Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:02 PM ET, 03/23/2009

Thomas Erdbrink and Glenn Kessler write in Saturday's Washington Post: "President Obama released a holiday video greeting to Iran on Friday, offering a 'new beginning' in a tone that differed sharply from the anti-Iran rhetoric of his predecessor but that drew only mixed responses from Iranian officials and analysts."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "As he heads toward his next big decision as commander in chief — a new strategy for Afghanistan, to be announced as early as this week — Mr. Obama, by necessity and temperament, is wearing the role in ways distinctly different from former President George W. Bush....[W]hile Mr. Bush often called himself 'a war president,' that phrase seems to be missing from Mr. Obama's lexicon."

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt writes: "The Obama administration, which promised new transparency in government, has fallen into old Washington ways, sometimes providing officials for comment only if they are not named and holding background briefings for large groups of reporters at which the public cannot be told who did the talking....

"Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said the administration frequently makes officials available to speak on the record. But, in a comment revealing of the administration's news management philosophy, he said there are times when officials will talk only anonymously so they can get into policy details, speak more candidly and 'keep the emphasis on the most important name in any story, which is President Obama.'....To see how pervasive the culture of anonymity is in Washington, consider that President Obama recently walked in on his way to dinner and joined senior members of his administration who were arguing with The Times's David Brooks about one of his columns. In Brooks's next column, about this meeting, the most senior of all officials simply became one of 'four senior members of the administration.' His cover was blown later.

White House budget director Peter Orszag blogs about the release of the Fiscal Responsibility Summit Report. Writes Orszag: "[A]s I stated during my remarks at the Summit, let me be very clear: Health care reform is entitlement reform. The path to fiscal responsibility must run directly through health care."

Jane Black writes in Saturday's Washington Post: "With the help of local elementary school students, Michelle Obama broke ground for a White House fruit and vegetable garden and initiated a public campaign to help Americans better understand where their food comes from."

Obama was the first president in decades to skip the Gridiron Club dinner during his first year in office. The Associated Press reports: "Obama didn't have time to join a roast of prominent officials by the journalists who cover them, cracks Vice President Joe Biden, because Obama is getting ready for Easter. 'He thinks it's about him,' Biden says." The evening's entertainment also included skits. "A spoof of former Vice President Dick Cheney set to the tune of Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' made fun of Cheney's dominant role in George W. Bush's White House. The Cheney mimic sang, 'I pulled the strings, he said the words...he did it my way.'"

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