President Obama does like to schmooze, as long as it's with the intellectual elite. The famously aloof president may hate hanging out with political donors, but he loves columnists. Obama's had many off the record meetings with his favorite writers, like David Brooks at The New York Times, Joe Klein at Time, and Ezra Klein at the Washington Post, Politico's Dylan Byers reports. One columnist who has attended meetings with Obama told Byers:
"[Obama] sees columnists as portals. It works — I feel it work with me. It’s almost impossible to spend hours face-to-face with the president, unfiltered, then write a column or go on television without taking his point of view into account."
According to Byers, Obama likes to talk to people who are thinking about "grand concepts," which isn't surprising, given his rhetoric. He's even met with conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer. "He likes the intellectual sparring element of it," one source told Byers. "He likes talking to reasonable adversaries."
Obama sets up these meetings because it's something he enjoys, and because it's smart politically. One journalist explained, "The president is thoroughly convinced that the course he has set out is correct, and that his opponents are either wrong-headed or crazy or, in the case of [House Speaker John] Boehner, insufficiently courageous. By getting together a group of intelligent people who are going to be writing about him or talking about him, he thinks he can show them how obviously everything he is doing makes sense."
And of course, this isn't the first time we've heard about Obama's love for the media. Back in 2008, his handlers had trouble regulating his BlackBerry use because he wanted to read blogs all day. Even ours.
The First Lady likes political commentary, too. According to Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's new 2012 election tell-all Double Down, Michelle's more of a cable fan:
Her habit was cable, and especially Morning Joe. (She watched the show religiously while working out, then fired off agitated e-mails to [Valerie] Jarrett about what this or that talking head had said.)
But according to Byers, Obama doesn't like the "who's up, who's down" Washington culture presented on daily news shows. "The president cares a lot more about the opinions of Fred Hiatt or Tom Friedman than he does about the average U.S. Senator," one journalist told Byers. "He’s naturally predisposed to analysis."
Obama even told White House staff to stop watching Morning Joe and try ESPN's Sports Center instead, to discourage an obsession with tallying political wins and losses. Something tells us Michelle still watches whatever she wants.