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President Obama, Back on the Trail

In his online town hall today at the White House President Obama drew on the lessons he learned on the campaign trail to help move his legislative agenda forward in Congress.

The event, which included questions submitted online (and via video) as well as a studio audience, had the look and feel of any number of campaign events candidate Obama held over the past two years. Obama strolled comfortably around the room, packed with people, a wireless microphone in his hand -- it was easy to forget that he was in the White House and not in a union hall in Des Moines.

And, rhetorically, the themes Obama sounded mirrored the pillars of his campaign -- an outsider appeal that decries the political chattering class in the nation's capital.

In his opening remarks, Obama said:

"Here in Washington, politics all too often is treated like a game. There's a lot of point scoring, a lot of talk about who's up and who's down, a lot of time and energy spent on whether the President is winning or losing on this particular day or this particular hour. But this isn't about me. It's about you."

The idea of the presidency as a grassroots movement -- Obama as conduit for the hopes and dreams of a country -- is the latest sign of just how much Obama and his senior aides are implementing the strategic successes of the campaign now that he is in the White House.

It's easy to forget that the marathon two-year campaign is one of the formative events -- if not THE formative event -- in the shaping of Obama's political mind. It's not surprising then that Obama draws deeply from the campaign when trying to convince voters -- and Congress -- of the rightness of his proposals.

As the Post's irreplaceable Dan Balz noted yesterday, one of the lessons Obama learned during that campaign was the value of persistence -- of sticking to the plan regardless of the daily ups and down of the political cycle.

"He learned from his campaign that the velocity of information can instantly change the conventional wisdom, for better or worse, and that there is no more to be gained from trying to anticipate those shifts than from trying to time the market," wrote Balz.

In today's town hall, Obama demonstrated another lesson learned from the campaign: speak directly to the American people and watch the traditional media follow along. (Politico's Jonathan Martin has written smartly about the Obama team's effort to end run the media filter.)

The White House repeatedly touted the "first of its kind" nature of today's town hall in which regular people could submit and vote on questions that would be asked of the president. There would be no media buffer -- this was people speaking directly with their president.

Obama reinforced that idea early on, telling the live audience that he was "looking forward to taking your questions and hearing your thoughts and concerns -- because what matters to you and your families, and what people here in Washington are focused on, aren't always one and the same thing."

And yet, Obama wasn't penalized by the traditional media for this gambit. Far from it. The town hall was carried live by the cable networks -- for differing lengths of time -- a decision that essentially gave the president free air time to make his unchallenged case on the economy to the American people.

To borrow a well worn cliche -- Obama got to have his cake and eat it too.

Watch for the Obama White House to do more of these sorts of events as the intensity of the budget fight in Congress picks up. Such a strategy will force Republicans to adjust their approach to counter the Obama media juggernaut and media outlets to rethink how they cover such events.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 26, 2009; 4:02 PM ET
Categories:  White House  
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Next: DNC Enters the Fray in NY-20


I'm not's just that this guy is windier than an onion sack..why all this constant talk..take a few days to reflect, talk with your peeps and let the information sink in to the viewers...

I like Obama..I think he's overexposed and stuck on his same old Teen's time to work in the studio and give the concert tour a bit of a rest..let's hear the sophomore album..already.

Posted by: newbeeboy | March 27, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Back on the trail? When did he get off? I must have missed it!

Posted by: Lilycat1 | March 27, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse


Google it.

YOU could be its next victim.

Unless Team Obama takes action.

Now. Before it's too late.

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 27, 2009 2:36 AM | Report abuse


re: post about Class IV laser and a few batteries...

I don't see any reference to power levels in my post. Or are you referring to something that's NOT here? If so, you have definitively revealed yourself as a black hat (as if those who were aware didn't already know...)

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 27, 2009 2:24 AM | Report abuse

We just may be in for the ten year campaign where the President has just spent two years to get elected, he will campaign for the next three years to get his programs adopted, than a year to get re-elected and the last four years he campaigns to get the last of his programs adopted. Sounds good to me. At least we have a guy now who is not afraid to have news conferences or by other means talk to the public. Best of all, we may finally get something done about health care and our dependence on foreign oil. Right now he has to sit and take it when a small time dictator like Hugo Chavez shoots off his mouth because we need the oil. Would it not be nice to tell Chavez to shut his mouth and put a sock in it or else.....

Posted by: Opa2 | March 27, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

Scrivener - have you ever been around a Class IV laser? These aren't powered by a few batteries.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 26, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Nevadaandy, your analysis is right on.

The corporate media's obsession with distractions and irrelevancies -- such as BHO's middle name, non-existent WH dress codes, 30-year old Michelle term papers, etc., as well their racial and personal attacks (see Tammy (the Obamas are "trash") Bruce) on BHO -- are intended to divert attention from the havoc modern robber barons like AIG and Madoff have wreaked.

In no modern country but ours do the CEOs make 360 times what the average wage earner makes. And the US is the only industrialized country without universal health care. The MSM says don't worry all about that economic unfairness stuff, concentrate on flagpins.

BHO is trying to change this insanity. That's why hate broadcasting (Rush, Hannity, Ingraham) is in bigoted over-drive.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | March 26, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Jack Bauer meets BHO/You Tube

I just stumbled on this youtube of a fictional conversation between Jack Bauer and BHO. It is almost believable. Great impersonations of BHO and Kiefer.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | March 26, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse


Wish u were on Hardball today to present this pov. Love the other Chris 65% of the time, but he completely missed the pt of the TH by insisting that the qs were softballs, ad libby that the PC the other day was "boring." It is this type of self-absorption that haunts so much of the beltway culture vis-a-vis "main stret." Isn't the whole pt to talk to avg Americans? Are we so doubt, so out of touch with the grandour, the power, the game of life in DC that we can't ask questions important to our daily life?

Unfortunately, what O' said today (quoted in ur article) is perfectly applicable for the media's reaction this week. Yes, it is disappointing that NYT, Wapo, WSJ was not called. That said, I don't think the non-traditional outlets asked easy questions.

Here is the quote of ur quote of obama:

"Here in Washington, politics all too often is treated like a game. There's a lot of point scoring, a lot of talk about who's up and who's down, a lot of time and energy spent on whether the President is winning or losing on this particular day or this particular hour. But this isn't about me. It's about you."

Love the fix.

Posted by: twshen5 | March 26, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

For those who don't support the President, you need to review what's happened since the Golden Age of Reaganomics.

In the decade of the 1980’s the U.S. was transformed from the world’s largest creditor nation to the world’s largest debtor nation. Throughout the 1980’s conservatives argued that this really didn’t matter.

At the end of 1986 the U.S. had a national debt of $269 billion, at the end of 1987 it was $368 billion, but by 1992 it was $3.5 trillion. It was the greatest economic miscalculation in recorded world history.

It is not enough to describe the U.S. as the world’s richest nation between 1945 and 1992. What is more important is the distribution of its wealth.

The U.S. by 1984 had the greatest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation in world history.

In 1953 there were 27,000 millionaires, in 1964 90,000 millionaires, in 1972 180,000, in 1980 574,000, and in 1988 1.3 million.
In 1981 there were perhaps 10 billionaires in the U.S., 26 in 1986, 49 in 1987 and 52 in 1988. No parallel upsurge of riches had ever been seen since the late 19th century of the Vanderbilts, Morgans and Rockefellers.

But the downside to all this concentration of wealth was that wages—the principal source of middle and lower class income had stagnated through 1986. The Reagan decade was a heyday for unearned income as rents, dividends, capital gains and interest gained relative to wages and salaries as a source of wealth and growing economic inequality.

Remember who was in the White House in the 80's? Reagan and Bush. They turned Washington into a Plutocracy - a government run by and for the wealthy.
During this time government did little to stem the spiraling costs of health care, the environment. Now not only do we have to undo the plutocracy, we also have to ensure we stablize the spiraling costs of health care and energy which if left to these plutocrats will result in more devasting problems for the nation in the next 10 years.

Obama is intelligent enough to see this and needs to be given the support of We the People to stop the wide spread problems that face our nation. He didn't create the mess we're in, and it certainly is going to take time and yes money to get us out of it. He's using all the means available to get his message out to We the people. Remember the preamble to the Constitution? It's about time we had a President willing to communicate with We the People. I used to hear about FDR's fireside chats and how it restored the confidence of our nation, but in my 58 years have never had a President who did what FDR did, until now. We finally have a President who is utilizing all means of communications, not just the printed media and cable news, to reach all Americans - he understands that not all people read the daily paper or watch cable TV and that many people communicate via the internet.

Posted by: Nevadaandy | March 26, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Way to go Chris - a very sweet, smart meta move with the "irreplaceable Dan Balz," reference today. It's the truth too, because Dan Balz is irreplaceable. You are too, but lack the 50+ credential and 30+ years on the job... Here's a thought, Balz gets to keep his job as long as Warren Buffett keeps his.

Posted by: portly1 | March 26, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

At last....

A president not only willing to engage publicly with average Americans, we have a president who is able to do it casually with logic and intelligence.

Which is very, VERY refreshing after the last eight years of a president working from a bunker, incapable of thinking outside the bubble while simultaneously refusing to listen to anyone other than his trusted inner circle of yes men.

We might actually get some really great things accomplished in the next eight years.


Posted by: dastubbs | March 26, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Good posting Chris, informative, not really any bias, have the comments from the previous posting given you pause? If so, that's a positive sign.

Posted by: katem1 | March 26, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

scrivener, you have GOT to get on the question list the next time the President holds one of these events.

Posted by: bsimon1 | March 26, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse


TO: President Obama, White House staff (c/o Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod)

Mr. President:

First things first. You must restore civil and human rights in America before your goals can be accomplished. You must immediately join with GOP defenders of the Constitution to dismantle the nationwide extrajudicial punishment network...

...authoritarian bureaucrats and security/intel officers and their nationwide network of citizen vigilantes fronted by federally-funded volunteer programs.

This nationwide, Gestapo-like operation has made a mockery of the judicial system for the past eight years and has claimed many unjustly "targeted" victims from all strata of society.

Crimes against humanity are being committed across the nation via the use of so-called "directed energy (microwave radiation) weapons" which the Bush D.O.J. recently confirmed are being widely deployed to police forces nationwide.

These RADIATION weapons emit silent, pulsed bursts of various forms of radiation -- degrading and damaging the health of those on the receiving end as well as their operators.

This weaponry has NO PLACE in civilized society -- much less in the hands of security personnel who interact with the public, or with the nation's leaders.

The widespread deployment of this weaponry virtually assures its misuse.

Imagine if rogue actors tried to use its silent, deadly force to induce illness or to disorient, prematurely age, sicken or disable our political leaders.

Perhaps they already have.

Victims of this extrajudicial punishment network also see their finances and livelihoods expropriated and destroyed by coordinated "multi-agency action" "programs of personal financial destruction" that deny them due process of law while degrading their lives and destroying their families.

The IRS, under Bush-Cheney, has been transmogrified into an ideological weapon of social control and recrimination by these covert "multi-agency actions."

Obama administration officials must address these abuses IMMEDIATELY, before these affronts to the Constitution destroy more American families -- and subvert the Obama presidency.


OR (if links are corrupted):

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 26, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

newbeeboy, I don't understand your gripe. He's taking questions from the people he works for: us. Why is that a problem?

Posted by: bsimon1 | March 26, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

This is the only mode in which he feels comfortable -- the idea of being a humble public servant never crosses his mind.

Posted by: newbeeboy | March 26, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

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