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White House Cheat Sheet: Influencing the Influencers



President Obama has courted the chattering class. (Photo by Daniel Aguilar of Reuters)

President Obama ran against the chattering class politics of Washington but since coming into office has effectively manipulated this elite group of influencers using a variety of techniques from small group sitdowns to opinion pieces in various national and international newspapers.

On Thursday, in advance of his trip to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas, Obama penned an opinion piece, which ran in the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald, as well as a wide array of South American newspapers, aimed at setting the terms for his visit.

"Our hemisphere is faced with a clear choice," the president wrote. "We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past."

This was the third time in his short tenure in office that Obama has turned to the opinion pages of American -- and international -- newspapers to make his case in advance of a major moment in his presidency.

Two days before Congress voted on his $787 economic stimulus plan, Obama penned an op-ed in the Washington Post (ever heard of it?) rebutting "misguided criticisms" of the legislation and insisting that the vote was a referendum on his promise to change politics; "What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives," wrote Obama.

And, one week before heading to the G-20 meeting in London, Obama was at it again with an opinion piece that ran in more than two dozen domestic and international papers calling on the global community to take action.

The broader goal of this trio of opinion pieces is clear: use Obama's reputation as a thinker coupled with his ability to place an editorial when and where he wants it to frame the conversation among the pundit class in the days leading up to major moments for his administration.

(Or not. For an entirely different perspective, check out former Bush official Alex Conant's rebuttal on the importance of op-eds.)

Former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey (D), now the president of the New School in New York City, said that Obama is able to manipulate the conversations of the chattering class "because he controls his own ideas and can hold his own with the chatterers." Added Kerrey: "For D.C. political intellectuals he is good company."

Kerrey's point is born out by the series of private gatherings of opinion leaders -- both conservative and liberal -- in which Obama has taken part over his first twelve weeks in office.

The most prominent of these gatherings came at the home of columnist George F. Will and it has been replicated several other times (that we know about).

And so, while Obama makes his disdain for the daily point-scoring element of politics plain, he also has clearly learned a valuable lesson from the presidency of George W. Bush whose refusal to engage the influencers ultimately backfired badly.

Hoping to avoid that same fate, Obama is using all the tools at his disposal to ensure that he has a hand in the daily, weekly and monthly conversations of the opinion makers in the nation's capital.

What to Watch For:

Friday's Fix Picks: By popular demand, we will keep these picks in this space as well as on the left side of the homepage -- for all the blackberry readers of the Cheat Sheet. Don't say we never gave you anything.

1. No prosecution for CIA officers involved in "enhanced interrogation techniques."
2. Palin! In Indiana.
3. Rick Perry: Secessionist?
4. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr's bank comments get (unwanted) attention.
5. Madden Retires. Pow!

Repower America Begins Ad Campaign: A group allied with former vice president Al Gore is funding radio ads in 15 states aimed at rallying support behind President Obama's plan to cap carbon emissions, contained within his broader budget proposal. "Right now, Congress is debating a clean energy jobs plan that will jumpstart our economy, reduce carbon pollution, and break our dependence on foreign oil," says the ad's narrator. "We've got to make a choice: Try our luck with business as usual, or invest in a clean energy future. The smart money's on clean energy." The ads, which are being paid for by Repower America, will run in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia for the next two weeks. Repower America is a project of the Alliance for Climate Protection, an organization founded by Gore.

2012 Like It's Tomorrow: Keep an eye on South Dakota Sen. John Thune (R) as a darkhorse candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Thune showed $4.4 million in the bank at the end of March after raising more than $880,000 in the first three months of the year with no serious Democratic challenger anywhere in sight. If he keeps up that sort of pace -- and spends little to no real money to win re-election in 2010 -- he will be sitting on between $6 and $7 million (maybe more) when January 2011 rolls around. Thune has a few other things going for him: he is young and telegenic (a necessity in a race against President Obama), is loved by social conservatives but also taken seriously by the establishment of the party and already has some exposure in Iowa -- site of the first vote of 2012 -- thanks to the overlapping media market with South Dakota.

Click It!: Miss the Shad Planking (like us)? This video -- shot by post.com video journalist Whitney Shefte -- is the next best thing.

Back Away From the Ledge, Senator Cornyn: Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's (R) poor fundraising -- $17,000 raised in the first three months of 2009, $57,000 in the bank -- coupled with his refusal to commit to a second term have stoked rumors that Republicans may be defending another open seat in 2010. Not so, according to those close to Coburn who insist his fundraising (or lack thereof) is more a signal of his unorthodox political approach than any indication of his future plans. Coburn is "90 percent" there when it comes to running for second term, said one adviser. If Coburn does decide to leave, Oklahoma would likely not be at the top of Democrats target list as it was the reddest state in the country in the 2008 presidential election.

Weekend Watching: Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe former state delegate Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds gather at the College of William & Mary (alma mater of Post political editor Tim Curran) on Sunday for the first debate of the Virginia Democratic primary season. The debate is being moderated by the incomparable Andrea Mitchell and will begin at 2 p.m. (A reminder: The Fix is also moderated a Post-sponsored Democratic primary debate in Virginia on May 19 -- stay tuned for more details in this space shortly.)

Weekend Watching (Part 2): The latest Wilco (a.k.a. the best American rock band making music currently) documentary -- "Ashes of American Flags" -- is officially released on DVD tomorrow. Not saying anyone should buy it for the Fix (hint, hint Mrs. Fix) but it's supposed to be pretty cool. Check out the trailer.

The Best iPhone Apps: Three more recommendations from the Fix's Twosse (Twitter posse. Get it?). iDicto, Netflix, and Quick Poker.

Mazeltov!: Best wishes to Howard Wolfson, communications director for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's reelection campaign and his wife Terri McCullough, chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on the birth of their second child -- a boy! The deets: 6 lbs, 9 ounces, 19 inches.

Say What?: "We allow the Washington Post to be sold in Mississippi." -- Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour reassuring Post stock owners everywhere.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 17, 2009; 6:02 AM ET
Categories:  Cheat Sheet Share This:  E-Mail | Technorati | Del.icio.us | Digg | Stumble Previous: Fundraising Heros and Zeros
Next: Obama's First 90 Days In (Polling) Perspective


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Comments

I still believe that the American public is quite fickle.. Obama's propensity toward overachieving could be his Achilles.

The major problem he faces is probably not outside the DNC castle walls.. it's the Democratic Trojan Horse that lies within.

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 18, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Re: The GOP losing Texas EV in the event of the secession that won't ever happen (we fought a war over that issue once, remember? That question has been asked and answered -- sorry, South, you lost. Live with it.)

There was a map of the US that was pretty popular with the winger crowd a couple of years ago. It displayed the 2000 Presidential vote county-by-county across the country. Predictably, most of the American landmass was red, while only small chunks of land along the coasts and around a few central big cities was blue. Apparently, this was supposed to indicate that the majority of America supported Bush.

Yeah, OK. Nice try.

Thing is, most of that landmass is, er, virtually empty, of people, anyway. That's the drawback to the red state political base -- lots of wide open spaces, not a lot of people. Too bad for the wingers, but sagebrush doesn't vote. Those pesky blue strips along the coasts and around the Midwest don't take up a lot of space, but they do happen to contain most of the population of this country (the "real America", if you will.)

The GOP needs almost every state in the Mountain Time Zone to go their way just to counterbalance California. If they ever did lose Texas, they'd be toast, plain and simple.

But they won't, at least, not to secession. If all those witless blowhards hate America so much that they want to leave her, how about if they all emigrate to a country that puts conservatism and religion first, and hates the US government as much as they do? Try Iran, wingers. They love that old time religion, just like you do. Oh, and they LOVE tea over there......

Posted by: WaitingForGodot | April 17, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"DDAWD:
depends on the content of "how and what they are using the President's name for".
that's why i said it....SOME "things"-based on content - sure do have to go through the WH for approval."

Nothing in the moveon.org emails require White House authorization.

Posted by: DDAWD | April 17, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"If TX becomes more competitive, the GOP will face a mighty struggle. Given the President's schedule today, perhaps it is interesting to speculate on what the domestic political impact might be of his efforts to address the drug/border violence in Mexico, not to mention the loosening of the Cuba embargo. Could he be building and/or strengthening coalitions in FL, AZ & TX that will shift the 2012 race in those states? That would be extremely bad news for the GOP."

Florida actually ended up pretty solidly blue. By like 10 points, I believe. It might take a few more cycles before Texas becomes competitive, but with Austin and Houston growing, I think it will get there.
Arizona probably would have been competitive if it wasn't the home of the Republican candidate. It is pretty similar to Colorado and New Mexico in terms of demographics. It's something we'll see in 2012.

But the Republicans are lost without Texas. With the Democrats having iron grips over California and New York, the Republicans need some solid stronghold of votes. The rest of their traditional areas are just too EV dry.

Posted by: DDAWD | April 17, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

arizona.....
this place is nuts...
we go more democratic with our governor races than we do when we need to ship a senator and a rep to wash dc.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

DDAWD:
depends on the content of "how and what they are using the President's name for".
that's why i said it....SOME "things"-based on content - sure do have to go through the WH for approval.

betcha didn't know that ALL photos go through approval too.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Making FLA, TX and AZ back into Democratic state would be bad for the gop, and good for America.

Posted by: John1263 | April 17, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

ddawd asks
"Do you think we'd ever see a Republican president again if they lost their Texas electoral votes? I don't think any other state that McCain carried had more than eleven EV, right?"

Top 5 states who's electoral votes went to McCain:
TX: 34
GA: 15
TN: 11
MO: 11
AZ: 10

If TX becomes more competitive, the GOP will face a mighty struggle. Given the President's schedule today, perhaps it is interesting to speculate on what the domestic political impact might be of his efforts to address the drug/border violence in Mexico, not to mention the loosening of the Cuba embargo. Could he be building and/or strengthening coalitions in FL, AZ & TX that will shift the 2012 race in those states? That would be extremely bad news for the GOP.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 17, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"hazwalnut :

it may not be authorized by the white house to use President Obama's name or any reference to it.

moveon.org is notorious"

You don't need authorization to use Obama's name. Obama, Obama, Obama.

Basically, moveon.org asks members for money to fund advertising to get bills passed that Obama is trying to get passed.

You may agree or disagree with the agenda, but this is hardly an insidious tactic.

Posted by: DDAWD | April 17, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

it's not an "inactive" process....

it's a positive thought process...

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

the action americans need:

quote-
...."and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years".

writing it down as we speak.
i'm holding the Prez to this one.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Pragmatism is an inactive process which focuses on the practical and objective aspects of debate. All views are considered and negotiated.

Posted by: demtse | April 17, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Pragmatism is an inactive process which focuses on the practical and objective aspects of debate. All views are considered and negotiated.

Posted by: demtse | April 17, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Do you think we'd ever see a Republican president again if they lost their Texas electoral votes? I don't think any other state that McCain carried had more than eleven EV, right?

Posted by: DDAWD | April 17, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

we have so much on the table that has the potential to actually, in reality, and in truth...
change america for the good of the collective and individuals; that it is unreasonable to think that some folks are not "for" what is taking place.

it gets rough to strip the layers of crookedness throughout the years.
the behavior has been developed.
and the paradox is in place.
put the paradiagm shift of these changes in action, and folks won't understand.
However, go back to our founding documents folks. You will get the overwhelming feeling of "equality" as you read them all.
Equality.
and equal treatment under the law.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

VT:
the recent Brandon Mayfield case against the USA Patriot Act
used the 14th as premise.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

hazwalnut :

it may not be authorized by the white house to use President Obama's name or any reference to it.

moveon.org is notorious

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

VTDuffman raises a point about the breadth of the fourteenth amendment [= protection clause].

I cannot remember a case in point, at all. Any other lawyers out there want to chime in?

Bsimon is certainly on point about how important it is for the Prez to use the bully pulpit while he has it. Congress will try to frustrate every cost saving and serious budget balancing act he tries and he has offered several that they already hate. If Gates' streamlining of DOD is to work, Congress will have to be subdued. If the ag budget is to be constrained, Congress must cave in. And on and on.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 17, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

" even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake"

They can't seem to get over this "ticking time-bomb scenario," can they?

There's no evidence that tourture works at all, let alone in a "ticking time-bomb scenario." I mean, I know it works for Jack Bauer on 24, but Jack bauer can also fly a 747 from LA to DC in 36 minutes.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 17, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Wilco - playing in Jazzfest in New Orleans this year in case anyone wants to head down.

Posted by: DDAWD | April 17, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Under what reasoning does Politico's Mike Allen give the following piece of spin anonymity?:

'A former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush called the publication of the memos “unbelievable.”
“It's damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama's action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake."

“I don't believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.”

Allen is allowing a member of the administration that broke the Geneva Conventions and commited war crimes to attack the current president and claim, without any substantiation, that the torture worked. He then allows that "top official" to proclaim things that are at the very least highly questionable. What journalistic standard is Allen following in allowing such a person to speak anonymously?

And how much lower can he sink in craving buzz and traffic? Still carrying water for the bushboys.

Posted by: drindl | April 17, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

"I just received the umpteenth call from Democracy for America. I have been receiving calls and emails from moveon.org as well. They are still campaigning for Obama and are still asking for donations to help his policies get passed. Unbelievable."


Why is that unbelievable? Those are advocacy organizations that want various policies changed. It should come as no surprise that, until the policies they favor are implemented, they will continue to campaign in support of them.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 17, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

"He will do anything to succeed and the MSM will everything they can to help him."

You're hilarious, keep tilting at those windmills.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 17, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

the action american needs.
thanks chris....i had not read it.

influencing the influencers is what is called "partying with the power players from the other side".

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 17, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I just received the umpteenth call from Democracy for America. I have been receiving calls and emails from moveon.org as well. They are still campaigning for Obama and are still asking for donations to help his policies get passed. Unbelievable. Obama is so corrupt Chicago politician. He will do anything to succeed and the MSM will everything they can to help him.

Posted by: hazwalnut | April 17, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

This is very telling of the "Obama influence of the MSM." Check out CNN's view of how they should support Obama.

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2009/04/16/what-cnn-didnt-show-roesgens-chicago-tea-party-interviews#comments

Posted by: hazwalnut | April 17, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Man it is so nice in fact it is great to have a President with a brain.

I am so glad the conservatives are out and I hope for the rest of my life they never get congress back and of course from the looks of it they won't.

Posted by: antonio3 | April 17, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"Obama is setting his own stage as he governs and good for him. He doesn't seem fettered by the conventional way of doing things. I wouldn't call it 'manipulation' but rather a smart way to engage with the public."

He is using what TR called the 'bully pulpit' very effectively. Its not just the op-eds either; the WH seems to be making conscious effort to circumvent the media filter to get directly to the people - which is smart politics. He's going to need to get the voters to start leaning on Congress to start making some tough decisions about how to address widespread areas of policy.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 17, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Re: Justice Dept. OLC Torture Memos...


THE QUESTION ACLU (AND INVESTIGATIVE JOURNOS) NOW MUST ASK:


• DID *OTHER* BUSH-ERA DOJ MEMOS APPROVE THE USE OF MICROWAVE OR OTHER ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION WEAPONS OR DEVICES ON ANY HUMAN BEINGS...


...WHETHER THEY WERE DETAINEES, OR AMERICAN CITIZENS CLASSIFIED AS UNDESIRABLES, DISSIDENTS OR MENTAL DEFECTIVES?


• IF SO, UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS WERE SUCH WEAPONS OR DEVICES USED, AND WHERE?


http://nowpublic.com/world/bush-doj-memos-used-legal-cover-domestic-torture

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 17, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

"5. Madden Retires. Pow!"

Well played.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 17, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm not digging on "twosse."

Sounds gynecological.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 17, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

no kidding RickJ. I guess outreach past the beltway media movers and shakers that according to Chris sets the conventional wisdom for a presidency is novel, and so maybe that's why the Fix referred to it as manipulation.Legitimate, civil, and sincere outreach must seem like such a foreign concept to those people who think Chip Saltzman isn't a racist.

Posted by: katem1 | April 17, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I'm still not sure how he can lift the travel embargo to Cuba for Cuban-Americans only. That seems to me a clear violation of the 14th amendment.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 17, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Never underestimate the Chameleon in Chief.. he is the best.. at what he does.

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 17, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

"President Obama ran against the chattering class politics of Washington but since coming into office has effectively manipulated this elite group of influencers using a variety of techniques from small group sitdowns to opinion pieces in various national and international newspapers."

I guess you're one of this 'elite group', eh? Funny thing is, no one outside the beltway considers the 'chattering class' to be anything but full of itself. And I have read far more criticism of obama by this group than praise.

Posted by: drindl | April 17, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

This is a president that likes to control the debate and move the media needle to where he needs it to go.

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 17, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Obama is setting his own stage as he governs and good for him. He doesn't seem fettered by the conventional way of doing things. I wouldn't call it 'manipulation' but rather a smart way to engage with the public.

Posted by: RickJ | April 17, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

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