John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


To Know Obama Is To Not Talk About Him

Posted on July 25, 2008

          According to the New Republic, if you attended any school with Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard, that school in Indonesia etc) you are requested to not talk about him to the press without permission.  It is not clear what will happen to you if you break the Obama rule, but it seems clear that the penalty might be stronger than getting knocked off the Christmas Card list.


            You have to ask the question:  What is the Obama campaign worried about?


            Apparently, there is some sort of controversy about his senior thesis at Columbia.  It has disappeared.  Nobody has a copy.  You have to wonder if they sent Sandy Berger in to destroy it.  The Obama campaign won’t cough it up.  Columbia can’t find it.  And anybody who might have kept a copy has disappeared (okay, that was a joke.  Just kidding).


            What exactly did he say in that thesis on the nuclear disarmament talks?  My guess, it was probably typical liberal tripe about a nuclear free movement, blah, blah, blah.  But that certainly wouldn’t disqualify Obama from office.  So, give us a copy and let us see how you think.


            The New Republic piece, authored by Gabriel Sherman, opines that the press is starting to get fed up with the Obama press team and their overbearing ways.  The turning point, according the NR, was when they flew the press corps to Chicago, when Obama was meeting back in DC with Hillary Clinton.  It might have seemed like a clever move at the time, but that kind of stuff tends to catch up to you.


            My experience with the press is that you are always better served by being honest with them.  They have a job to do.  Let them do it.


            According to this article, the bloom is off the rose: 


“Reporters are grumbling more and more that the campaign is acting like the Prom Queen. They gripe that it is "arrogant" and "control[ling]," and the campaign's own belief that Obama is poised to make history isn't endearing, either. The press certainly helped Obama get so far so fast; the question is, how far can he get if his campaign alienates them”


“Last year, when Hillary Clinton campaigned as a front-runner, Obama provided access to the press corps and won over the media. One night, during a campaign stop in Iowa, he met reporters for off-the-record drinks. He cooperated for magazine profiles and appeared on the cover of GQ. And Clinton's relationship with the press wasn't half as easy. "The difference is the Clinton people were hostile for no reason," a reporter who has covered both Democrats tells me”


“But, as Obama ascended from underdog to front-runner to presumptive nominee, the flame seems to have dwindled. Reporters who cover Obama these days grouse that Obama's flacks shroud the campaign in secrecy and provide little to no access. "They're more disciplined than the Bush people," a reporter on the Obama trail gripes. "There was this idea of being transparent, but they're not. They're total tightwads with information."”


“In June, there was something of a revolt after Obama ditched the press corps on his campaign plane for a secret meeting with Clinton at Senator Dianne Feinstein's house in Washington, leaving the reporters trapped on the flight to Chicago. The D.C. bureau chiefs of half a dozen news organizations, including the late Tim Russert, sent an angry letter to Obama aides Robert Gibbs and David Plouffe and threatened not to reimburse the campaign for the cost of the flight. "The decision to mislead reporters is a troubling one," they wrote. "We hope this does not presage a relationship with the Obama campaign that is not based on a mutual respect for the truth." After the incident, the press corps decided that one pool reporter would keep Obama in sight at all times. "It's a body watch," one reporter jokes.”


            And now, the Obama people are trying to control what anybody who has ever met him says about him. 


            Clearly, the message from the Obama campaign is very direct:  To know him is to not talk about him, unless you get special permission. 



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