President Obama offered some thoughtful, well-spoken, and Constitutionally correct remarks regarding freedom of religion in the US during the 8/13 iftar at The White House Friday night.  Predictably, his bold, declarative dinner speech promptly blew up in his face and the White House is now forced into "clarification mode", which is akin to the old "I voted against it before I voted for it" dodge employed so very effectively during Sen. Kerry's self-immolating presidential campaign.  In the spirit of the blog, though, let's try to pull some basic messaging lessons out of this mess (regardless where you sit on the issue itself).  One: you can't add messaging "nuance" -- that fine shading and texture that can bring a pedestrian idea to life -- after the fact.  It often looks highly disingenuous and rarely works in arrears, especially during a hot debate. While a message certainly can be changed over time, to do so credibly requires effort, planning and a full understanding of your audience.   Two: The greater lesson here is that every leader should not only know how to lead, but also when and on what issues to deploy that leadership. Tromping a presidential brogan on the nest of fire ants that is the Lower Manhattan mosque controversy was just plain foolish --  ham-fisted and utterly tone-deaf to the tenor of public debate on the matter. There were any number of ways to effectively handle the iftar dinner speech while letting others carry Obama's point of view on the NYC mosque. While such a campaign may have taken a bit longer and required a more strategic approach to content and conduit,  ultimately it would have let the President keep the Constitutional high ground while staying out of the mudslinging taking place on the hot-button topic. Cards on the table time: I voted for Obama and enthusiastically so.  That said, for a man purportedly to be blessed with tremendous communications skills, I find that he tends to wade in over his head all to often and in readily avoidable ways. And that troubles me.

AuthorJen Simonson