Obama looks to 'The View' for elusive popularity bounce 

President Obama often complains about the frivolous obsessions of Washington and bristles impatiently at questions he considers trivial from the White House press corps.

But on Thursday he cheerfully fielded inquiries about Mel Gibson's anger issues and Chelsea Clinton's wedding on a prerecorded showing of ABC's "The View."

"I got to admit," Obama told his female hosts, "I don't know who Snooki is."

Obama's third visit to the ladies of "The View" was the first time a president appeared on a daytime talk show. It also marks a move by the White House to shore up the president's support among women ahead of the midterm elections.

By far the biggest controversy of his appearance was the president's admission about Snooki -- a star from MTV's reality show "Jersey Shore" who somehow got a mention in Obama's White House Correspondents Association Dinner speech in May.

That a flare-up over Snooki emerged from a presidential interview underscores the point some critics are making about the administration's latest media strategy, notably that it diminishes Obama and his office.

"I think there should be a little dignity to the presidency," Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told MSNBC. "I am not sure he has to go on 'The View' to be open to questions."

Obama's handlers have shown an unprecedented openness to nontraditional media, making Obama the first president to appear on popular late night television.

"I think it is another opportunity for the president to talk to people where they are," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "We made a decision to put the president on Jay Leno, David Letterman, 'The View,' because people have busy lives and it's best to go where they are."

And it's not just the president. Vice President Joe Biden also appeared on "The View" and on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." First lady Michelle Obama visited "Iron Chef America."

In the meantime, however, the president has fewer press conferences and shorter exchanges with reporters than his predecessors. He does more one-on-one interviews -- typically, settings in which the president and his handlers have better control.

"The strategy is to take your case directly to the American people and avoid traditional media," said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida. "The idea is to push the message that the president wants to push without a filter or without tough questions."

The problem for Obama is that he came to office promising new standards in accessibility and accountability. Taking softballs on "The View" opens him up to criticism on that point -- and especially his lighter moments are not offset by more substantive exchanges.

Joe Tuman, a political scientist from San Francisco State University who is running for mayor of Oakland, Calif., said he understands what Obama is doing.

"Not everybody gets their news from your newspaper or from 'Face the Nation,' " Tuman said. "As a candidate, you have to take your free media where you can find it."

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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Julie Mason

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