Obama Overload? President to Do 'Full Ginsburg' Sunday

Obama's Multiple TV Appearances Have Some Saying He Risks Overexposure


Sept. 16, 2009—

Fans of President Obama are in for a treat this weekend. The president is going on a massive publicity blitz as he steps up his push for health care overhaul.

Obama will be interviewed Sunday on five shows -- ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," CNN's "State of the Nation," CBS's "Face the Nation", NBC's "Meet the Press" and Univision's "Al Punto with Jorge Ramos" -- in what is called a "full Ginsburg."

In modern media lore, the first time someone pulled the five-show feat was 11 years ago, in 1998, when Monica Lewinsky's attorney, William Ginsburg, made the rounds to defend his client. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., did a full Ginsburg in 2007 after launching her presidential bid.

For both Ginsburg and Clinton, Fox News Sunday made the cut, and Univision didn't. Such is not the case for Obama: Democrats said the Fox News Sunday audience is largely entrenched in its opposition to the president, essentially beyond persuasion, and so submitting to an interview might not be the best use of Obama's time.

Polls indicate that Americans said the more they hear about the president's proposed overhaul the less they like it. An ABC News/Washington Poll last week showed 54 percent of Americans feel that way. White House officials said that's because Americans are hearing false attacks on Obama's plan, not reality -- hence the PR blitz.

Critics snipe that the president risks overexposure. In addition to this weekend's shows, he granted interviews last week to ABC News' "Good Morning America" and this week to CBS's "60 Minutes," CNBC and Bloomberg News.

Republican strategist Kevin Madden said it's too much.

"I think the worry is it's gone beyond overexposure and now we have what I would call the 'Obama omnipresence.' You almost can't escape this president," Madden said on ABC News' "Top Line." "It goes beyond just cable news and it goes into whether or not you're flipping on ESPN and you're seeing him talk about basketball or you turn on the Lifetime channel and you hear what Michelle Obama is wearing this week. And I think that begins to wear on a lot of people."

President Obama's Publicity Campaign

The president's pitch goes well beyond news shows. He is also omnipresent on magazine racks and, next week, he will take his message to late night with an appearance on the "Late Show With David Letterman" -- the first appearance since he was elected president. And that's not Obama's only comedy show appearance. He is even showing up in promotions for the new George Lopez comedy show on TBS.

Madden said the barrage of TV appearances may have the opposite effect of what he's trying to achieve.

"The president keeps -- he tries to hit reset with a big speech or an appearance on, you know, a major media outlet and that becomes one of these things where it starts to dilute the message," Madden said. "And the message is that he just keeps carrying another message and that begins to hurt him, in my book."

But there are others who believe the president could step it up even more to avail himself of the opportunity to get his message across to the American people.

"I don't think he's overexposed at all," said public strategist Mark McKinnon, media consultant to former President Bush and presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "In fact, I think, in some ways, he's underexposed. I think he's one of the most gifted presidential communicators that we've seen in political history and telling President Obama to stay off the media is like telling Frank Sinatra to stay away from the microphone."

White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the idea of overexposure is "an anachronistic view of how people consume news in this day and age."

With the audience splitting across hundreds of channels, the president could appear on all the Sunday shows, morning shows, evening news programs and late night, and not even reach half of the country.

McKinnon said the administration needs to make up for time it lost in August, when the president's critics filled the airwaves to rally Americans.

"In politics, there's really no such thing as overcommunicating, because if you are not communicating, your opponents will be," McKinnon said. "If the president stops talking, that means his opponents will start talking. We live in 24-hour news cycles now and if the president isn't filling the vacuum, his opponents will be."

This is not the first time that the idea of whether Obama is overexposing himself has been floated around. Media critics were carping about this back in March, then again in June.

As for the White House, when asked for comment, officials jokingly offered to turn down all of ABC News' interview requests for the rest of the year.

ABC News' Huma Khan contributed to this report.