Administration, Congress Completely Fail Communications Test

Despite Fearmongering of Highest Order, Neither Can Sell Bailout

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The editorial that ran in this week's print version of Advertising Age didn't take a position on the bailout. Because of deadlines, the editorial board didn't know what was in the package. But the editorial did note that congress was "facing angry constituents who want to know why they're on the hook for $700 billion worth of bad behavior by the fat cats on Wall Street. Yet so far no one seems to be making a concerted effort to answer them in a way accessible to the public. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke were hauled before Congress to explain themselves and their plan. They didn't do such a great job of convincing the politicians. It's hard to see how they'll do a better job convincing voters."

That was written five days before the bailout failed. And certain members of Congress and voters still aren't convinced.

Despite all the finger-pointing and blame-assigning going on, it's clear that neither Bush nor Congress has communicated clearly what this plan means. Democrats like to blame the Republicans for using fearmongering to win elections, but both sides in this case have done little more than stand before the American people and say, "Give us $700 billion dollars or everything is going to hell. You can trust us." That's no way to communicate the importance of the situation.

And neither is taking off for two days. Religious holiday or not, the move doesn't exactly scream "national emergency" -- and neither did Nancy Pelosi's little speech right before the vote yesterday. Seems to me that if you want to convince a hundred or so stubborn-minded House Republicans, you don't a) insult their party and then b) give your own party members free passes not to vote for the bill. And the Republicans, instead of whining that Pelosi called them names, could have explained a little more why -- aside from fear of losing their seats in November -- they're adamant this thing isn't passed.

The interesting thing is that if in the next two days the market rebounds a little, it will make voters think this is even less urgent that Bush, Paulson, Pelosi et. al are claiming.