RE: Progressives, let's face the fact: the "bully pulpit" is not a magic wand.
This is an excellent analysis, but it contains a rather large flaw. It's not necessarily the author's flaw, but it is there nonetheless and only tangentially addressed.
The setup for the analysis is begging the question of what the intent of using the so-called bully pulpit is. There is an assumption that its purpose is to alter public opinion, by which it is implied we mean national opinion on a grand scale. I realize many Obama critics do in fact accompany their use of this term with some variation of "influencing public opinion" on a national scale, but as the analysis makes clear, that's not what it's good for. I don't think Teddy Roosevelt or any other President who has used his office to push specific issues believed that's what it was good for either.
Roosevelt, for example, was an astute observer of, for lack of a better phrase, "how things really worked," and used his office to influence different, targeted groups of people who operated the levers of that machinery. His idea was not so much to try to convince everyone in the entire country of the benefit of his ecological proposals, for example, but to concentrate on individuals and groups who would receive the message and then themselves turn up the heat on politicians in Congress. He would even go so far as to target groups of people who were constituents of a specific congressperson or governor or even in some case a state representative or senator because those people were key to what he wanted to get done. A small group of congresspeople can do an amazing amount when motivated in the right way.
FDR did this as well, arguable better than his cousin. You don't hear about it a lot, except derisively, because his use of the bully pulpit was very often behind closed doors. The fireside chats were famous but not truly about changing public opinion. They were about instilling confidence and playing on people's emotions, and they worked. But they didn't actually *do* anything other than that. In terms of opinion making and influencing policy, however, FDR used his bully pulpit to command audiences with financiers, business people and others in order to convince them to put pressure on their representatives or on their organizations to get things done. There is a very clear example of this in the story of the run-up to his first inauguration, but I won't bore you with all the sordid details. Suffice to say it makes Obama's meetings with bankers early-on seem like a brief lunch at Burger King by comparison.
Of course, Obama does both things described above, and he's criticized for it by the very same people who are telling him to do it without realizing just what it is they are telling him to do.
As implied, the author suggests this idea, but he doesn't explore it much. I understand that wasn't the intent and so perhaps shouldn't have been explored much, but I also think he misses an opportunity to analyze how Obama has in fact used the bully pulpit to good effect on several occasions. To put it more succinctly, I think there's too much defensiveness in the way he approached the subject.
“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” -- Dorothy Parker