President Obama’s Biggest Mistake: A Classic Dodge?

During an interview with CBS News anchor Charlie Rose yesterday, President Obama was asked to identify the single biggest lesson he has learned in his first term.

Here’s how he answered the question:

It’s entirely possible that President Obama regards his failure to communicate with the American people more effectively as the single biggest mistake of his first term. After all, his Administration has been criticized by supporters and pundits for failing to fully sell its achievements.

But his response—to blame imperfect communications rather than policy—is also a classic dodge that media trainers teach to their clients. It’s simply easier (and politically less harmful) to blame imperfect communications rather than imperfect policy.

Politicians aren’t the only ones who use this technique. A company CEO might be asked why her company’s product didn’t sell as well as expected. Instead of blaming a lousy product or idea, she might blame the marketing of a great idea. “Our advertising didn’t do a good enough job of capturing our product,” she might say.

Or an advocate for an unpopular policy idea might be asked why his idea hasn’t been able to garner more than a few dozen supporters in Congress. “We need to do a better job of communicating our issue to members of Congress,” he might say.

In some cases, blaming the sales job might be true. But in others, it’s just the best available excuse, akin to a job interviewee telling the hiring manager that her biggest personal weakness is “caring too much” about her work. Puh-lease. We’ve heard that one before.

By answering the question in the manner he did, the President avoided the trap of undermining one of his policy ideas. But the public should regard his answer with at least a small measure of skepticism.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.