How to Win Friends and Influence People

You may have read that last night Obama had dinner at George Will’s home in Chevy Chase, accompanied by Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, and David Brooks.

Now, call me an appeaser, but apparently the left was supposed to be really mad about this.  We were going to tear our hair out at the notion that our president had deigned to share a table with some of the intellectuals in Washington most ideologically opposed to our mission.

Steve Benen confessesed that his initial inclination was to make a laundry list of all of the stupid things these guys have written, but reconsidered when he recognized that Obama really had nothing to lose by attending this meal.

I discover that I am consistently out of step with what is considered “left” now.  Frankly, I have no problem at all if Obama wants to go on a charm offensive and make four self-important people feel even better about themselves, whether they agree with him or not.  And I hardly think Brooks, Krauthammer, Kristol, and Will are the worst of the bunch (although it’s easier to say that about Will and Brooks than the other two) when compared to the likes of Fred Barnes, Kathryn Jean-Lopez, Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh (who was rumored to be attending the dinner, but did not, for good reason I think), Jonah Goldberg, Neal Boortz…

That list got a little longer than I had intended.

In any case, I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion to which Steve Benen eventually came:

Obama really has nothing to lose by trying to engage these four. Each seems rather susceptible to flattery, and they were no doubt thrilled not only with the access, but with the chance to tell the president-elect how right they are. I’m sure Obama listened politely, hoping that the outreach might pay dividends over time, in the form of a more civil discourse, and possibly even the benefit of the doubt. The president-elect would hardly be the first leader to try to neutralize detractors.

And if it doesn’t, Obama wasted a pre-inaugural night, maybe picking up some new credibility from the David Broders of the world for making an effort to engage prominent critics on the other side. All of Obama’s talk about bringing people together, hearing competing ideas, building bridges, and disagreeing without being disagreeable is reinforced nicely by a dinner like this one.

This was the first dinner with prominent columnists, but it apparently won’t be the last. Marc Ambinder reported, “Tomorrow, I hear Obama has another private meeting with non-Republican opinion columnists.”

If Obama, in the interest of ideological diversity, also wants to chat with some writers on the left, I should note that I’d gladly clear my schedule for him.

Politics is a game.  Obama is particularly good at playing it, to ends that are for the most part in line with what the left wants.  Rather than dogging him at every turn, we should remember what the Sarah Palin (or even Hillary Clinton) alternate universe might look like right about now.

Update: Maybe I was a little more in line with the left this time, because there doesn’t seem to have been widespread anger at this in the blogosphere today.  It was, ironically, conservative bloggers who were mad, claiming that the group (which included Peggy Noonan and others) that Obama met with were not representative of true Republican values. Ha! As if the guy who was Sarah Palin’s ultimate champion doesn’t understand true Republican values.


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