NPR : News

Filed Under:

Clinton White House Crisis Manager Dings Obama's Message Team

Lanny J. Davis, a former special counsel for President Clinton, is a man who knows something about managing a White House crisis. And he isn't exactly impressed by how President Obama's aides have handled the fallout from numerous crises, from Solyndra to Benghazi and now with the Internal Revenue Service controversy.

"Honestly, I voted for Obama. I support his policies," said Davis, who was a special counsel during Clinton's second term and has his own Washington firm that, among other things, handles messaging when things fly apart for his clients.

"His crisis-management communications team is absent without leave. Ever since we lost the message on health care, I've wondered if there's anybody there trying to get out in front on the facts. And I haven't seen any evidence" of it, he said.

For Davis, whose latest book is Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life, the Obama administration has fallen into a predictable pattern. It goes into a defensive crouch in which its first instinct appears to be minimizing any political damage.

Most White Houses do this to a greater or lesser degree. But Obama may have created his own problems by setting higher expectations early on by claiming his would be the most transparent administration ever.

Only after the moment has passed where a more proactive approach might have saved the day does the ever-cautious Obama White House provide additional information, according to Davis.

Take the growing controversy over the IRS's targeting of conservative social-welfare organizations.

"This is very, very serious," said Davis, who views it as distinct from the Benghazi fallout, which he believes is "Washington politics at its worst."

The IRS story, he said, by contrast goes to the heart of government abuse of power.

"The president of the United States should hold a press conference and commit to a full 100 percent investigation in concert with the Republican leadership of the House and say, 'I want to have on my desk the list of anybody who recommended doing this. In the government, in the White House, or anywhere else.' "

Obama, during a joint Monday news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, said it would be "outrageous" if the IRS did what it's accused of.

That description, said Davis, is already "one day too late" and isn't the full-throated response he would expect to see after the IRS revelation.

Davis doesn't limit his disappointment to just the president. He faults other top Democrats, namely Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, for not acting with more assertively.

"The Democrats have to own this. They are mishandling this," Davis said. "They should get out in front by denouncing this behavior, calling for a full investigation, cooperating with the Republicans so they don't own the issue. It's called pre-emption. And the best crisis management advice is called doing the right thing."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

After Sketchy Science, Shark Week Promises To Turn Over A New Fin

Shark Week is here, and scientists are afraid. Not of the toothy swimmers — but of inaccuracies, bad science and the demonization of animals that aren't as ferocious as Discovery Channel has made out.
NPR

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

If you've ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you're used to the endless side dishes that come out with the meal. They're called banchan, and they're remarkably simple to make for yourself.
WAMU 88.5

Cutting Local Taxes in The District

The D.C. Council has taken steps to accelerate tax cuts for all income earners. They're part of a broader overhaul of the city's tax levels, but some council members argued there wasn't enough time for a rigorous debate about the new schedule. We explore the debate over cutting taxes for D.C. residents and how it affects the city's ability to pay for critical local services.

NPR

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

A user revolt briefly shut down the social site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.