Is Obama at risk of overexposure?
President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House yesterday. AP photo.
If the president is the person you invite into your living room every night, has Barack Obama overstayed his welcome?
After winning the first presidential election of the Facebook era, Obama has found a number of new ways to communicate and sell his policies, but early in his tenure, he has also become a constant presence on TV.
Whether it is grabbing burgers with Vice President Joe Biden, yukking it up with Jay Leno, or sitting down with ABC News for an exclusive two-part primetime discussion of health care next week, some wonder whether all this exposure will simply drown out his message in the white noise of an increasingly cluttered media landscape.
He is too visible, it dilutes the importance of the office, said Tom Smith, 49, of Manhattan. I tune out . . . Sooner or later he's just going to be another face on TV.Obama has held more news conferences and primetime addresses than any of his immediate predecessors in the same time frame, and he and his family have graced the pages of pop culture magazines such as People and US Weekly. His new dog commanded hours of cable news coverage, as did his date night trip to New York with his wife, Michelle.
The comedian Bill Maher - an Obama supporter - caused a stir last week with his on-air rant imploring the president to cut back on the TV time.
You're the president, Maher said Friday on his HBO show. Not a rerun of 'Law and Order.'
Obama's critics have long charged that he focuses too much on making speeches and playing to the crowds. Sen. John McCain, his Republican opponent last year, famously ran an ad accusing him of being nothing more than a celebrity.
There is a danger of oversaturation but in this media environment, I don't think there's much choice, said Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Zelizer and others argue that Obama, riding a wave of popularity, is smart to use as many media outlets as possible, reaching a variety of audiences. Besides, they say, the telegenic president is his own best salesman.
I absolutely think it's working, said Mike Edelman, a New York-based Republican strategist. He's letting people know that he's accessible.
Brett Gary, a professor of media, culture and communications at NYU, said whether Obama is overexposed or a welcome presence on TV largely depends on the opinion the viewer already has of the president.
It's only overexposure when his popularity starts to go down, Gary said.
Anastasia Economides contributed to this story