President Obama has gone on virtually every network but Fox in a weekend tour de force that continues tonight:
The president’s week-long media blitz has left no other network behind. The president has appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bloomberg and CNBC and will appear on five public affairs talk shows on Sunday: ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN’s “State of the Union” and Univision’s “Al Punto, con Jorge Ramos.” And he’s doing CBS’ “Late Night with David Letterman” on Monday.
This has some wondering if he’s not overdoing it a mite:
With or without an appearance on Fox, the president’s media blitz is without precedent. Presidents rarely appear on Sunday talk shows; none has ever appeared on so many in one week. And no sitting president has ever been a guest on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Dana Perino, who served as White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, says the president risks “diluting the bully pulpit” by doing so many interviews in such a short period of time. “The next time they really want to pack a punch, they might have to ask [former House majority leader] Tom DeLay if they can cut in on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” Perino told ABC News.
It’s a concern echoed by Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton. “More isn’t always more when it comes to a president’s words,” Myers told Politico. “This is something they need to start to be concerned about.”
The White House dismisses talk of overexposure. “The president is seeking opportunities to speak to a diverse audience about the importance of comprehensive health insurance reform,” Earnest said. “The more that people learn about what he actually supports, the more people support the plan.”
Howie Kurtz sums up the president’s ubiquity:
Sure, this is a president who has dissected basketball brackets on ESPN, gone for burgers with Brian Williams, showed Steve Kroft his swing set, dissed Kanye West (off the record) with CNBC and ordered a general to shave Stephen Colbert’s head. By that standard, Obama’s Sunday blitz was a mere throat-clearing that, as it turned out, produced little in the way of big news. And some journalists — even as they continue to clamor for access — say he is diluting the product.
“It’s simple,” explains White House communications director Anita Dunn. “In an increasingly fragmented audience that gets information from a number of different sources, putting a huge amount of his time behind one medium increases our ability to really break through and get a message out. The effect of one interview, given how rapidly the news environment moves, doesn’t last as long as it used to.”
But is there such a thing as too many?
While the White House plan was for Obama to focus primarily on health care and Afghanistan, he broke no new ground on either subject, repeating points he has made many times. Some topics varied — “State of the Union” host John King asked about North Korea; “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked about the ACORN scandal — but the game plans were strikingly similar.
The first clips released by the networks — and picked up in news stories — showed the hosts were especially interested in a subject the president has been trying to avoid. They all asked about the recent chatter that some of his critics are motivated by racism. And Obama’s answers took on a certain sameness.
Ronald Reagan famously managed the message by giving very controlled access and basically giving the press no choice but to run with the sound byte of the day since if the president says only two sentences that day, whatever he said is by definition news. But that was before multiple 24/7 cable networks, blogs, TMZ, and all the rest. Maybe the world has just changed.
Veteran Democratic communications strategist Chris Lehane agreed, arguing that for Barack Obama there is no such thing as overexposure. “It’s the Angelina Jolie phenomenon,” said Lehane, a former spokesman for Vice President Al Gore. “People don’t get tired of seeing Angelina Jolie.” Is Lehane comparing President Obama to Angelina Jolie? “Yes. He is a natural talent,” Lehane said. “People do connect with him.”
The president as sex symbol famous for being famous is perhaps just the natural evolution of things.