer To Husband By Bad Disease. This editor told me that she was itching to cover the financial crisis. (Vogue has apparently noticed that there has been a financial crisis.) The only problem, said this editor, was that her magazine’s coverage would have to take the form of a profile, and because of Vogue’s female audience, the profile would have to be of a woman. What’s more, any appropriate profile candidate would need to be attractive. “I pitched Sheila Bair to the photo department,” said this editor, “and they said, ‘Are you kidding? We can’t shoot her.’”
Yves here. Now I can’t be certain Vogue does not have something in the works, but a Google search and a site search of Vogue.com failed to turn up any sign of Elizabeth Warren either. But Geithner is lanky enough to be a model, so he passes muster, and an early snippet of the Vogue piece (the article is not out yet) at Politico predictably plays up this appearance:
A lithe and athletic 48 years old, Geithner … has the kind of looks that can go either way: Half an inch one way he’s John F. Kennedy; half an inch the other he’s Lyle Lovett. In person, he’s friendly, relaxed, and prone to making jokes at his own expense — the first thing he tells me when we sit down is how much ‘shit’ he’s going to get from his friends for doing an interview with Vogue. … Geithner … is very smart, very angry, and more than a little relieved that the economy did not tank further than it has. Indeed, as bad as things look today, it could have been worse. A lot worse. ‘We were starting to have a classic bank run, people were starting to take their money out of banks, something that hadn’t happened since the Great Depression.’
Yves here. I suppose puff pieces to hide the true character of what passes for our leaders are a more civilized way to distract the public from the rot in the empire than killing gladiators, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.