Czar of Truth

Obama brings rapid response, blogger "hand holding" in-house.

As they gear up for the 2012 campaign, the Obama administration has created a new position: Director of Progressive Media & Online Response. As described by HuffPo, Jesse Lee’s rather creepy-sounding portfolio will be to manage the White House’s rapid response to online stories that the administration doesn’t think are truelike and try to make leftie bloggers feel special:

The post is a new one for this White House. Rapid response has been the purview of the Democratic National Committee (and will continue to be). Lee’s hire, however, suggests that a portion of it will now be handled from within the administration. It also signals that the White House will be adopting a more aggressive engagement in the online world in the months ahead….

An equally telling requirement of Lee’s new job, however, is that of crafting strategy for outreach to the progressive community. Lee has been tasked with that responsibility in his previous incarnations, both as a member of the DNC online team during the ’08 election and as a senior new media adviser with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

His new post may require even more delicate hand-holding. Instead of managing the administration’s web presence, he will be pressing to make the administration more popular on the web. In that respect, his Twitter account could also become an interesting window into the status of the always emotional, occasional [sic] testy dance between progressives and the president.

There’s nothing terribly surprising about taking the rapid response task in-house. I can’t say I envy Mr. Lee that task in an administration as woefully bad at crafting a message and staying on it as this one is. One hopes Mr. Lee doesn’t find himself in the already-crowded space under bus any time soon.

The second role should prove more interesting to watch over time. All Presidents have to deal with friction with their base. The hard core never wants to accept that actually governing requires compromise–and Obama’s left flank had insanely high expectations for what he’d be able to accomplish when he took the oath of office on January 20, 2009. The very highness of their hopes made the inevitable crash down to Earth all the more dramatic.

Obviously, the administration has always known that it can rely on most of them to stick with the team when push came to shove. Nothing new there; Bush and Clinton certainly annoyed their bases often enough and still both won re-election with their solid support anyway. But it will be interesting to see how Obama the President tries to reconcile with the left-wing supporters who actually believed in Obama the Transformative Figure. He’s not an uncarved block any more. They may not be willing to abandon him if it risks electing a Republican, but rebuilding the burned bridges won’t be easy with a crowd as petulant as so many in this one have proven to be.

Expect Mr. Lee’s efforts to be by turns infuriating and hilarious.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, , , , , , ,
Dodd Harris
About Dodd Harris
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He contributed over 650 pieces to OTB between May 2007 and September 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Amuk3.


  1. CB says:

    is this really some kind of outrage? i cant say im terribly comfortable with any attempt by any administration to manipulate public opinion, but come on. this doesnt look like much more than an attempt at perception control and to rally the base. on a scale of one to ten this is a two at best.

  2. michael reynolds says:


    Yes, CB, it’s an outrage! Because it’s nothing new. But it’s Obama doing it. Outrageous!

    Handholding bloggers? I am choked with outrage! I am stroking out from the blood pressure of my rage! Oy, such outrage you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy!

  3. Dodd says:

    is this really some kind of outrage?

    Yes. It’s an outrage.

    That’s why I said I expect it to be funny.

    Ye gods.

  4. ponce says:

    Here’s some of his stuff from when he was doing a similar job for the DNC back in 2008:

  5. Southern Hoosier says:

    The Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue, in Newspeak) is one of the four ministries that govern Oceania in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    Like everything else the government does, this position will grow and take on a life of its own. A couple of administrations later, it becomes a full blown cabinet position.

  6. rodney dill says:

    Our chief weapon is fear… fear and surprise…
    Our two chief weapons are fear, surprise and…

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    Yes. It’s an outrage.

    That’s why I said I expect it to be funny.

    Ye gods.

    No one will remember the post, the position created or the “czar-of-truth” pejorative Dodd tried to attach to it.

    Now that’s really funny.

  8. john personna says:

    +1 to Southern Hoosier for funniest response, and +2 for keeping his parody of the right so under the radar

  9. john personna says:

    (Seriously, if the news cycle changes we can expect all players to adjust strategies. It’s quite silly to demand that your political opponents not adjust. Talk about being blind, oblivious, to your own motivation 🙂

  10. CB says:

    Yes. It’s an outrage.

    That’s why I said I expect it to be funny.

    as ben said, its hard to ignore the connotation you seemed to be going for. if im mistaken, my apologies. but along comes southern hoosier, who cranks the outrage up to 11. so methinks i may not have been too far off base.

  11. mantis says:

    Well, your fellow wingnuts are outraged. To them, it’s obviously thuggery, the “good squad” of a dictatorship, a precursor to “re-education camps” for bloggers, and on and on.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    SH rarely cranks anything up to 11. Unless you mean he, personally, is cranked to 11. Then yes, but that is his default state. Since his points are usually of the “I know you are, but what am I?!” variety, they rarely add anything to the debate at all.

  13. Imogene says:

    How exactly is “white house using twitter to connect with their political base” a news story? Doesn’t every politician do the same thing?

  14. bandit says:

    Of all the Obot web trolls why does Jesse Lee get to move out of his mother’s basement?

  15. The Gainsay Czar.

  16. roy says:

    No one will remember the post, the position created or the “czar-of-truth” pejorative Dodd tried to attach to it.

    Now that’s really funny.

  17. Drew says:

    Nixonian, but of course this is “different.”

  18. michael reynolds says:

    George W. Bush invited conservative talk radio hosts to broadcast from the White House.

    To maximize the blitz, the White House set up a tent on the North Lawn yesterday and let 42 radio hosts broadcast live during the day. Because it was on government property, “Radio Day” included outlets such as National Public Radio, but “it’s mostly conservative talk,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said. “This is a chance to talk to people and get heard,” said Snow, a former talk show host who did more than 20 interviews yesterday and has also been dispatched to talk to conservative Web sites such as the Power Line blog.