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Friday, October 5, 2012

The President and the Bubble

In What It Takes, a great book about the 1988 presidential race, Richard Ben Cramer noted that high-level politicians live in a "bubble" that seals them off from everyday life.  Toward the end, Cramer reflected on the what the bubble had done to George H.W. Bush after he won:
The White House is the thickest and shiniest bubble of all.
It’s not just that we can’t see him. From the White House, he can’t see anything outside. Why didn’t Bush get it?
Well, the White House was running like a top! Everyone who walked into his office had a wonderful job — and were excited by the swell things they were doing for the country and its people. Every microphone over which he peered had a thousand faces upturned to his, ready to cheer his every applause line. If he left Washington, every tarmac on which Air Force One touched down had a line of prosperous people in suits, to pump Bush’s hand and tell him things were, we were, he was . . . great!
At McClatchy Newspapers, Lesley Clark suggests that the bubble might have been responsible for President Obama's sub-par debate performance:
“He’s a guy who has no pushback on anything, ever,” said Charlie Cook, an independent political analyst and editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report. “He’s not doing press conferences, he’s got little interaction with members of Congress and he’s surrounded with acolytes. I think it showed.”
Obama has held fewer press conferences and question-and-answer sessions with reporters than his recent predecessors, according to statistics compiled by Martha Joynt Kumar, a Towson University political science professor who studies the presidency and keeps detailed records of Obama’s press interactions.
“He prefers to be in situations where he feels he has all the facts,” Kumar said. “But the world of the president is a world of imperfection.”
She noted that former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton engaged more often in short question-and-answer sessions with reporters, “knowing that they’d have to deliver answers to questions that they might not have anticipated.”

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