Republicans had a field day yesterday with the president’s appearance on ESPN, laying out his NCAA bracket and then attending a DNC event for big-money fundraisers at a Washington hotel last night at a time when Japan is in a nuclear crisis and the situation in Libya remains dire. It’s notable that the ESPN appearance was the president’s only one of the day, and that they ironically canceled an event in which the president was to receive an award in conjunction with “Sunshine Week,” to promote government transparency...[T]hey should be aware that perception could become reality for swing voters, especially if some of this starts landing in late-night monologues; the last few days haven't been stellar ones for those in charge of Obama's presidential image. Paging Michael Deaver?Michael Deaver, as young'ns might not recall, was Ronald Reagan's first-term imagemeister. Ronald Reagan, as First Read should but doesn't recall, wasn't very popular during much of his first term; in fact, in March 1983, Reagan was quite a bit less popular than Barack Obama is now (Obama's Gallup approval ratings have been in the mid-to-high 40s this month; Reagan had just crossed into the low 40s, after falling south of 40% earlier in 1983. For exact numbers: Obama was at 48% on yesterday's reading, while Reagan was at 41% at the equivalent point). The truth is that Reagan's popularity or lack thereof had a lot more to do with events, especially the economy, than it had to do with whatever Michael Deaver was up to.
The specific complaint here -- showing up on ESPN, picking winners in college basketball -- has got to be a classic example of pundits getting cause and effect backwards. Surely, if things go well for Obama, then his forays into hoops punditry will be taken as evidence that he's well-connected to ordinary voters, that he's comfortable in his own skin, that he has the common touch. If things go badly for him, then it will be evidence that he's lost his focus, that he's flailing for positive attention, etc. Just as presidential actions are "firm" or "resolute" when things are going well but "stubborn" when they're not.
Hack punditry, at its worst.