Inside the Beltway: The Obama media blitz

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It is industrial strength media and a methodical broadcast blitz. President Obama will grant separate sit-down interviews on the Syria matter to NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, CNN and PBS on Monday afternoon at the White House, all to air on the respective networks Monday night. Ideally, the interviews will function like trailers of an upcoming blockbuster — namely, Mr. Obama’s live, prime-time speech to the American public on Syria about 24 hours later.

Alas, the president has been scooped, however, courtesy of PBS host Charlie Rose, who conducted an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Sunday. Video clips will be used as teasers on CBS “This Morning,” where Mr. Rose is a host, then the full interview will be shown on PBS in the evening. Mr. Rose already has revealed that Mr. Assad denies being involved in the horrific chemical attacks on his own people, and that he was “calm,” “prepared” and urged Americans to tell their elected officials to stay out of “wars and conflicts” in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, will Mr. Obama’s unprecedented media outreach help his political brand and legacy? At the moment, the president seeks to quell the persistent image that he’s become indecisive, or mired in “No Drama Obama,” a trait left over from his first term in office. One pollster will have none of it.

“Mr. President: You have not done your history readings, you have changed your topic and your thesis, and you have not only confused me — you have made me depressed. Please change your topic. This one just isn’t working,” says John Zogby, who grants Mr. Obama a grade of F for his work in the past week.

With all that baggage, Mr. Obama’s best strategy for his multiple interviews and live speech is to restructure the United States narrative both here and abroad, casting the nation as both a noble force willing to rescue refugees and answer the moral imperative — and a brute force ready to take out a dictator.

Yes, that would be borrowing from the Ronald Reagan playbook. Still, the combination of wisdom, honor, authenticity and power works well for a leader caught in a situation with many moving parts, as the former president proved in his time.

A REAGAN EXTRAVAGANZA

Ronald Reagan, meanwhile, still gets much recognition for his aforementioned finesse. Consider that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Navy Chief of Operations Adm. JonathanW.Greenert plus Sens. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, are among the 30 luminaries who will attend “Building Peace Through Strength Through 2025” at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., in mid-November.

“More than ever, before we are learning the true value of peace through strength,” declares Rep. Howard P. “Buck”McKeon, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the steering committee for this event.

Also on the agenda: the Asia “rebalance,” Pentagon management during wartime and sequestration, and caring for wounded warriors.

“My husband worked every day of our eight years in Washington to ensure that our country was peacefully protected and that our military was the finest in the world,” former first lady Nancy Reagan says. “He would be so pleased to know that his ‘Peace Through Strength’ policies are being discussed.”

CNN‘S NEWFANGLED ‘CROSSFIRE

Press previews of CNN’s reinvented “Crossfire” suggest that the new entity will be less bombastic than its predecessor, last seen on the airwaves in 2005 featuring the punditry stylings of Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. There will be no live audience and one primary focus a night for the four hosts: Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp celebrating the Republican and conservative cause, Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter there to defend the Democratic and liberal side.

The quartet debuts Monday at 6:30 EDT, with promises from CNN’s Washington bureau chief Sam Feist that it is a program of substance. No hollering, either.

“I’m certainly a fan of debate, but there’s a lot of debate on TV these days that seems rigged — a little too theatrical, with a chosen victor playing to a specific audience,” Ms. Cupp tells Inside the Beltway.

“I don’t know if that’s satisfying on a long-term basis. We’re here to have a conversation, with no winners and losers. I hope liberals and conservatives will feel they’re well represented, and will walk away feeling informed,” she notes, adding, “There won’t be that big urgency to get all the points across in five minutes.”

TUESDAY DATE WITH DESTINY

Hey, Congress. “Recess is over.”

So say the organizers of a five-state “Exempt America” tour that urges lawmakers to defund the Affordable Care Act and citizens to speak out against it. The Tea Party Patriots and ForAmerica, both grass-roots concerns that relentlessly criticize the health care law, will rally at high noon on Tuesday near the U.S. Capitol, with a little muscular help from their friends.

Standing by them: Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky plus Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, FreedomWorks Chairman Matte Kibbe, Citizen United founder David Bossie and Heritage Action for America CEO Mike Needham.

“There is nothing scarier to an elected official than hearing from constituents. And let me tell you, liberty is never safer than when politicians are terrified,” Mr. Cruz said during one of the “defund Obamacare” town hall stops in his state.

THE TOLL OF ‘ME’ TIME

We now have access to more than two Zettabytes of data worldwide via social media, video sites and the like. For the uninitiated, one zettabyte equals 2 trillion gigabytes.

“The data deluge has fostered an atmosphere of productivity loss and increased ‘me time’ entitlement,” points out Forbes contributor Cheryl Conner, who says baby boomers waste the least amount of time using the Internet for nonbusiness purposes at 41 minutes a day. Generation X-ers (born after 1965) waste 90 minutes and Millennials (born after 1982) waste two hours.

“Why do Millennials waste so much time? On the whole, studies show, they blend work and life into an immutable whole. They have developed an entitlement to ‘me’ time at work. On the plus side, they are highly team-oriented, which naturally sets the stage for more conversation with co-workers — but yet again, also leads to the trend and the tendency to waste workplace time,” Ms. Connor observes.

POLL DU JOUR

77 percent of Americans say the use of chemical weapons is a war crime.

59 percent say the international community has a responsibility to prevent the use of chemical weapons.

58 percent say the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people.

57 percent of Americans say the U.S. should “stay out” of the Syria.

53 percent say the United Nations has the responsibility to intervene militarily in “trouble spots.”

41 percent say President Obama will order military action against the Syrian government.

41 percent say a U.S. president must always get congressional approval to use military force.

38 percent say the approval is not necessary during emergencies.

28 percent approve of the way President Obama has handled the Syria situation.

Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 2

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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