The first social media President

The upcoming American presidential election is on November 6, and I find myself intrigued by the daily drama in the race to the Oval Office. Formidable matters on the table include the economy, unemployment, health care, foreign policy, marriage equality, energy, terrorism, abortion, education, the environment, gun control–the list is seemingly endless. While Barack Obama has attempted to address many of these issues through conventional political advertising, he has also made substantial use of social networking tools, racking up millions of Facebook followers as well as countless Twitter devotees.

Like Bill Clinton, President Obama has also made impressive use of the traditional popular media with numerous news and talk show appearances throughout the last four years and in particular during this election. Over the last couple of months, the public has had the opportunity to see the American president on television shows such as The View, David Letterman, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Tonight Show. Michelle Obama has also been in the forefront with guest appearances, to my amazement (or maybe horror) even skipping double dutch on Live with Kelly one morning. Quite obviously, these are opportunities for the Obamas to present themselves  as “everyday people” who can joke with the host while being able to connect to the viewing audience with simple messaging, and without the grilling on hard issues that might come from professional news reporters.

In the vortex of the political machine, no matter how, why, or where information is disseminated or whether the information conveyed is of substance or not, an individual doesn’t always get an in-depth view of a candidate or his performance. I find myself in this very place as I write, noting however that meat and potato analysis is available in several forms. Consider the numerous books that have been written about Obama; some earlier titles concentrated on his past, his rise to power, and his philosophical origins. More recently, as he enters the final stages of his term, various authors have written books supporting and/or criticizing Obama’s performance and policies, quite often with a partisan slant. If Mitt Romney is successful in his bid to unseat Obama as President next week, we should expect to see a wide variety of books about him soon–a natural consequence of holding the highest office in the United States.


Here are some of the titles that have been published in 2012 alone:

Showdown by David Corn
Of interest to readers of the “political wonk” persuasion, this book examines the flurry of political warfare during the mid-term elections of 2010 and the subsequent events both internally and internationally that framed the debates ongoing in the current election season. A behind the scenes look at White House activities surrounding tax cut deals, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the narrowly averted government shutdown, and the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

The new New Deal by Michael Grunwald
In a riveting account based on new documents and interviews with more than 400 sources on both sides of the aisle, award-winning reporter Michael Grunwald reveals the vivid story behind President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus bill, one of the most important and least understood pieces of legislation in the history of the country.

The Obamas by Jodi Kantor
Drawing from voluminous interviews with over two hundred staffers, friends, aides, cabinet members, and the Obamas themselves, Kantor chronicles the public and private struggles of the First Family. Focusing more on the internal politics than a rote recital of policy changes and key events, her book examines how the couple navigated the Presidency, the White House, and Washington society. “A fascinating look at the intricate dynamics of an ordinary marriage, an unusual home, and an extraordinary presidency.”

Barack Obama : the story by David Maraniss
From a preeminent American journalist and historian comes the epic story of Barack Obama and the world that created him. “A deeply reported generational biography teeming with fresh insights and revealing information, a masterly narrative drawn from hundreds of interviews, including with President Obama in the Oval Office, and a trove of letters, journals, diaries, and other

Leading from behind by Richard Miniter
The first book to explore President Obama’s abilities as a leader, by unearthing new details of his biggest successes and failures. Investigates the secret world of the West Wing and the combative personalities that shape historic events.

The Obama hate machine by Bill Press
Presidents have always been attacked like this, right? Wrong, according to Press. The author claims that while presidents and presidential candidates have routinely been subjected to personal attacks, the outright disdain Obama’s extremist opponents have for the facts has inspired an insidious brand of character assassination unique in contemporary American politics.

Confront and conceal by David E. Sanger
A comprehensive assessment of Obama’s foreign-policy challenges and achievements.

The escape artists : how Obama’s team fumbled the recovery by Noam Scheiber
A gripping look inside the meeting rooms, the in-boxes, and the super-sharp minds of the pedigreed propeller heads who attempted to guide President Obama out of a global economic crisis. Profiles the squad of elite administration insiders who have set and managed the president’s economic policies from before the start of his term in office, through the crisis, and into the current prolonged recovery.

The oath : the Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
A gripping insider’s account of the momentous ideological war between the John Roberts Supreme Court and the Obama administration. From the moment John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, blundered through the Oath of Office at Barack Obama’s inauguration, the relationship between the Supreme Court and the White House has been confrontational. Both men are young, brilliant, charismatic, charming, determined to change the course of the nation–and completely at odds on almost every major constitutional issue.

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