The Bully Pulpit

During my years covering politics in Washington, I have seen too many people underestimate the power of the President of the United States.  This past week was a prime example.

Last week, the White House leaked the story of how a group of credit card executives were being summoned to a meeting with President Obama, and that they would discuss a variety of consumer issues like high interest rates and fees.

The White House set the discussion.  The news media did what you would expect and wrote stories about it.  Those stories rumbled through the weekend and were part of the agenda in reports about Congress returning to work.

The issue came up several times at the White House news briefing.  It was discussed on Capitol Hill where Democrats were pressing a "Credit Card Holder's Bill of Rights."

Did you hear much from the "credit card industry" during the week?

I didn't think so.

Their voice doesn't exactly ricochet off the News Walls when compared to that of the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Thursday morning, I wrote that I didn't think there would be much "news" out of the meeting at the White House.  I figured the photo opportunity would show Obama in the meeting, flanked by credit card executives, and that the President would publicly slap them.

He did exactly that, calling for "protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties."

"The days of any time any reason rate hikes and late fee traps have to end," the President added.

It was pretty much a public relations slam dunk.

Yeah, there was an executive of the industry who came out to talk afterwards, but as a colleague of mine said, it seemed like it took ten minutes for him to make anything close to a sound bite.

It was a reminder to Republicans in the Congress.  No matter how hard they try, they cannot match the media firepower of the President.

They underestimated the power of Bill Clinton after Monica Lewinsky, just as Democrats had underestimated the power of Ronald Reagan before them.

It is called the bully pulpit for a reason after all.

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