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President Obama as Mortgage Broker

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By Dana Milbank
Friday, April 10, 2009

I just lost another loan to Obama!

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When last we heard from the salesman in chief 10 days ago, he was pitching General Motors and Chrysler cars so aggressively that he did everything but offer to rotate every American's tires. Now, it seems, he's moonlighting for LendingTree.com.

Thursday morning's commercial was set in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where the president was joined by happy homeowners. "Here's the good news," he announced. "Rates are as low as they've been since 1971."

As a result of such fabulous deals, he went on, "everybody here represents families who have saved hundreds of dollars a month, thousands of dollars a year in some cases -- and that's money directly in their pocket."

So how can you, sitting at home, join these satisfied customers?

Easy. "If you are having problems with your mortgage, and even if you're not and you just want to save some money," the president announced, "you can go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov -- MakingHomeAffordable.gov -- and the way the Web site is designed, you can plug in your information and immediately find out whether or not you are potentially eligible."

Sounds great! Can we have that Web site one more time, Mr. President? "Again, the Web site is MakingHomeAffordable.gov -- is that right? MakingHomeAffordable.gov -- so get on the Web site, find out what's available."

Every salesman knows repetition is key to closing the deal, so Obama repeated the name of the site again, for a total of five times in his five-minute pitch. "So take advantage of MakingHomeAffordable.gov, and that will allow you to figure out exactly how to proceed on this in a way that's making you money, saving you money, as opposed to costing you money."

Because when lenders compete, you win!

Seeing as Obama is the commander in chief and all, it seemed advisable to do as he (repeatedly) said and check out MakingHomeAffordable.gov. There, one finds a slick Web site looking very much like private mortgage refinancing sites: a logo with houses and the "Help for America's Homeowners" slogan, a "Homeowner's Hope Hotline" (888-995-HOPE), a picture of a woman and child on a playground, and "self-assessment tools" to "see if you are among the 7 to 9 million homeowners who may be able to benefit from Making Home Affordable."

Only in small print at the bottom does the visitor see mention of the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Click on the "Audio and Video" menu and you'll find "Weekly Address: Toward a Better Day" -- a link to the White House Web site and one of Obama's Saturday radio addresses from last month.

This presidential marketing approach doesn't have quite the dignity of an FDR fireside chat, but it is, undeniably, very 21st century. And, for better or worse, it seems to have become a regular part of the presidential oeuvre.

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