So many selfies, so little time


British Prime Minister David Cameron, campaigning for local Conservatives this week, told London’s Evening Standard that all the picture-posing makes the meet-and-greet component of campaigning take much longer. (Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty Images)

Shaking hands, kissing babies and autographing campaign signs no longer suffice when canvassing for votes. Voters are much more interested in capturing themselves cheek to cheek with the candidate in a selfie than, say, discussing the economy.

And it’s a time suck.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

British Prime Minister David Cameron, campaigning for local Conservatives this week, told London’s Evening Standard that all the picture-posing makes the meet-and-greet component of campaigning take much longer.

“You can be walking down the street for a chat, but until you’ve got the selfie out of the way, people aren’t ready to talk. Not only do they want a photograph, but they want to actually take it themselves, thanks to the new technology,” Cameron told the newspaper.

One might recall that President Obama, visiting South Korea shortly after the melodrama over his selfie with Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz, denied a little girl’s request for a selfie, telling her that if he took one with her, he’d have to take one with everyone along the rope line.

Perhaps no one running for public office this year understands the selfie craze better than Democratic congressional candidate Clay Aiken. A well-known commodity from his “American Idol” days before his foray into politics, the North Carolina singer is constantly asked to pose for photos. He offers to take them himself to save time, he told the Raleigh News & Observer in February.

For a candidate working to endear himself to voters, it would be terrible politics to say no to a selfie.

And that makes selfies a campaign scheduler’s newest nightmare.

The mind of Mujica

President Obama’s meeting with Uruguayan President José Mujica started off, Obama told reporters, with the former urban guerrilla fighter observing “that my hair has become much grayer since the last time he saw me.”

Mujica, who turns 79 next week, sat with Obama in the customary brief photo op and remarks before their formal Oval Office meeting. These are usually non-news chats where Obama says “Thanks for coming” and his guest says “Thanks for having me.”

But Mujica, a former Tupamaro guerrilla fighter who spent about 14 years in various slammers for his activities, had what might be called “wide-ranging” observations to offer.

First, Mujica, who eschews formal attire and is probably best known for legislation that makes it legal for individuals to grow marijuana at home in Uruguay, opined in Spanish that “you [the United States] will have to become a bilingual country . . . because the vigor [or strength] of Latin women is admirable and they are going to fill this continent with people who speak Spanish” and Portuguese.

Mujica, who is a farmer, said he’s “getting old” and “would like to be a little bit younger to see Mississippi” and “the dairy farms of Los Angeles.” He asked Obama to “convey a hug to all the farmers of this nation.”

“All right,” Obama replied. “Thank you.”

The tee party

It’s the seventh annual National Golf Day on Capitol Hill next week, so if you can’t find your local member of Congress, it’s likely he or she is celebrating on the nearest green, or maybe practicing swings inside the Cannon Building.

Golf is a nonpartisan escape, a pastime for politicians such as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. But even with that advantage — one few other groups could claim — the golf industry lobby is still working to convince its Hill fans that the sport deserves economic breaks.

So on May 21, the golf lobby is bringing out links legend Jack Nicklaus (we hear Boehner keeps a book about the fellow Buckeye golf great on his desk) to speak at its Congressional Tee Time breakfast. Then lawmakers and staffers can learn golf tips from a PGA teacher at an all-day exhibit on Capitol Hill.

The sponsor, a coalition called We Are Golf, lobbies Congress on taxes, the environment and disaster funding eligibility — it spent $40,000 last quarter doing so. One might remember golf clubs had been blocked from receiving disaster-funding tax relief, particularly after Hurricane Katrina. The snub spurred the industry’s activism.

“When passing legislation, we want Congress to appropriately recognize the size and scope of the golf industry so we are treated similarly to other businesses,” said Rhett Evans, the coalition chairman.

The golf lobby is sensitive to the perception that the sport is just a plutocrat’s hobby. It’s an image that hurts golf’s efforts to get tax breaks. In 2012, We Are Golf sent letters to politicians asking them to stop mocking Obama or Boehner (depending on party) for time spent on the tee.

The golf advocates have some set talking points about the sport’s economic impact, citing it at nearly $70 billion a year, to make the case that golf provides more than just a respite for elites — even if it is politicians’ sport of choice.

But who’s counting?

Our resident fact checker, Glenn Kessler, gave President Obama four Pinocchios for a speech last week at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dinner in which Obama said that, since 2007, Republicans have filibustered “500 pieces of legislation that would help the middle class.”

Turns out, Kessler, in his blog on Friday and in Sunday’s print edition, concluded that, after taking us through an analysis of the numbers, the correct number — generously including nominations as well as “pieces of legislation” — is about 133 “successful” filibusters since 2007. (And that includes two years when Obama was in the Senate during the George W. Bush administration.)

White House press secretary Jay Carney, asked at Monday’s press briefing whether Obama still stood by that number of 500 pieces of legislation, said: “I didn’t see the comments or the context. There’s no question that there has been historic obstructionism by Republican-led Congress, in the House in particular, but I don’t have the context for it.”

Carney apparently hadn’t taken note of Obama’s speech or all those fine Pinocchios he earned for it. (Four Pinocchios is the highest award you can get, reserved for whoppers.) Then Carney referred to Republicans in the House — which we didn’t think even had a filibuster.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics