POTUS, students and the Bully Pulpit

Ann Althouse has a pretty good wrap-up of the President's first day of school "pep-talk" to the nation's school children. Bottom line for me is: why?

The President is everywhere. He does town hall meetings to sell his floundering health care plan, he's given more prime-time news conferences in 8 months than Bush did in 8 years and tomorrow he's going to give a "major" address to a joint session of Congress. Now he's giving the nation's K-12 students a beginning of the year lecture?

The Bully Pulpit is a powerful thing. The President can command an audience and a platform unlike any leader or politician in the world, but it is a tool with diminishing returns. Every time the President gives a speech that is nationally televised or holds a major press conference, it becomes less and less important. The power of the presidency is not the ability to give a speech whenever it suits the person in office, but the ability to command an audience when there is something important to say.

Overuse of the pulpit diminishes the power and influence the President has over policy. Now is not the time for more speeches, now is the time to do the hard work of governing and working with members of Congress to pass reform. No matter how gifted a speaker the President is it is no substitute for hard work behind the scenes.

The President did not need to lecture American students. If he wanted to welcome them back to school or challenge them to make this year a better year for grades and achievement, he could have done it in 2 minutes or less - and even then only shown to middle and high school students.

Will the President offer anything new tomorrow on health care? Will he just offer the same old arguments that he has been using for the last two months? I don't know. We'll have to wait and see, but I can tell you that I'm not going to worry about missing the speech. I'm sure there will be another one soon, and it probably will be more of the same.