Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How Much Pepto for PEBO?

Last night Obama had dinner with conservative columnists Bill Kristol, George Will, David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer, among others. Limbaugh was rumored to be there as well but it turned out not to be so. Jon Chait seems to think that if George Bush had done something similar with liberal columnists eight years ago, wingers would have gone ballistic:

And the reason is that they wouldn't have confidence in Bush or McCain to be surrounded by liberal ideas without being deeply influenced by them.

....And that's why liberals aren't having a cow. They know that Obama understands far more about policy than any of his right-wing dinner companions, is used to being exposed to opposing ideas, and won't come out of that dinner telling his staff, "Hey, did you know we cut half the capital gains tax and raise more revenue?"

I am pretty sure PEBO didn't go to dinner with this crew with an idea to convincing them that they should support his ideas, but I do think he is smart enough to know that a face-to-face meeting can change the way people see you and think about you. I think he knows that once these people have had a chance to meet him in person and actually have some conversation it will be just a little bit harder get too nasty toward him in print. It was pretty shrewd and Obama's demonstrating, yet again, that he's a worthy adversary in the political world.

It is also sharp for Obama to follow up immediately with a meeting with "liberal" media types, which he did this morning. Here's a partial list of "liberals" who chatted with Obama this morning: E.J. Dionne, Eugene Robinson, Gerry Seib, Ron Brownstein, Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, Andrew Sullivan, and Rachel Maddow. I put the word liberals in quotes because I don't consider all these "liberals" in the strictest sense and that especially goes for Sullivan who calls himself a conservative even though he supported Obama.

Regardless, the whole dinner with the enemy and friends things is inconsequential. I don't think either group are going to make any lasting changes to what Obama thinks and does. I think the big thing to take away from these two events is Obama's willingness to actively engage with people and especially those with such contrary ideas. The man obviously has some curiosity and maturity about competing ideas that's been sorely lacking in the White House for some 8 years.

Still, I wonder how he managed to avoid just a little indigestion.

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