Face time with Obama

FACE TIME WITH OBAMA…. When Obama stopped by George Will’s house last night for a two-and-a-half hour chat with leading conservative columnists/pundits, the conventional wisdom was that liberal bloggers would throw a fit. Not only did that not happen, but it seems conservative bloggers are the ones who are upset today.

Patrick Ruffini, for example, doesn’t believe Will, Bill Kristol, and David Brooks are “representative” of “conservative media.” Power Line, while giving Obama credit for the outreach, also noted that some of the guests shouldn’t necessarily count as conservative.

It strikes me as odd, at a minimum, to see Obama breaking bread with prominent conservative media figures, only to see some complain that the guests aren’t quite conservative enough. In fact, given this, I’m reluctant to make a similar argument from a liberal perspective.

But I’m going to anyway.

Here’s the list of conservatives who dined with the president-elect last night: George Will, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Larry Kudlow, David Brooks, Rich Lowry, Peggy Noonan, Michael Barone, and Paul Gigot.

And here’s a partial list of liberals who chatted with Obama this morning: E.J. Dionne, Eugene Robinson, Gerry Seib, Ron Brownstein, Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, Andrew Sullivan, and Rachel Maddow.

The conservative group is genuinely conservative, and includes some voices that offer some pretty right-wing ideas. Gigot’s Wall Street Journal editorial page is truly ridiculous. Barone recently told a roomful of journalists that the media was aggressive towards Sarah Palin because “she did not abort her Down syndrome baby.” Kristol and Kudlow are stark raving mad. This is not a mainstream bunch.

This morning’s group includes some excellent writers and sharp political observers. For that matter, I make no effort to hide my tremendous respect and affection for Rachel Maddow. But look at the two lists again — are Seib, Brownstein, and Dowd, their talents notwithstanding, progressive equivalents of Lowry, Barone, and Krauthammer?

Matt Yglesias’ take rang true for me:

This highlights one of our enduring asymmetries in American political media, namely that everyone who’s not a card-carrying member of the conservative movement is counted, essentially, as a liberal. Or, rather, that the essential dichotomy is held to be between conservatives and not-conservatives rather than between conservatives and liberals. But this group isn’t at all the mirror image of the conservative roster we heard about last night. Some people on it are, but others really aren’t.

I should add that Obama’s dining guest lists are, in perspective, largely inconsequential. I care infinitely more about what Obama does than who he charms. I suspect, over the next several years, the soon-to-be-president will meet with all kinds of people from across the ideological and media spectrum. I admire Obama’s willingness to engage, intellectually, competing ideas and perspectives. It reflects a curiosity and maturity that’s been lacking in the White House for a while.

But to consider last night’s group and this morning’s group as relative parallels is a mistake.