Media suggest Obama is talking to them too much

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

In covering President Obama's promotion of health care reform and his July 22 press conference, several media figures have suggested that Obama has "overexposed" himself by holding too many press conferences and granting too many interviews.

In covering President Obama's promotion of health care reform and his July 22 press conference, several media figures have suggested that Obama has "overexposed" himself by holding too many press conferences and granting too many interviews. On the July 26 broadcast of ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos stated to his panel that "spending a lot of time with journalists, on television, giving interviews over the last couple of weeks ... has led to this discussion ... about whether the president is overexposed." Similarly, on the July 26 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz said that the number of interviews Obama has done "raises the question of whether he does too much of that and is overexposed." However, others have disagreed. For example, New York Times columnist David Brooks told Stephanopoulos: "I actually don't think he is overexposed," while Politico columnist Roger Simon had previously told Kurtz, "[P]olitics is personality-driven. And the president, when he dominates the stage, as he does in every one of these interviews, helps not only get his message across, but he fills the airwaves with him instead of his opponents."

Examples of media figures suggesting Obama is "overexposed" include:

  • During the July 26 broadcast of CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz also asked Simon: "[D]oes the president get much out of doing all these network interviews? Did he get one inch closer to health care, as supposed to sitting down with [CBS Evening News anchor] Katie [Couric], et al?"
  • During the "All Star Panel" on the July 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier asked: "Is the president overexposed? Is he out there too much? He had 11 health care events in many as many days pushing the health care reform legislation." In response, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer stated: "He's overexposed. He's a great rock star, but even rock stars can outstay their welcome. He should only go out there on his own when he has something new to say and dramatic. He didn't. I think it's -- the faith he has in his own eloquence, it's larger than the reality of his own influence." Weekly Standard editor William Kristol responded, "President Obama's exposure, if he had something substantive to say, if you're willing to make a serious case for the health care bill and address the objections, I think it might be fine. Go out and do it a lot." He continued: "But he's not saying anything substantive. Except that he's attacking unnamed Republican strategists for asking that the bill be killed and that we start over."
  • On the July 24 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto said: "This whole thing kind of reminds me, though, of Regis [Philbin], you know? At first, that whole Millionaire show franchise, that looked huge. Once it started popping up every night, then it wasn't so huge, was it?" Cavuto's guest, public relations consultant Fraser Seitel, went on to assert that Obama is "starting to get overexposed. He's on television. It's all Obama all the time."
  • While teasing a discussion on the July 23 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer said, "Rarely a day goes by when the American people don't get a glimpse of President Obama. Is he overexposed?"
  • During the July 22 edition of CNBC's Power Lunch, co-host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera stated: "The American public has been getting a heavy does of President Obama lately. He's been on TV, radio, town halls, the Internet, tweeting. He's back on TV again tonight, his fourth prime-time news conference since taking office. That's the same number that George Bush did in his entire eight years as president. Is Obama's PR blitz on health care reform working or is he just overexposed?" One of her guests, Politico White House correspondent Carol Lee, responded, "Well, this is certainly Obama saturation. And I think the question of whether or not he's overexposed or whether or not this is working is a little less important than the fact that he's finally in the debate. ... [I]t was painfully obvious to the White House when the president was away a couple of weeks ago, when he traveling in Russia and Italy and Ghana and the health care debate started to heat up, that his absence was sorely missed."
  • In a July 23 "Inside the Beltway" column in The Washington Times, Jennifer Harper tracked Obama's media appearances and quoted Fox News analyst John Tantillo as saying: "Yes, the president is overexposed, But a bigger issue is at stake: There's a chance he's perceived as a celebrity who is not doing the work of the people. That's a greater problem."

From the July 26 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Roger Simon, does the president get much out of doing all these network interviews? Did he get one inch closer to health care, as supposed to sitting down with Katie, et al?

SIMON: Oh, sure he does. I mean, politics is personality-driven. And the president, when he dominates the stage, as he does in every one of these interviews, helps not only get his message across, but he fills the airwaves with him instead of his opponents. He has given many more interviews than previous presidents at this time in their presidency. Peter Baker points out in The New York Times, he carpet bombs the media. He fills the vacuum. Because his communication team knows if he doesn't fill the vacuum, the other side will fill the vacuum.

KURTZ: Yeah. Well, of course, raises the question of whether he does too much of that and is overexposed.

From the July 26 broadcast of ABC's This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You bring up another point, George [Will, Washington Post columnist]: the ubiquity of President Obama. And he was everywhere this week. And Mark Knoller, who's been covering the White House longer than just about everybody, for CBS News and is a great statistician -- he's like the box-score man on the White House press corps -- has said that the president is just shy now of 100 interviews in the first six months or so in office, more than any other president in the first six months. One of them this week was with Katie Couric, where the president and Katie Couric ended up getting into a big discussion about you, David Brooks. Let's take a look.

[begin video clip]

COURIC: He says Democrats are losing touch with America because, quote, "the party is led by insular liberals from big cities and the coasts" --

OBAMA: This was a really long question.

COURIC: -- "on issue after issue." It was a pretty --

OBAMA: Are we going to read the whole column here?

[video break]

COURIC: I'm just curious. A, have you read it, and B, what's your response?

OBAMA: I -- you know, I don't spend a lot of time reading columns, Katie.

[end video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure that's exactly true. But he's certainly spending a lot of time with journalists, on television, giving interviews over the last couple of weeks. And David, it has led to this discussion that George started about whether the president is overexposed. The White House says in response they have no option. In a fractured media universe, the president has to be out there all the time. He's the best salesman for their policies, and there's no substitute.

BROOKS: Yeah, first: I'm willing to go read him the column. Maybe while he's -- I'll just read him Paul's columns, not even my own. I actually don't think he's overexposed. He is their best spokesman. Now, there is a problem that there are no other spokesmen, they can't send out other people. But I happen to think he's the best thing they've got. If you look at the polls, what you see is people like Barack Obama.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Personally.

BROOKS: They disagree with the policies. There's been a sharp slide in support for the policies. Health care -- he's now under 50 percent. Sixty-six percent of independents think it's too much big government, but they still like Barack Obama. So, if you've got this unique person who's selling your product, don't give up on him. So, I actually -- I see no evidence that he's overexposed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, not to the point of diminishing returns yet. Do you agree?

HUFFINGTON: No, absolutely not. I think -- this his capital. His approval rating is his major political capital. The key question is, how is he going to spend it? I don't think he's really spending it enough in terms of making this --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Don't you think he's spending it on health care?

HUFFINGTON: No, no, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's one of the things you're seeing.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (Huffington Post co-founder): But in terms of health care -- not to make it bold enough, George. Because if it's not going to be bold enough, it's not going to contain costs enough. And that includes prevention, that includes all the things he cannot achieve simply by having endless meetings in the White House with private insurance and hospital providers and the drug industry. Because basically, ultimately, he will have to confront them.

You know, just think of it: He has been trained by Saul Alinsky, right? The great community organizer who wrote about political reform, in four stages -- that's how he saw it. And the final stage was reconciliation. My problem with the Barack Obama style is that he wants to move to reconciliation too fast. And you can't pretend that there is no conflict. I mean, people are going to be upset if there is real health care reform.

WILL: Ronald Reagan, who understood the theatrical dimension of politics because he'd been in the theater, understood the first rule of entertainment, which is, leave the audience wanting more, not less of you. This president has grabbed the country by the lapels and shaken it and talked to it and lectured it and there will be time when the novelty is gone. You can only be a novelty once, Arianna. And people will use that fundamental instrument of modern life, remote button, and push the mute.

HUFFINGTON: But George, he probably would have left you wanting less a long time ago. So, you know, you are not the typical American.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be, Arianna, although one of things we did see this week -- and it may be because it's the middle of the summer -- but [New York Times columnist and economist]Paul Krugman, the number of people who tuned in for the president's press conference was down about 15 percent from the last time around, in part because Fox was playing something else.

KRUGMAN: Yeah. Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But we have seen a steady slide over the six months on things like that.

KRUGMAN: But that's going to happen. It's, you know -- it's -- first of all, yeah. There are other things going. And also, a little bit of the novelty is wearing off. But, you know, he needs to be out there. What he needs to do is, he needs to be focused. I'm not sure that his foreign trip was a good idea, that it may have been that he really needed to be here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One too many.

KRUGMAN: Yeah. That he really needed to be here pushing health care. He needs to be doing more almost rally-style events. You know, you want to think about -- you know, he needs to be selling his policies, and right now, health care or make or break.

From the July 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

KRAUTHAMMER: As long as it was a matter of rhetoric and of promises and a free lunch -- more care, higher quality care, no cost -- Obama was -- this idea was a popular idea. Now that it's in numbers, the Blue Dogs are rebelling, because it doesn't add up.

BAIER: Is the president overexposed? Is he out there too much? He had 11 health care events in many as many days pushing the health care reform legislation. A new poll out by Rasmussen today, a daily tracking poll, has the president at 49 percent approval, the first time he was below 50 percent. And that just came out today. Juan, is he overexposed?

JUAN WILLIAMS (NPR news analyst and Fox News contributor): Well, he just had so many events and so many interviews granted. And again, it's just been a terrific media strategy for a man who is so popular. His popularity is more -- as we've often said -- more -- he's more popular than his policies are. And so it's important that he stay out there. But you're starting to see, for example, the ratings for that press conference this week were surprisingly low. So, suddenly, it's like people are tuning out. That's not to his advantage.

BAIER: Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: He's overexposed. He's a great rock star, but even rock stars can outstay their welcome. He should only go out there on his own when he has something new to say and dramatic. He didn't. I think it's -- the faith he has in his own eloquence, it's larger than the reality of his own influence.

BAIER: Bill.

KRISTOL: Yeah. As Charles said about health care, it's the substance of the health care bill that's hurting it. And as with the -- President Obama's exposure, if he had something substantive to say, if you're willing to make a serious case for the health care bill and address the objections, I think it might be fine. Go out and do it a lot. But he's not saying anything substantive. Except that he's attacking unnamed Republican strategists for asking that the bill be killed and that we start over.

OBAMA: Namely, Bill Kristol.

KRISTOL: And I noticed he began that Monday, and it has been collapsing -- and his health care plan and his personal approval has been dropping all week. So, what conclusion do I draw from that?

From the July 24 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: This whole thing kind of reminds me, though, of Regis, you know? At first, that whole Millionaire show franchise, that looked huge. Once it started popping up every night, then it wasn't so huge, was it? My next guest says the president can learn from Regis. The public relations consultant Fraser Seitel says you can get overexposed. Huh.

SEITEL: You can. What are you complaining about? You've got me. Who needs Obama?

CAVUTO: That's right.

SEITEL: Come on.

CAVUTO: Quite a draw, quite a draw. But you and I were briefly chatting during the break here that he's the president. He's going to get covered. There are all these news networks and business networks, and they're all going to cover him. But you were saying by granting all of these interviews and being everywhere all the time, he's diminishing himself?

SEITEL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he is starting to -- I mean, he's terrific. He's great. But there's -- it's axiomatic in public relations. There's too much of a good thing. So, he can diminish his credibility. He's starting to get overexposed. He's on television. It's all Obama all the time. He's on more than you are, and you're on a lot.

From the July 23 edition CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Part two of CNN's "Black in America" airs later tonight. It looks at some of the most challenging issues facing African-Americans. You won't want to miss the second installment. It airs tonight beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Rarely a day goes by when the American people don't get a glimpse of President Obama. Is he overexposed?

Plus, a U.S. soldier in captivity and threatened with death -- how is he coping? We're looking for clues in the Army training manual.

And, believe it or not, I have a connection to the Beastie Boys. Yes. They're singing about me.

From the July 22 edition of CNBC's Power Lunch:

CARUSO-CABRERA: But let's talk health care right now. The American public has been getting a heavy does of President Obama lately. He's been on TV, radio, town halls, the Internet, tweeting. He's back on TV again tonight, his fourth prime-time news conference since taking office. That's the same number that George Bush did in his entire eight years as president. Is Obama's PR blitz on health care reform working or is he just overexposed?

Thoughts now from Politico.com's White House correspondent Carol Lee, who wrote about this today, and crisis management expert Eric Dezenhall, author of the best-seller Damage Control. Guys, good to see you. Carol, let me start with you. What do you think?

LEE: Sure.

CARUSO-CABRERA: Is he overexposed or is this what he needs to do to get health care reform bill pushed?

LEE: All right. Well, this is certainly Obama saturation. And I think the question of whether or not he's overexposed or whether or not this is working is a little less important than the fact that he's finally in the debate. I mean, I think what you saw -- the White House painfully -- it was painfully obvious to the White House when the president was away a couple of weeks ago, when he traveling in Russia and Italy and Ghana and the health care debate started to heat up, that his absence was sorely missed. The Republicans gained some footing. The health care bill hit some stumbles, even among members of his own party in Congress. And so now, you're seeing the president try to, one, make up for lost time by doing something health-care-related every day. And he's sort of firing on all cylinders in that respect.

CARUSO-CABRERA: And Carol Lee, you give Obama a B plus. You give a G -- the GOP a B minus when it comes to the health care spin wars. Eric, you give Obama an A, and you give the GOP a B. Explain your grades and whether or not you think, Eric, that President Obama is getting overexposed. Is he winning here?

DEZENHALL: Well, he is right now. I mean, politics is a smash-and-grab business. It's sort of like people say after the Olympics, a certain athlete is overexposed. Of course they're overexposed, but they have a very short window with which to use the juice they have. And Obama is doing very well with the media. The media love the guy. If the media love you, why wouldn't you do media? I think that the question is, will that be enough?

And at some point, Obama courting media is sort of like trying to win over the pretty girl's parents and forgetting about -- you gotta get the girl to like you, too. And in this case, the girl is Congress. And at some point, he's going to have to throttle a bit back on the media and try to win over Congress. But I think he's doing well now.

From Harper's July 23 Washington Times column [bold in original]:

For everyone keeping score, President Obama has made four major television appearances this week. Let's see, there was Wednesday's big fat news conference (the fourth in six months) and three "exclusive" interviews, with NBC's Meredith Vieira, CBS' Katie Couric and PBS' Jim Lehrer.

We're not done yet, though. ABC is offering "A Day in the Life of President Obama" next week with Terry Moran.

Wait. Didn't NBC's Brian Williams already do that? Yes. It was broadcast in June, but titled "A Day in the Life of the White House," so it must have been different. NBC used 32 cameras, and Mr. Williams astonished some viewers by bowing before Mr. Obama at one point.

But is it too much?

"I love President Obama, but I want to see less of him. He's starting to jump the shark. When he's talking about his jeans or with Meredith Vieira, I go, 'Enough already.' He's spending too much time in makeup. And for a guy who's working all the time, he needs to be 'working' all the time, if you know what I mean," Richard Laermer, a New York-based trend analyst and author of "Punk Marketing," tells Inside the Beltway.

Some image management is in order.

"Yes, the president is overexposed, But a bigger issue is at stake: There's a chance he's perceived as a celebrity who is not doing the work of the people. That's a greater problem," says John Tantillo, a Manhattan marketing specialist and Fox News analyst.

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