Last week, President Obama took the unusual step of calling a New York Times reporter from the Oval Office to clarify a point from an interview that took place earlier in the day. Obama was concerned that he had appeared to dismiss a question from the reporter about whether he was a socialist. The President phoned the reporter personally and said the following:
"It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question." He then went on to say that there was "just one thing I was thinking about as I was getting on the copter. I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn't under me that we started buying a bunch of shares in banks. It wasn't on my watch. And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement -- the prescription drug plan -- without a source of funding. And so I think it's important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that we've actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word 'socialist' around can't say the same."
I like this proactive call by the President. While reflecting about the interview earlier in the day, he pinpointed something that he thought might become a larger issue in the paper the following day. Instead of waiting to do damage control after the fact, he called the journalist personally to eliminate any confusion about his response and pre-empt a negative story characterizing him as a socialist.
This unorthodox call also serves another purpose. It puts the media on notice that the President is paying attention and that he will vigorously defend himself and his administration in the press if he feels they're crossing the line. I would bet that as a result of this call, more than a few White House reporters will be thinking of that phone call while they're putting the finishing touches on their daily stories.
If you want to check out the original coverage of this story, it's here.