Analysis: What's behind Obama's charm offensive?
March 8th, 2013
06:18 PM ET
2 years ago

Analysis: What's behind Obama's charm offensive?

Washington (CNN) - In case you missed it, Barack Obama–the man who once seemed perfectly content to live under the political equivalent of house arrest–has suddenly decided to become a party animal. He's having phone chats with Republicans, taking them out to dinner at a swanky Washington hotel and has plans to rush up to Capitol Hill next week for four meetings -with the Democrats, and his new acquaintances, the Republicans.

Since we know this is not about empty nest syndrome (he still likes to have dinner with his daughters at home), there must be something else up.

Truth is, as one person who has spoken with the president says, "he doesn't have a lot of options left." He managed to cut a deal on the fiscal cliff, but his strategy on the forced budget cuts-asking the GOP to accept new revenue-did not work. And no one thinks it's Armageddon, no matter how much the White House tried to make the case. The alternative to doing nothing, this source says "is total polarization." And since the president has a big agenda he would like to get to beyond the fiscal problems, he needs to deal with budget issues in a way that does not poison the well.

So, his Democratic allies have advised him, how about trying to engage the other side? "The more you do it, the more you will like it," one ally said he told the president.

The list of luminaries in favor of glasnost is a well-known contingent: former White House chiefs of staff Rahm Emanuel, John Podesta and Bill Daley and former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, according to one source. He's been advised to do this before, a former White official says, only this time he's doing it. And that may have something to do with the fact that he's got a new White House team that is more oriented towards the Congress – Denis McDonough as Chief of Staff and Rob Nabors as his deputy (both are former Capitol Hill staffers).

And the pain apparently isn't as bad as he thought. "He told his staff that he enjoyed the other night [dinner with the Republicans] very much," says one knowledgeable source. "He's been told that if you try it, you might like it more than you think you will." Kind of like dreading a party, and then enjoying it once you get there.

Given the fact that the Obamas dined with the Clintons last week, one source who knows Bill Clinton's feelings on outreach says "It's not a bad assumption" that the president heard similar talking points at dinner. Clinton, of course, was the king of congressional schmooze.

There is, of course, a crucial backdrop to all of this: one source says the president believes that if he doesn't get a big deficit reduction deal by the end of the summer, the moment will have passed. He's trying to build some momentum for that, another source adds. "He's saying 'I will talk to everybody and anybody.'" What that also means is that if this charm offensive fails, he can't be blamed. In other words, he has nothing to lose.


Filed under: President Obama • Republicans
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Louis Trujillo

    Take a good look at the photo. "He's telling the Republicans "Uncle Sam wants you". or is it "Uncle Sam needs you"?

    March 9, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    Simple. It's a political ploy to gain concessions, to continue his spendthrift ways, and to continue to blame Republicans for his own shortcomings and failings.

    This is the most conniving, dishonest, and un-American socialistic President in American history.

    March 9, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  3. Really.

    Those acting lessons from Hollywood seem to be working.

    March 9, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  4. Legal Permit to Carry

    Both parties working together? What a concept...

    March 9, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  5. Akinyemi Joel

    The doggedness with which Obama is running his administration in most cases shows that he will do almost anything to achieve something he believes in, which is one attribute of a great leader. Although it is one attribute that can make as well as mar a leader becos it doesn't matter if he is right or wrong. However I believe it is a good call in this instance.

    March 9, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  6. Rick

    Throughout his campaign, and up until a week ago, President Obama was blaming the Republicans for everything but the Apocalypse. While the President has every right to promote his ideas, I believe he also has a responsibility to genuinely represent the country as a whole by helping the parties find common ground. I am glad to see his recent attempts to do this, but find them more than a bit disingenuous in light of his historical rhetoric.

    March 9, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  7. chris

    As long as we keep electing presidents for a party instead of a president for the people half of us will feel hostage for 4-8 years while the other enjoys perks at the expense of the other half and we'll keep the divide growing. Obama is not a president for the people...his current good boy meetings don't change that.

    March 9, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  8. jerrylax

    he's using up all his tricks..manipulations. A community organizer and nothing else.

    March 9, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  9. Puddin

    It is appalling that the Repub leaders have to have the president come hold their hands for them to make a simple decision. They have their job to do, and the president has his. They should just pull the bottom lip in and grow up.

    March 9, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  10. Greg

    FIRE ALL OF THEM!!! Congress and Obama!

    March 9, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. SugarKube

    Lies.

    March 9, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
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