Political Animal


December 29, 2011 4:40 PM Obama Disses “This Town”

By Ed Kilgore

David Dayen is right: this is the sort of story you mainly see in a very slow news week. But it’s still annoying as hell. Yes, it’s the obligatory report from Washington Insiders that the President just doesn’t fit in because he doesn’t get around and schmooze the movers and shakers who like to call the Imperial City “this town.” Though the author, Helene Cooper, doesn’t come right out and say his “aloofness” is the source of his political problems, that’s certainly the implication. And so add that data point to the absurd claim that Obama just hasn’t gone far enough to kiss ass—particularly Republican ass—in order to break down Washington’s “gridlock.”

People of a certain age have heard it all before, during the presidency of another man whose administration is so often compared to Obama’s. And sure enough, there it is in Cooper’s piece:

To many in Washington — including those, of course, who crave presidential face time — Mr. Obama’s seeming aloofness is risky. He is the nation’s politician in chief, and the presidency has always been first and foremost about politics.
“It’s about building relationships,” said Gerald Rafshoon, a television producer who was President Jimmy Carter’s communications director. “Some people are saying he’s a recluse. You don’t want that reputation. He needs to show that he likes people.” Mr. Rafshoon’s old boss, an outsider to Washington when he became president, recently wrote in his book “White House Diary” that he did not socialize enough when he was the chief executive.

Ah, poor Jimmy; even his own staff was apparently muttering behind his back that he didn’t accomodate himself sufficiently to the Georgetown set.

I devoutly hope this crap isn’t in Obama’s daily reading file, and if it is, that he just laughs.

Ed Kilgore is managing editor of the Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute.


Post a comment
  • Snowbird42 on December 29, 2011 4:52 PM:

    It's all because there is no scandal there.

  • mk3872 on December 29, 2011 4:53 PM:

    To me, this is part of what Obama meant when he said that he wanted to bring change to Washington. Everyone had their own interpretation of that. But in my mind, Obama should TOUT the fact that the DC media and DC insider do NOT like him and do NOT see him as one of their own. This is not a bad thing, IMO.

  • internet tough guy on December 29, 2011 4:56 PM:

    I remember they said this crap in the '90s too.

    I believe that other outsider cruised to a second term; I'm sure not mentioning that is an oversight on the Times's part.

  • Anonymous on December 29, 2011 4:59 PM:

    Way to go, Helene - You miss the point entirely. You enable the obstructionist, bad behavior of a broken political party or at least a political party that should be held to account for its atrocious behavior. Way to enable bad behavior by blaming the 'victim' of someone else's crime.

    Not convincing Helene. Try another excuse for the pathetic GOP.

  • c u n d gulag on December 29, 2011 5:01 PM:

    Jeez, just 'cause he missed YOUR cocktail party or dinner1

    The man's got stuff to do!
    He's the f*cking President!!!

    Did they bitch like this when Little Boots took his empty, but weary, head to be every night at 9pm?
    What, a STUPID question!

  • Greg on December 29, 2011 5:07 PM:

    I must resist the urge to tell Helene that we did not elect Obama to be her or her friend's friend.

    The absolute arrogance that Ms. Cooper and the likes of Sally Quinn display about how important the "Washington Elite" are is stunning.

    ... and the horse she rode in on.

  • kindness on December 29, 2011 5:18 PM:

    Notice no comments allowed on the article in the Times.

  • clevergirl on December 29, 2011 5:19 PM:

    People who have enjoyed time in the inner circle have great difficulty accepting the fact that they are out, often permanently. The sense of entitlement among these people is disgusting.

  • Blue Girl on December 29, 2011 5:21 PM:

    Oh, come now! It's obvious what's going on here...Helene Cooper is challenging Sally Quinn for the title of Queen Bee of the Georgetown Social Set.

    If those two nasty bitches were in a burning car with the Dalai Lama and I could save all of them -- I would rescue him and let them burn.

  • Quaker in a Basement on December 29, 2011 5:29 PM:

    Geez, Ed! Don't you remember how cooperative and collegial the Congressional GOP became after Obama played a little golf with Boehner? How all of a sudden stuff was gettin' done?

    Well, OK, none of that happened, but it might have if Obama had just tried a little harder, see?

  • Rich on December 29, 2011 5:34 PM:

    i don't recall GW Bush being a big hobnobber and the only Georgetown parties his daughters attended were keggers, yet I don't recall any of this nonsense being said about him.

  • zeitgeist on December 29, 2011 6:08 PM:

    i have no idea why they think he is a recluse. i mean, he and Michelle have both written me several times in the last week inviting me (and a guest!) to dinner with them.

  • jjm on December 29, 2011 6:29 PM:

    Helene Cooper is utterly untrustworthy on all things Obama. She tries to portray all of his foreign policy successes as having reduced Americans to 'being on the sidelines' or 'standing by helplessly' or 'unable to do anything' on the world stage.

    A total misrepresentation.

    Remember when GW Bush would not let the (black) Obamas stay in the guest house traditionally reserved for incoming presidents because they already had some nobody guest staying there? The DC elite is quite racist; as I recall they were quoted as saying that Clinton, with his 'trashy' black friends, had lowered the social tone of the town.

    Cooper may be black, but she has definitely adopted the Southern White Elite DC mentality.

  • psychobroad on December 29, 2011 6:33 PM:

    Black, black, blackity black, black...

  • dalloway on December 29, 2011 6:34 PM:

    And if Obama was a relentless schmoozer, working the Beltway cocktail weenie circuit every chance he got, they'd whine that he was unserious, a Washington insider and a too-eager-to-please wimp. It doesn't matter what Obama does or doesn't do. They'll criticize him anyway. So he (rightly) ignores them.

  • exlibra on December 29, 2011 6:53 PM:

    Obama is spending plenty of time doing what we elected him to do -- trying to steer this country out of the cliff-edge-proximity, to which his predecessor had driven it. And that he should prefer to spend his scant free time with his family instead of gossiping with the cocktail circus he- and she-bats, or serving them BBQ? Who, in all conscience, can blame him?

  • JD on December 29, 2011 6:53 PM:

    One factor in this non-story that is underappreciated is the president's need to maintain his/her sanity. I'd argue that anything PBO can do to further this goal is a good thing. Accordingly, choosing to hang out with friends and family instead of soulless politicos is a good thing for President Obama to do.

  • mphillip on December 29, 2011 7:04 PM:

    Cooper seems to have a difficult time thinking about the President in a serious manner and her articles from the very beginning have reflected this. I don't know what it is she resents in the Obamas, but boy...

    There have been several articles and news reports about how open the WH is to dc kids, schools, parents...etc. Athletes, chefs, community (including native american) groups, musicians, artists...

    There have been surprise visits to area eateries including a cup cake place for sasha's bday this summer...

    The Obamas have their own ids and histories and "circle." And they have amazingly familar lives as parents of a teen and tween.

    The last gasp of an elite is an ugly sound (see republican party). You just expect the nytimes not to be its stenographer...

  • SYSPROG on December 29, 2011 9:10 PM:

    Yes, because you should kiss ass and play nice with people that are the 'mean kids' from high school. THEY never understand that when they stab people in the back, send their racist little emails and say rotten things at dinner parties why an ADULT might just say 'FU...I've had enough of you and cultivate his OWN friends'...geez that's not the way the village operates...it MUST be his fault...

  • Kathryn on December 29, 2011 9:51 PM:

    Good comments all......I too believe that Barack Obama is an uncommonly mature adult, uncommonly intelligent, uncommonly emotionally mature also, and most importantly, raised by middle class Americans making him uncommonly normal in his lifestyle. My use of uncommon is to denote he is uncommon to the Washington/New York elite phony world of Helene Cooper and Gerald Rafshoon. He is a man of the people because he is one of us, he does 't have to pretend to be one of us, he is one of us. Babies he enchants feel it, schoolchildren feel it, I felt it when I shook his hand at a rally in 2007. Washington/New York elites don't have any understanding of a normal guy like Obama, especially when he's the smartest guy in the room, it's discombobulating to them, tough sh-t!

  • Steve P on December 29, 2011 10:26 PM:

    Rather than recycle the comments I posted to venues like this and The Horse when courtiers/hacks like HRH Dean Broder was complaining that the Clintons had trashed the place and it wasn't their place--it's pretty well covered above--let me express my relish at this phrase:

    " . . . Gerald Rafshoon, a television producer who was President Jimmy Carterís communications director."

    Forgotten but not quite gone. Rafshoon was Jimmy Carter's Dick Morris, a creepy nobody who peddled a tenuous connection with power into a quote mill for any hack with a hit piece to write.
    (A "television producer"? Is that Belt-ese for "vagrant"?)

  • Patrick Star on December 29, 2011 11:22 PM:

    Most normal, responsible, mature adult parents with school-age children at home relish every minute they can get with their kids, and really couldn't give a f#cking rat's ass about some pathetic, insecure busybody's opinion of how THEY think that they should live their lives. Who in their right minds would want to hang out with these idiots?

  • chi res on December 30, 2011 12:10 AM:

    Oh, VERY WELL DONE, Washington Monthy Commentariat!!

  • Anonymous on December 30, 2011 12:11 AM:


  • RalfW on December 30, 2011 12:20 AM:


    As someone pointed out on another blog earlier today, the GOP house members refused Obama's invite to watch the Superbowl a couple years ago, all of 'em.

    Virtually every rank and file Republican in both houses treats Obama as a sworn enemy. Sen turtle, er, um, Sen. McConnell openly declared just after the 2010 election that he'd do all he could - economy and country be damned - to keep Obama to one term.

    I suppose Obama attending D.C. cocktail parties could change that. But it seems about as far fetched as calling Helene Cooper a journalist.

    The Times has sunk to a new low with this one. I barely care if they continue to exist.

  • RP on December 30, 2011 9:39 AM:

    I'm 99% certain that several articles were published in Bush's first term praising him for not being part of the DC insider culture, vacationing in Texas, etc.

  • zandru on December 30, 2011 10:31 AM:

    Good analysis, Kathryn! You got to shake Barack Obama's hand?! Cool!

    (I avoided going to any of the in-town rallies for Democratic candidates, because for the previous 8 years, everyone I got out to see lost.)

    Personally, I feel the President is on the right track by avoiding the DC Schmooze-fest. Better that he get out of that sick circle of syncophancy and travel the country - where nearly all Americans live.