Helene Cooper wrote this annoying piece in the New York Times about President Obama’s unwillingness to “schmooze” a couple of weeks ago. I started to comment, but never did:
Mr. Obama, in general, does not go out of his way to play the glad-handing, ego-stroking presidential role. While he does sometimes offer a ride on Air Force One to a senator or member of Congress, more often than not, he keeps Congress and official Washington at arm’s length, spending his down time with a small — and shrinking — inner circle of aides and old friends.
He typically golfs with a trio of mid- to low-level staff members little known outside the West Wing. He does not spend much time at Camp David, the retreat other presidents have used to woo Washington. His social life runs toward evenings playing Taboo with old friends and their families, Wii video games with his wife and daughters or basketball with Robert Wolf, a banker and the rare new best friend Mr. Obama has acquired since entering politics. He vacations with friends from Chicago on Martha’s Vineyard in August and in Hawaii at Christmas.
Golfs with staff members, plays games with friends, basketball with his daughters, vacations in normal vacation places. Yeah, what a fucking douchebag this guy is, right?
I sure hope Helene backs this rock-solid journalism up with some quotes from those in the know:
“It’s about building relationships,” said Gerald Rafshoon, a television producer who was President Jimmy Carter’s communications director. “Some people are saying he’s a recluse. You don’t want that reputation. He needs to show that he likes people.”
Gerald Rafshoon. Look, I’m as big a fan of former President Carter’s as anybody, but the guy was president when Michael Jackson was still kickin’ it pre-facelifts. The original Muppet Movie came out during his presidency. Three Mile Island happened. Pete Rose was still swinging a baseball bat. Dallas came on the air. Turn on the TV during the Carter Presidency, and you’d maybe see a couple of my favorites, CHiPs, and Eight is Enough,
Is a communications guy from this era really the person we want to use to provide a frame of reference for how a modern president should win friends and influence people in Washington?
Not for nothing, but Rafshoon is also caught up in the worthless Unity08, which insisted that the country was going to circle the drain unless there was a “unity government”. I gather they wanted a Democrat and Republican on the same ticket, running the country together from the Executive Branch, basically. They said nothing would get done without it. That was the only way. The largest legislative initiative in a generation, starting with Health Reform (and so much more) later, the Unity08 gang doesn’t have much to say.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans say they rarely hear from the president…
Oh, fuck, really? Shit, somone fire up the Big Red Siren and alert the goddam press.
Well, when leading members of your own party inexcusably critique the body of the First Lady, call her racist names like “Mrs. YoMomma“, or send out horrifying racist images of the president (and refuse to resign their bullshit yokel positions for it), what do you expect? God, Republicans, I’m really sorry the president is not tripping over himself to call you up for your precious goddam photo op, but you just called his wife fat. Or you refused to denounce abject, in-your-face racism. Half of you think the guy wasn’t even born here. What’s he supposed to do? Share a laugh with the likes of Florida Congressman Bill Posey over scotches using his birth certificate as a coaster?
And speaking of the First Lady, the must-read for this month is the Jodi Kantor book excerpt in the Times.
Just go read it. I tend to agree with Zandar on this one: “Republican First Ladies are all saints, and Democratic ones are all cast iron bitches, apparently.”
You can find nasty stuff about Laura Bush, but not 3,200-plus words in the Times which essentially frame her as: “she’s bitchy!” Laura Bush’s elevator speech was: troubled girl who killed a kid when she was young, and she’s the one who set W straight. Or something like that. Nice librarian lady teaches kids to read.
You’ll find nasty stuff about Nancy Reagan too — she was into horoscopes! — but she’s basically Saint Nancy, now.
Do I need to point out the nasty stuff about Hillary Clinton? There’s been an entire industry built on it, and it is a shame.
The difference is not so much “Democrat” and “Republican” — though that’s the label for sure — it’s the difference between women who are smart and forceful and believe they can be effective politically for the administrations (and campaigns) of their husbands.
We should be asking ourselves why we’re being asked to think about why anything the Obamas do is somehow “unprecedented” or “never been done before” and always in a negative connotation, rather than focusing on the positive “unprecedented” things they have accomplished.
I agree with that — and the bubble inside the beltway makes that hard.
I have been to this dance before. The establishment loathed Hillary Clinton because she was smart and wanted to be involved. The horrors! Sally Quinn — wholly representative of the Washington elite — hated the Clintons from day one, and wrote the definitive out-of-touch insider piece about the Clintons in 1998. My favorite Sally Quinn quote, though, was this one:
The Clintons brought in a whole new crowd, many of them young and arrogant and clique-ish, which created such a competitive social atmosphere that the environment became toxic.
This from a woman whose special needs son bragged about getting a prostitute. In a book.
Well, she’s up to the same thing with the Obamas. Of course.
Making friends is crucial. I’m only being partly facetious when I suggest that there should be some sort of in-house list where members of the administration (any administration!) are designated to go out a certain amount, in exactly the same way they make the rounds on Sunday talk shows.
That’s right. They should go make friends.
Maybe the Obamas could start by inviting the nearly one in ten Members of the House Republican Caucus who believe he was born in Kenya over for a game of Taboo.
I hope that the President and First Lady continue to do exactly what they’re doing.