Is the Times getting just a bit sick of Obama?
Friday's "White House Memo" by Peter Baker on potential Obama over-exposure is surprisingly critical by Times standards: "Obama Complains About the News Cycle but Manipulates It, Worrying Some." The text box: "A risk that a president will suffer from overexposure."
Baker left aside policy preferences to politely take the president apart on tactics.
It has become his common lament. Challenged about difficulties with his economic or legislative programs, President Obama complains about the tyranny of "the news cycle," pronouncing the words with an air of above-it-all disdain for the impatience and fecklessness of today's media culture.
Yet after six months in office, perhaps no other president has been more attuned to, or done more to dominate, the news cycle he disparages. Mr. Obama has given roughly three times as many interviews as George W. Bush and held four times as many prime-time news conferences as Bill Clinton had by comparable points in their terms.
The all-Obama, all-the-time carpet bombing of the news media represents a strategy by a White House seeking to deploy its most effective asset in service of its goals, none more critical now than health care legislation. But longtime Washington hands warn that saturation coverage can diminish the power of his voice and lose public attention.
About 24.7 million viewers tuned in Wednesday, according to Nielsen ratings, some 4 million fewer than watched his last evening news conference in April and 25 million fewer than saw his first in February. Mr. Obama's focus on health care produced what Chuck Todd of NBC described as a "snoozer conference," a line the Republican National Committee happily adopted.
Baker ended the story with a little bragging ona colleague from whom Obama seemed to have cribbed some talking points:
If Mr. Obama is an energetic producer of news, he also seems to be an avid consumer. At Wednesday's news conference, he seemed to address or borrow ideas from two columns in that morning's newspapers....David Leonhardt, an economics columnist for The New York Times, had written: "What's in it for me? On the subject of health care reform, most Americans probably don't have a good answer to the question. And that, obviously, is a problem for the White House and for Democratic leaders in Congress."
Mr. Obama responded in his opening remarks: "A lot of Americans may be wondering, 'What's in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?' So tonight I want to answer those questions."