Why Obama Is Like Jerry Maguire

The president can't sell his economic plan until he cuts it down to bumper-sticker size.


Looking back on the campaign slogan -- "Change You Can Believe In" -- it's pretty easy to imagine President Barack Obama sitting alone after hours in the Oval Office like a would-be Jerry Maguire, thinking:

"It was only a mission statement."

When he said "change," he was probably thinking about a more robust kind of "same."

But the voters are saying, "Show me the money." They took the tag line from 2008's page-turning national election literally.

That expectation gap was personified at Monday's live CNBC presidential forum by Velma Hart, an African-American and CFO of AmVets, who was first up to query the president. A self-described Obama supporter, Hart pointedly told him she was "exhausted" from having to constantly justify her vote for him, and told him that the lifestyle she and her husband had built -- a middle-class home, kids in private schools -- was getting harder to hang on to. She asked him, "Is this my new reality?"

Obama's answer should have been, "Yes," because until he stops telling people who feel bad that they should already be feeling better, they won't take any more of his medicine.

Instead, the president listed his administration's policy accomplishments -- health-care reform, student-loan reform, banking reform. It's the kind of answer that's making him vulnerable to the new Republican ad campaign "Mourning in America" -- a play on Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" -- that says Obama has left America "fading, and weaker, and worse off":

Ouch. The president has some catching up to do on the PR front before he can convince Americans they're "stronger and better off." People don't want him to be angry or negative. But they do want real talk.

He needs to figure out how to level with people without being a pessimist. He needs a ready rejoinder to "Show me the money." What Obama needs is a bumper sticker: