Dear Gawker: I’m Not Paranoid–People Are Chasing Me

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One of the perks of a job like mine is all the free therapy from online critics. John Cook, a crackerjack Gawker reporter, late of Radar, diagnosed me this week with “White House Press Personality Disorder,” a condition that is not yet in the DSM but may be sometime soon. (Before I continue, let me just say that I welcome all insight into my various personality defects. I’m 34 years old and have yet to crack the code. In the interim, I figure the more doctors on the case, the better the chance of a full recovery.)

But alas–like a paranoid insisting that the voices are real–I must contest Cook’s diagnosis. The main symptom, he says, is my blog post earlier this week, “The Vanishing Barack Obama,” which pointed out that Obama’s public appearance strategy had changed. Namely: The president last week appeared less frequently in public, and this week the White House deployed their entire backbench to publicly celebrate the one year anniversary of the Recovery Act. Cook says my focus on these facts is an “Alice-in-Wonderland statistical maneuver” and that I have “called out Obama on his reclusiveness.”

The first point I would make (from the bottom of the Rabbit Hole) is that I am not sure my post was actually a criticism. I certainly have not lost sleep over the diminishing frequency of staged photo ops and prepared remarks. (Believe me, I have seen enough.) Nor, as I sarcastically suggest in the post, have many American voters. (Yes, I know, New York bloggers tend not to be “hip” to the whole sarcasm thing, so perhaps the confusion is forgivable.) But that is not really the thing that troubles me about the diagnosis. Reported facts intervene.

To wit: Beginning in December, the White House communications operation commenced a review of the first year in office, and concluded, among other things, that the White House had depended too heavily on Obama as the public messenger. A memo was drafted, meetings were held, and it was decided that the president would step back from the cameras and hand off a bit more of the message to his subordinates, particularly those in the Cabinet-level departments and agencies. This shift was flagged in late January by Ken Auletta in the New Yorker, who quoted top Obama aide David Axelrod saying, “We need to involve all the other members of the team. If I were to rethink the last year, I’d like to spread the load around a little and use other members of the administration.”

The relative scarcity of Obama over the past couple of weeks is the result of this process, not my own tics and quivers. If you don’t believe me, call around at the White House. But if you do, be careful. As Cook points out, there are some terribly scary-sounding psychiatric ailments floating around the briefing room. You just might catch one. And then no one will want to marry you, or something like that.

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