… And what the fuck? Ran across this accidentally late last night — checked the date, but it wasn’t April first. Forgive me if I’m the last to notice this Politico tonguebath (of the columnists, not the President), but… what the FUCK?:
President Barack Obama is often accused of being insular. He’s not a schmoozer. He doesn’t like meeting with lawmakers, and he doesn’t particularly care for talking to reporters, either.
But get him in an off-the-record setting with a small group of opinion columnists — the David Brooks and E.J. Dionne types — and he’ll talk for hours…
He also likes talking to the people he likes to read. The president is a voracious consumer of opinion journalism. Most nights, before going to bed, he’ll surf the Internet, reading the columnists whose opinions he values. One of the great privileges of the presidency is that, when so inclined, he can invite these columnists to his home for meetings that can last as long as two-and-a-half hours.
“It’s not an accident who he invites: He reads the people that he thinks matter, and he really likes engaging those people,” said one reporter with knowledge of the meetings. “He reads people carefully — he has a columnist mentality — and he wants to win columnists over,” said another…
The off-the-record meetings are held over coffee around the long wooden conference table in the Roosevelt Room, just off the West Wing lobby. Participants vary depending on the issue of the day, but there are regulars. Brooks, the New York Times columnist, is a frequent guest, as is Joe Klein of Time Magazine. From The Washington Post: E.J. Dionne, Eugene Robinson, Ezra Klein and Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor. On foreign policy: the Post’s David Ignatius, Bloomberg View’s Jeffrey Goldberg, and the Times’ Thomas Friedman. He also holds the occasional meeting with conservatives. This month, he met with Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, and other influential representatives from the right….
Representing a broad spectrum from center-moderate (sorry, Messrs. Dionne & Robinson) to “centrist” (i.e., moderate right) to far-reactionary-right. This is why I’m not a politician; if I had any power, I’d greet a slur like this article with a drone strike on Politico headquarters, followed by SEAL team elimination of any surviving witness. Can someone explain to me why anybody might have thought this was a good idea?
…The sessions, which have become more frequent in Obama’s second term — he held at least three in October — provide a stark contrast to the combative, sometimes cantankerous relationship between the White House and the press corps. They also serve as an alternate means of shaping the debate in Washington: a private back-channel of genuine sentiment that seeps into the echo-chamber, while Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, delivers largely scripted responses in the public briefings. Obama holds the occasional off-the-record meeting with top White House correspondents, but they are few and far between — a fact that rankles some members of the press corps. (POLITICO has attended off-the-record sessions with the president.)
At the same time, these bull sessions give validation to an oft-heard critique: that Obama prefers the law school salon to the bully pulpit — that he would rather be regarded as smart by the people he regards as smart than be feared by the opposition or seen as effective by the people he governs…
The goal in these get-togethers, participants said, is two-fold: First, the president wants to convince the columnists that he’s right — about the debt ceiling, about health care, about Syria — and that his opponents are wrong.
“The president is thoroughly convinced that the course he has set out is correct, and that his opponents are either wrong-headed or crazy or, in the case of [House Speaker John] Boehner, insufficiently courageous,” said a journalist who has attended off-the-record meetings. “By getting together a group of intelligent people who are going to be writing about him or talking about him, he thinks he can show them how obviously everything he is doing makes sense.”
The second goal is more tactical: By meeting privately with the people who shape national opinion, the president ensures that his points of view will be represented in the media — even if those points of view aren’t directly attributable to him.
“He sees columnists as portals,” another journalist who has attended meetings said. “It works — I feel it work with me. It’s almost impossible to spend hours face-to-face with the president, unfiltered, then write a column or go on television without taking his point of view into account.”
For that reason, calling these sessions “off the record meetings” is actually inaccurate, said Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary for President George W. Bush, who held similar meetings.
“It’s a misnomer. After these meetings journalists will go on the air and say, ‘Here’s what the White House is thinking on this,’” Fleischer explained. “It’s smart. Every White House should do it.”…
Obama’s preference for columnists surprises few. Both reporters and columnists believe he prefers talking to people who are thinking about — and willing to be influenced on — grand concepts, rather than those who might pepper him with questions about day-to-day events and process. Indeed, in an effort to ween White House staff off their obsession with the “who’s up, who’s down” Washington culture, he has encouraged them to spend less time watching MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and more time watching ESPN’s “Sports Center.”
“Every president likes these sessions, because unlike negotiations with congress, which is hard and where the president has to yield ground, these sessions are a chance for the president to get on his high horse and opine,” Fleischer explained.
Obama does opine: journalists said that one reason the off-the-record meetings run so long is because the president spends so much time talking: “The confidence he exudes in these sessions is even greater than the confidence he exudes in public,” one attendee said. “And, as in public, it’s the president who does most of the talking.”
Still, no one doubts that the president values hearing the thoughts and opinions of his contemporaries.
“The president cares a lot more about the opinions of Fred Hiatt or Tom Friedman than he does about the average U.S. Senator,” said one journalist. “He’s naturally predisposed to analysis. In his own mind, that’s what he is: he’s like us. He wants to be a writer, and so he likes to talk to writers.”
… I mean, apart from the assumption that Ari Fleischer has compromising photographs, and he’s not afraid to use them?