The selling of the president

I know it’s all in the game and that the Obama people are smart to do this, but it makes me a little sick anyway:

But Friday, the West Wing door was held open by a matching door stop and camera crews, and television reporters came and went as they pleased.

In fact, the White House had a reality-show-like feel Friday as NBC and the network’s anchor Brian Williams taped “Inside the Obama White House,” an exclusive, behind the scenes look at what goes on inside the White House and the West Wing each day.

And maybe this means I’m one step from going full-on Dijongate but having burgers with Brian Williams at Five Guys so that he can yak about what a “regular guy” you are rubs me the wrong way too:

Obama, sans jacket, walked up the counter, scanned the menu posted above, and began ordering. Aides Reggie Love and Marvin Nicholson slipped him various requests from the crew. At one point, he brought up NBC’s Brian Williams, who ordered a cheeseburger with ketchup and fries.

Again, I’m sure this is good politics. But it’s certainly not good journalism, even if it’s not as bad as that crap Elisabeth Bumiller wrote about Bush (this ought to give you the flavor of those).

Maybe I’m wrong, but I fear both men will reminisce about their childhoods and we’ll have to hear about Williams’ days as a volunteer fireman.

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66 replies
  1. 1
    asiangrrlMN says:

    I liked the burger run. I don’t like the idea of “Behind the White House” though. How was Italy? (I promise not to break this thread, too).

  2. 2
    DougJ says:

    How was Italy?

    I’m still there. Off to Cinque Terre today.

  3. 3
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Friday, the West Wing door was held open by a matching door stop and camera crews, and television reporters came and went as they pleased.

    I don’t know what this sentence means. Am I missing something?

  4. 4
    DougJ says:

    I don’t know what this sentence means.

    It means there were tv crews all over the White House.

  5. 5
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @DougJ: I figured that, but grammatically the sentence makes no sense. Or even logically. It might just be missing a comma but I have no idea.

    I clicked through and it’s Politico who wrote it I realize, not you.

  6. 6
    AhabTRuler says:

    I don’t care. All I know is that 5 guys rocks. I remember well going to the original one in Alexandria and posting lascivious notes about the way that “5 guys” satisfied me on their bulletin board.

  7. 7
    DougJ says:

    I figured that, but grammatically the sentence makes no sense. Or even logically. It might just be missing a comma but I have no idea.

    I added in the “But” at the beginning.

  8. 8
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: There should be a comma after “by a matching door stop”.

    @DougJ: I am so jealous that you’re in Italy and I am not. No wonder you are up.

  9. 9
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @DougJ:

    I added in the “But” at the beginning.

    Well, then they added it in theirs to match you. It looks verbatim to me.

    No big deal I just found myself trying to figure out what a “a matching door stop and camera crews” is. Or even what a “matching door stop” is.

  10. 10
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    Then they’d also have to delete the one after “camera crews”.

  11. 11
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: Actually, you are correct. The other comma should go. Matching door stop–matches the one on the other side was my thought.

  12. 12
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    Ah well. Not worth all this but it made me curious. Some door stop with the Presidential seal? I was thinking.

  13. 13
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: That seems eminently reasonable to me.

  14. 14
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @asiangrrlMN:
    Which would be kind of hilarious, if you ask me.

    “Official Door Stop of the Office of the President of the United States.”

    “The Door Stops Here”

  15. 15
    freelancer says:

    DougJ:

    I don’t mean to single you out, but you and the other Frontpagers (JC, included) maybe ought to look into a script for auto-posting. Scienceblogs has it, Discover has it, even blogger allows it (though, admittedly, I’ve been too lazy to look into it because at best I’m a K or Q-list blogger.)

    The thing is, and you might be aware of this, on a B-list site like this, a brilliant post at 0322 may in fact be over shadowed when the rest of us wake on Saturday morning, check our reader and dismiss your thesis sight on scene.

    That being said, I’m in Obama’s corner, but I am a skeptic; I am an evidence-based person at heart. Doubt is the place wherein I live, and to see the same media that was duped by Iraq: The Sequel, coddle up to him with no adversary tone or even a glance askance, well, it does trouble me.

    I have researched to the end of the Earth, and I know that as much as Aaron Sorkin has borrowed from everything and everywhere for his material, I’m fairly certain that this sentiment is his own: “If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people that disagree with you.”
    Obama has certainly opened his doors to people that disagree with him, and when they shit on him, as he expects, he gains from it politically. However, even though reality does have a liberal bias , I cannot see a benefit to this country if the MSM continues as it has the last 8-10 years of unquestioning certitude of the words of the executive. If our news media and journalist corps is incapable of thinking critically, then our republic may see its end in the next 20-50 years.
    [/hyperbole]
    But hopefully, the point is taken. Even though I have never identified with a politician more, I have never seen anyone in higher office with the grasp of language, the intelligence, his expressed doubts, the shared history and philosophy, the world-weariness of this man; it would still be foolish to accept his word on faith.

    “Nobody knows anybody. Not that well.”

    Freelancer +5

  16. 16
    DougJ says:

    I don’t mean to single you out, but you and the other Frontpagers (JC, included) maybe ought to look into a script for auto-posting. Scienceblogs has it, Discover has it, even blogger allows it (though, admittedly, I’ve been too lazy to look into it because at best I’m a K or Q-list blogger.)

    You mean, have it come up at normal time instead, via scheduling? I think that tends to lead to autopiloting, too often.

  17. 17
    grimc says:

    I agree that this sort of silliness is just coal in the Stupid Journalism boiler, but you’ve got to consider that if Williams wasn’t spending time doing this, he’d be doing a story on how what Sotomayor considers comfort food is giving conservatives political ammo.

    Also, the two years I lived in Atlanta that provided me access to Five Guys has taken at least 3 years off my life. And I don’t regret any of it.

  18. 18
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Those of us in Europe appreciate the posts in other than prime US blog time, FWIW.

  19. 19
    Fencedude says:

    Five Guys was the second most awesome thing about my trip to Baltimore last summer.

  20. 20
    Tattoosydney says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Those of us in Europe appreciate the posts in other than prime US blog time, FWIW.

    Yep. Over here too. It can get boring when it’s 5pm in Sydney and everyone over there has gone to bed.

  21. 21
    oh really says:

    And maybe this means I’m one step from going full-on Dijongate but having burgers with Brian Williams at Five Guys so that he can yak about what a “regular guy” you are rubs me the wrong way too:

    I think your instincts are correct.

    It would be extremely difficult to decide which parts of the game are worth playing and which are simply perpetuating the superficiality that dominates the MSM. I don’t have a good answer.

    I think the defining characteristic today of the MSM is their irresponsibility (of which superficiality is a part). Even a president’s biggest fans shouldn’t want the media fawning all over him — critical, adversarial reportage is vital to the health of our system (its absence is one reason our system is so sick).

    Sadly, the president probably has little choice but to play the media to a certain extent. I’d like to see it kept to a minimum. In this case, I can’t imagine what worthwhile information I’ll learn from Obama having a burger with Brian Williams.

  22. 22
    Batocchio says:

    Williams is a phony and I’m with you on the “regular guy” stuff from him, since even if he’s talking about someone else, he’s really claiming it about himself (Somersby’s series remains great on Williams, BTW). But Five Guys is a DC area institution.

  23. 23
    calipygian says:

    No Dijon at Five Guys. Just a big, fat greasy burger that makes In n Out Burger look like health food.

  24. 24
    WereBear says:

    It’s supposed to be a balancing act.

    The Prez is a regular guy, who puts his pants on one leg at a time, etc. This allows us to sympathize when they make a wrong move. They are only human.

    Yet at the same time they have great responsibility; and usually should be treated with personal deference; though that doesn’t mean their policies shouldn’t be ruthlessly scrutinized.

    But do not forget that as someone who can think critically with either enough information, or the ability to find that information, while keeping our emotions in their proper decision making place; is a skill that is not universally distributed among the population.

    There’s a bunch of people who take shortcuts. They have vague stirrings towards parity and justice; and all too sharp grudges and disappointments. Their minds are staggered at the complexity of taking high risk positions that can affect millions of people; yet assume decision making on the part of the decider is the same grab bag of impulse and good intentions that they use to shape their own lives.

    And they vote.

  25. 25
    harlana pepper says:

    People Eat Cheeseburgers.

    wow

  26. 26
    uila says:

    Re. Williams: he actually spent his formative youth in Elmira, NY, which makes Russert’s average guy Buffalo look like Manhattan. He’s lucky to have wound up in Jersey as a teen, or his firefighting gig could just as easily have been prison guard, which is not as glamorous to trot out when one is trading hard luck stories from one’s Connecticut mansion.

  27. 27
    Tom says:

    Bush did this kind of stuff (private time with bigfoot press) as well, but it was strictly off the record. I think this kind of accessibility is fine as long as it is on the record. Obama is simply doing it differently than other prez, going out of his way to talk to normal people and trying to establish a cordial working relationship with the press. Nothing wrong with that if it is out in the open.

    His security staff, though — I bet they all sit down for a couple of good strong shots of whiskey at the end of every day, still shaking.

  28. 28
    ppcli says:

    Sickening. Once again the administration kowtows to Big Mustard and the all-powerful condiment lobby.

  29. 29
    Rey says:

    Well let’s face it, the Obamas have ushered in a whole new demographic for TV, print and internet media. Our new President “sells” things. I think it is sickening, but I can’t wait to watch it.

  30. 30
    aimai says:

    What ppcli said. Actually, it doesn’t bother me. Any more than the endless stream of articles (with pictures!) of Michelle as “first mommy with good biceps!” After all the years of demonizing, vampirizing, and hell zombie-izing the democrats and especially Democratic political figures anything they can do to normalize Obama’s presidency is ok with me.

    There’s such a thing as taking back the image of Democrats and driving a wedge between the ravings of the far right–he’s a muslim so you know what and she’s the second coming of Angela Davis!–and the reality which is that he’s a moderate dem and she’d for sure have been a country club/junior league republican if she’d been born white and into the right milieu.

    I’m way to the left of both Obamas and I see the virtue in this.

    aimai

  31. 31
    someguy says:

    but it makes me a little sick anyway:

    Whats a matter DougJ? Too much reading RedState given you a case of Republican Swine Flu or something?

    The president is up against a serious noise machine placed in the village’s echo chamber. If he doesn’t work hard to sell what he’s doing, he’s going to be overcome by the right wing clamor that dominates the media. Why does this make you sick? It’s just retail politics.

    FWIW, you probably shouldn’t be blogging from Cinque Terre and decrying Obama’s elitism for eating at Five Guys with a dude from Elmira who just happens to be a reporter.

  32. 32
    Hedley Lamarr says:

    Maybe Brian Wms can be coaxed into recounting one of the “bleach loads” he did upon returning from the beach.*

    * See Howler archives

  33. 33

    After the Bush presidency, Obama is showing that he is not a parental authority figure and that his presidency is not an imperial one.
    His folksy touch accomplishes two things.One, it removes an argument that he is dictatorial in his executive demeanor. Each example of ‘regular guy’ behavior demonstrates a common touch and not an elitist approach. And two, the Executive Branch under Bush and Cheney was forbidding and foreboding. The familiarity by which the Obamas lead their public life restores a sense that the presidency is ‘about and for’ the people.
    I did not vote for Obama but he is impressing me on three points: the vigor of his opponents suggests they fear not only his popularity but that his plans will lead to successes, his calm and mature approach to problem solving is refreshing, and his choices in his cabinet reflect a reasonable confidence in his ability to lead headstrong personalities.

  34. 34
    Rollo says:

    “For more than forty years, NBC News has made it a tradition to offer viewers a unique vantage point into a new president’s White House with a day-in-the-life program. This seventh installment will be taped on Friday, May 29.” [from NBC news press release]

    Yes, so “sickening” what these last SEVEN presidents have done, selling themselves to NBC. My kingdom for some historical context.

  35. 35
    Skepticat says:

    Just don’t confuse any of it with journalism.

    And Bill E Pilgrim, “The Door Stops Here” is fabulous, thanks for the laugh.

  36. 36
    Common Sense says:

    Five guys just came to Houston. Good burgers, great fries. Although the buns are delicious, the patty is too small. Haveta order a double to fill up.

    Freebird’s is a better fast food option. Texans can testify; imagine if Chipotle was actually good.

  37. 37
    kid bitzer says:

    ppcli brings the funny.

    so now we get to see tire-swing journalism when the tire-swing belongs to our guy.

    it’s still nauseating.

    and, no, i don’t blame the obama administration, not too much.

    but i sure as hell blame the villagers.

  38. 38
    Johnny B. Guud says:

    Just don’t confuse any of it with journalism.

    Exactly.

    Maybe if it wasn’t done 10 million times before, and Williams was able to break down the White House press gatekeepers after trying for a year, then maybe I’d consider it “journalism”. But I bet Williams pats himself on the back, nevertheless, for the hard work he does.

    Trying to evoke images of any the President as “normal” because he can go out and get a burger (with a television crew following him around) is too clinical.

    And Five Guys doesn’t even have Dijon mustard or arugula.

  39. 39
    kid bitzer says:

    “imagine if Chipotle was actually good”

    useta be an outfit in portland, or: macheesmo mouse. really good fresh southwest style fast food. i think they went under, tho.

  40. 40
    The Other Steve says:

    We did just get a Five Guys burger joint here in town a few months ago. It’s not bad. Not great, but not bad.

    It just dawned on me how many good burgers we have around here.

    Juicy Lucy at 5-8 club is unique.

    Then we have the Convention Grille, or Lion’s Tap.

    Oh hell, even Johnny Rockets and Ruddfuckers have pretty good burgers for being chains. Oh yeah, and can’t forget Red Robin.

    They just opened up a Sonic near us about a week ago. Haven’t been there yet, but they’ve been advertising on TV for like 4 years so it’s nice to finally see one.

    P.S. Am I the only person in this world who likes their fries a little bit crunchy? Not fake burger king spray on crunchy, but honest to goodness cooked in the fryer crunchy. Maybe I’m just weird.

  41. 41
    The Other Steve says:

    Freebird’s is a better fast food option. Texans can testify; imagine if Chipotle was actually good.

    Chipotle is not bad if you order a burrito bowl with pork and pinto beans… Then smoother it with the medium salsa. Has a bit of zaz.

    Still not as good as Taco Bell! :-)

  42. 42
    Ramalamadingdong says:

    Brian Williams likes the ‘behind the scenes’ inside ball stories more than any other media person, with the exception of Woodward. He has leveraged it to an anchor position, masking instrusiveness as insight and expertise. It comes as no surprise that he was pitching the idea before the inauguration. If he could do a story of Obama in the bathroom he would do it.

  43. 43
    Krista says:

    There’s such a thing as taking back the image of Democrats and driving a wedge between the ravings of the far right—he’s a muslim so you know what and she’s the second coming of Angela Davis!—and the reality which is that he’s a moderate dem and she’d for sure have been a country club/junior league republican if she’d been born white and into the right milieu.

    That IS a good point. I think that we’re forgetting that there is still a significant number of otherwise decent people in the U.S. who have been fear-mongered into genuinely believing that Obama is an elitist stealth Muslim and that Michelle is an angry racist. So, I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable for there to be efforts to emphasize the fact that the Obamas are really very quite normal. A lot of PR stuff can be a bit sickening, but I can understand the rationale behind this one. Unfortunately, because of his background, he’s going to have to play that game to some degree — more so than someone who never had that image foisted upon him in the first place.

  44. 44
    Death By Mosquito Truck says:

    It was contrived with the president ordering for everyone. But how about Brian Williams? Looked a shade over four feet tall, didn’t he?

  45. 45

    The burger runs are great, they keep the people in the White House from getting too deep into the bubble of unreality that obviously can be a problem there.

    You sound like a guy who woke up with hemorrhoid pain and just dashed off a cranky post. Which, you know, is fine, I do it all the time, but it’s unseemly for a front pager.

  46. 46
    aimai says:

    And its barely even nutpicking, considering the number of similar comments over at the politico post:

    The halfbreed teleprompter reader likes his burgers, almost as much as the press (actually the NY branch of the WH press office) likes feeding on his beefless rhetoric. Wake up to this clown and see through him will you please?

    This is going to drive the right wing even crazier, if it were possible.

    aimai

  47. 47
    tim says:

    You’re absolutely right, DJ. Another way Obama is disappointing is his willingness to play stupid, transparent media games like this which just prolong and encourage the bogusness of Beltway culture.

    He could, you know, just do his job instead of have burgers with Brian Targe Shopper Williams, and let it be known he will do interviews as appropriate, but they’ll be brief, to the point and non-retarded.

  48. 48
    maya says:

    While Brian and Barrack are wolfing down cheeseburgers, thank God we have Cheney behind a podium somewhere still keeping us safe after 911.

  49. 49
    MikeJ says:

    Those of us in Europe appreciate the posts in other than prime US blog time, FWIW.

    As do hackers that live on weird sleep scheds and have to commute to odd time zones.

  50. 50
    YellowJournalism says:

    It would be more “normal” for him to go out spontaneously for a burger while out jogging. Ah, the good old days.

  51. 51
    JoyceH says:

    Pardon me for failing to join the pearl-clutching on this, but I think the White House is being smart. As others have noted, there is a significant minority in this country who do vilify the President, his family, and his party. The more he’s out in public showing that he’s a very nice young man, with a good heart and blazing intelligence, the more that crazed minority is marginalized. And I never want to see those people gain power again. They’re dangerous. They get lots of folks killed and a lot more impoverished.

  52. 52
    b-psycho says:

    Fuck the obviously vapid non-story, I just wish that these places famous for big, greasy, ridiculously good burgers had locations close to here (mid-missouri).

  53. 53

    .
    They’re getting ready for the big redecorating project at the White House: Turning it into a whorehouse for Big Healthco.
    .

  54. 54
    The Saff says:

    I’m fine with it. After the tsunami of bad news that is the state of the world (tanking economy, rising unemployment, U.S. auto industry bankruptcies, torture, Dick Cheney not going away, conservative whack-a-doodles, Iraq/Afghanistan/N. Korea/Iran), I sometimes need to watch something that isn’t going to make me even more depressed.

    There are some days where I feel like my head is going to explode from all the negativity. If a puff piece that is “Inside the Obama White House” on NBC helps to me to minimize taking on all the world’s problems in my mind, I’ll take it.

  55. 55
    KidA says:

    It’s reality TV. Real Americans love this crap.

  56. 56
    Brachiator says:

    And maybe this means I’m one step from going full-on Dijongate but having burgers with Brian Williams at Five Guys so that he can yak about what a “regular guy” you are rubs me the wrong way too….

    Just not an issue. Given how conservatives work overtime to portray Obama as a socialist dictator who has installed a mosque just outside the White House Rose Garden, a little puff ball stuff is a soft, easy corrective. This kind of thing is probably more up Barbara Walter’s alley than Brian Williams, but to carp about this kind of lightweight stuff seems needlessly curmudgeonly.

    Along the lines of puff pieces, yahoo news has a nice, touching little piece about Obama’s grandfather.

    It’s interesting how much Obama resembles the young Stanley Dunham. Except, apparently, for the ears.

    Also, thanks to The West Wing and also maybe the Michael Douglas movie, The American President, and even 24, parts of the White House seem a bit familiar. And yet, I confess that I get a bit of a lump in my throat sometimes when I see pictures of Obama in the Oval Office, or the First Family in other parts of the residence, and the degree to which they are so obviously at home there.

    And at the end of the Five Guys video clip, was Obama casually walking back to the West Wing area?

  57. 57
    Martin says:

    I don’t like that it’s Brian Williams, but I would LOVE it if it was Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame.

    If you want someone who comes off as plain spoken and humble as anyone you’d bump into on the street, Mike is the guy (even though he was a professional opera singer), and it’d have more of a documentary feel to it than ‘news’. Bring in Rowe and Morgan Spurlock and guys like that and I’d be on it like flies on shit.

    Americans are fascinated with the White House (regardless of occupant). We’ve had how many movies and TV shows centered there (I imagine a whole section of Burbank is nothing more than a dozen nearly identical White House sets for the various networks and studios) and none of us knows if any of it is portrayed realistically. It’s be a nice bit of transparency from Obama as well. There doesn’t need to be any politics in it, even. I’d just like to see how people scurry around and get through a day and what’s unique to the place. I understand that the building has been remodeled so many times and is so cramped, that outside of the residence and formal areas, it’s really a rather shitty building to work in. I’d like to see that…

  58. 58
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @Rollo:

    Thanks for posting that. I was pretty sure I remembered GWB and Clinton doing something similar, more than once even.

    And who could forget all those up-close-and-personals with GWB “clearing brush” and dropping in on local Crawford food joints?

    It also occurs to me that if the Obama folks had refused to do a day-in-the-life gig, we’d hear all kinds of carping about how stuck up they are, breaking a long tradition, and…”what’s he got to hide, hmmmm?”

  59. 59
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @Martin:

    I understand that the building has been remodeled so many times and is so cramped, that outside of the residence and formal areas, it’s really a rather shitty building to work in. I’d like to see that

    I was in DC last week, walking down the street with friends, when they stopped and pointed over their shoulders … we were right in front of the WH. It was weird to come upon it so unexpectedly, and up close.

    Up close, and without the longer perspective you see in pics, I realized it’s really just … well, a big white house in the middle of town. I was surprised at the somewhat small scale, and how close we actually were. In fact, you could see the lamps in the windows.

  60. 60
    rikyrah says:

    Brian Williams is the one major anchor that I find watchable, for some reason. While I’m not keen on ‘behind the scenes at the White House’, it’s for an entirely different reason…I’m waiting for the one with the First Lady as host. That’s the one I want. Been hoping for it ever since it dawned on me that Obama actually might win. Over at JJP, we call it a ‘ goosebumps’ moment. Been checking them off, one by one, and I want to check this one off too…so, no President, but Mrs. Obama hosting, and I’d be ok with it.

  61. 61
    lamh31 says:

    No offense DougJ,

    But at an African American, me and mine are still kinda mesmirized by the fact that a Black family actually lives in the White House, and they are not just the ushers, the sous chef, or the laudress.

  62. 62
    Diversion 101 says:

    Dolt Americans aren’t going to worry or even know about Kim Jong Il nukery if this condiment-dripping feelgood horseshit is in front of their faces on the imbecile box. And Our Leader’s handling people know that.

  63. 63
    Robertdsc-iphone says:

    Diversion 101, where was your concern when the Fox people decided not to carry the President’s news conference? He had something to say then but Fox didn’t care to listen.

  64. 64
    MNPundit says:

    I haven’t eaten beef for at least half a decade and don’t intend to. Turkey, Chicken and Pork all the way. If Obama wants to do this because the Media are like idiot children, then so be it.

    Maybe they’ll be more likely to give liberals a fair shake for a while. I won’t hold my breath but you never know.

  65. 65
    HRA says:

    I read what was written twice and I still cannot see what drives the outrage about the president taking Brian Williams and the TV crew to lunch. It’s not anything new.

    As Rollo stated above, there have been 7 other presidents who have had interviews in the WH. That’s not counting the first ladies who have shown us the WH in it’s Christmas finery or conducted tours of the WH like Jackie Kennedy did in the 60s.

  66. 66
    omen says:

    well, it’s a contrast against bush who was noted for being so out of touch and insular, to the point that he did not explore the neighborhood that surrounds the white house. obama has spoken before about how DC is two worlds:

    But one of the things that I don’t like historically about Washington is the way that you’ve got one part of Washington, which is a company town, all about government, and is generally pretty prosperous. And then, you’ve got another half of D.C. that is going through enormous challenges. I want to see if we can bring those two Washington D.C.s together.

    the last food joint he visited, ben’s chili bowl, got jammed with business as a result. barack does for food establishments what michelle does for j. crew.

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