Obama on 'The View': How did he do?

President Obama on 'The View' won mixed reviews. But it's the sort of thing presidents need to do these days to get their message out to people who don't watch CNN or Fox News.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Obama sits with the members of 'The View,' an ABC television show, in New York Wednesday.

Reviews of President Obama on "The View," an ABC daytime chat show, have been appearing from the moment the opening clip concluded. Prior to the actual event, political strategists and media experts alike speculated that the visit to a decidedly “soft news” venue could be either genius or folly.

But the actual post-mortems turned out to be much less extreme. Some deride the glitzy setting, and others approve his upbeat tone, while generally agreeing no major shift occurred in either pro or con.

Most, however, agree on one point: The move is yet another example of how the former US senator from Illinois is redefining the American presidency.

“To be a national political figure these days,” says Republican political strategist Jordan Sekulow, “you have to be extremely media-savvy, able and willing to go into situations that are not controlled by your political handlers.”

Adds Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University: “You can’t expect presidents to stand behind podiums at press conferences anymore. They’re going to use any and all venues they can to reach people.”

The president accomplished this, continuing a theme of targeting niche demographics, one that was well-established in his election campaign – and one that makes sense for him to resurrect when times get tough.

Why 'The View'?

One of the opening questions from host Barbara Walters, who returned to the show from a medical leave to take advantage of the president’s visit, was simply, “Why?” Mr. Obama’s response was a swift appeal to the core female demographic following for the program – he wanted to be on a show that his wife, Michelle, “might actually watch.”

The days are long gone when a president could simply hold a press conference and expect blanket coverage that reaches most of the country, says communications commentator T.J. Walker. “The media landscape is splintering and fragmenting around us,” he says, adding that this is the reason the Obama administration has been so aggressive about using Twitter and Facebook and other social media.

“The beauty of an environment like this is that it allows him to reach undecided voters who don’t watch CNN or Fox News, and who will vote in the fall,” he says. He gives the president good marks for his handling of the questions about what bothers him. Rather than pushing back at numerous media attacks of recent days, the president responded that he worries about the American people and families who lose soldiers in war.

“This reaches out to the viewers who don’t follow political talk shows but who talk at dinnertime with their sons, brothers, and fathers,” Mr. Walker says.

'Hobnobbing with celebrities'

Obama may indeed be redefining the presidency, but not every change is good, says David Johnson, CEO of Atlanta-based PR agency, Strategic Vision. The president’s decision to visit with the high-profile celebrity hosts of “The View” over a request to participate in the Boy Scouts 100th year Jamboree on Wednesday sends the wrong message to average families across the Midwest and the South.

“It just says he is more interested in being seen as a celebrity than in doing the serious business of the White House,” he says adding that the conversational asides about pop culture figures such as Lindsay Lohan didn’t help. “Times are hard, people are losing their jobs and their retirements, they don’t want to see the president chatting and hobnobbing with a group of celebrities.”


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