Imagine one is a columnist and one has just been summoned to the White House for an “off the record” meeting. Once one is there the president explains why he believes a certain way about a certain program or policy and then he asks you to say what you think.
The message is clear, write about what I want you to write about, the way I want you to write about it, or don’t think you’re ever coming back to the West Wing. Heck one’s career could be in the balance.
It’s an effective method of intimidation and propaganda propagation.
The goal in these get-togethers, participants said, is two-fold: First, the president wants to convince the columnists that he’s right — about the debt ceiling, about health care, about Syria — and that his opponents are wrong.
“The president is thoroughly convinced that the course he has set out is correct, and that his opponents are either wrong-headed or crazy or, in the case of [House Speaker John] Boehner, insufficiently courageous,” said a journalist who has attended off-the-record meetings. “By getting together a group of intelligent people who are going to be writing about him or talking about him, he thinks he can show them how obviously everything he is doing makes sense.”
The second goal is more tactical: By meeting privately with the people who shape national opinion, the president ensures that his points of view will be represented in the media — even if those points of view aren’t directly attributable to him.