By Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers.
It's seems that trotting up to Capitol Hill on his first full day in town was a smart move for President-elect Barack Obama. Even Republican congressional relations gurus are giving the incoming Democrat high marks. "I think he has done extraordinarily well," says Nicholas Calio, the Hill lobbyist for President Bush and his dad, the former president. "The more friends he tries to make now, the better off he will be because he's making them at a time he doesn't need to make them—it means more in a sense."
Another Republican echoes the sentiment. "I'll tell you, he's off to a good start," says Tom Korologos, who held the same position as Calio but under Presidents Nixon and Ford. "He's gone to the Hill; he's met with the speaker and the majority leader; he has schmoozed the Congress." Calio, Korologos, and their Clinton-era counterpart, Howard Paster, all gave Obama advice on congressional relations last night at another seminar hosted by Stephen Hess, author of What Do We Do Now?: A Workbook for the President-elect. Right now Obama's relationship with Congress is most like a president he was once criticized for complimenting. "So far, he resembles Reagan," Korologos says. "By running up to the Hill, by talking to them ... so far he's got them eating out of his hand, and President Reagan during the transition had them eating out of his hand." And one president he's not like? Not surprisingly, that would be Richard Nixon. "We had a hell of a time getting Nixon to even talk to the Congress," says Korologos. "We had to drag him screaming into leadership meetings to tell him that the Vietnam War was over. It cost him."