Despite his administration's ongoing feud with the media over government spying on journalists, President Obama has accelerated his private courting of selected reporters because he thinks they can propel his agenda and will give him a favorable hearing.
He has met at the White House recently with national security writers and prominent columnists identified by Politico as including Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal, and David Ignatius of the Washington Post. And he has met separately with liberal journalists, including Ezra Klein of the Washington Post and Jonathan Capehart of MSNBC.
This comes at a time when Obama and his staff are experiencing their worst media relations of his presidency.
There are several reasons for the falling out. The Justice Department has caused widespread media outrage by seizing the phone records of the Associated Press as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information. The department also alienated the media by seizing the phone records and emails of Fox News correspondent James Rosen in a separate probe.
In addition, White House reporters are still simmering over a series of perceived slights and examples of hostility from the White House over the course of many months. These include repeated clashes with Press Secretary Jay Carney at his briefings, and private haranguing and perceived bullying by White House aides when they don't like reporters' stories.
And White House reporters are concerned that the Obama administration, like others before it, is limiting contact with senior officials and funneling reporters to press aides who are often dismissive or out of the loop.
Obama's private meetings with selected journalists are part of his effort to have a least some direct contact with the mainstream media. And my long-held belief as a White House correspondent is that the more contact a president has with the media, the better for everyone, including the public. Regular engagement with the media by a president generally facilitates a better understanding of the chief executive and what makes him tick.
The problem for Obama is that something fundamental is missing from such "charm offensives," whether with the media or congressional Republicans: real relationships between the president and people who are outside his administration. It will take a lot more outreach to achieve that, and it's unclear to me whether Obama, who is considered aloof by many in Washington, is willing to make the effort over the long term.
- Obama Tries to Move Beyond Scandals
- Photos: Heroic Oklahoma Tornado Rescues
- White House Press, Obama Aides Square Off
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.