Obama Courts Cable TV Audience

The president meets with liberal cable commentators.

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Despite his professed distaste for cable TV chatter, President Obama is courting liberal cable TV commentators as part of his campaign to win congressional passage of tax cuts for the middle class and tax increases for the rich.

Obama met at the White House with progressive talk-show hosts who have given him strong support in the past: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton, and Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group.

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"The President met with influential progressives to talk about the importance of preventing a tax increase on middle class families, strengthening our economy, and adopting a balanced approach to deficit reduction," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Oddly, the meeting followed by a few hours an interview Tuesday with Bloomberg TV in which Obama said he doesn't pay much attention to cable news shows. "I don't really spend a lot of time on, you know, what folks say on cable news programs, " the president said.

He has made similar remarks before and has told friends that cable TV tends to sensationalize and trivialize the news. He discussed the cable issue after he was asked about recent criticism of Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Obama suggested that cable shows had hyped the Rice criticism.

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But his distaste for cable chatter hasn't prevented Obama from using cable TV for his own purposes. The meeting with the liberal commentators was part of Obama's effort to generate support for his budget plan. He wants media figures on the left to stir up grassroots support for his plan and opposition to House Republicans who oppose any increase in tax rates, including higher levies on the wealthy.

Obama and congressional leaders are trying to negotiate an agreement to avoid automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect next year. Some economists say the automatic provisions could trigger another recession.

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 is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.