Opinion: Obama’s speech oversights

Jody Michael

Jody Michael

Jody Michael is a senior news major and opinion editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

This week provided us an interesting look at what it takes to pull off a campaign visit by the incumbent President of the United States. I was particularly looking forward to hearing all of Barack Obama’s remarks, wondering how much of it would be specific for the Kent State audience.

The answer: not much. He said “Go Flashes” at the beginning. Near the end. he said if we knock on doors and make phone calls for him, “we’ll win Portage County.” That was it. His “don’t boo; vote” line probably stuck with a lot of people and might have sounded unrehearsed, but he also used that phrase earlier Wednesday at Bowling Green.

Of course, Obama didn’t write the remarks himself; politicians have speechwriters for that. Nonetheless, it was clear the writers hadn’t done much research into how they could localize his speech in ways that would best resonate with the people of Kent.

For example, when we first heard rumors last week of a potential Obama visit to Kent, the consensus among my journalism classmates was that he clearly wanted to tout the positive effects his 2009 economic stimulus package is having downtown. The new streamlined State Route 59 traffic signals, Fairchild Avenue bridge and under-construction Kent Central Gateway multimodal transit center are each a reality because of stimulus money. But he actually never mentioned it.

After years of conservative pundits, congressmen and voters referring to the “failed stimulus” and a presidency that has “accomplished nothing,” the Obama campaign just passed up a perfect opportunity to spotlight solid proof that his stimulus actually helped.

A second mistake happened when Obama advocated his all-of-the-above energy plans and distinctly included, “Let’s go after a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet.”

That had to sting for the vocal group of Portage County residents who, while certainly agreeing with Obama’s promise to end oil companies’ tax breaks, are vehemently against the recent influx of fracking in the area. His speechwriters should know better than to express agreement with fracking when his base here is perhaps more vocal against fracking than anything else.

It makes me wonder how much research they do about each place he visits. I can’t imagine it’s easy to keep the speeches fresh when candidates are delivering so many of them.

But both of those mishaps should have been easy to avoid. Did they consider reaching out to local U.S. Representative and fellow Democrat Tim Ryan for his insight on what unique issues are important in the area? He was at the speech too, after all.

I just figured the campaign would milk this stop for all it’s worth, but that clearly isn’t what happened.