This is what CNN thinks passes for "news". Let's see...repeat John McCain campaign attack ad that didn't work...check. Pretend you're concerned with
December 25, 2008

This is what CNN thinks passes for "news". Let's see...repeat John McCain campaign attack ad that didn't work...check. Pretend you're concerned with Obama's security and that's the reason you're covering this story...check. Ignore important things going on that you should be covering....check. Scrutinize Obama in a way that you never even gave a thought to doing with George Bush before he took office...check. These guys are trying to compete with Fox News for who can make me want to throw a shoe at my TV more frequently.

HILL: Who cares if he smokes? The President-elect, clearly not in Chicago where it's 31 and snowing -- he is in Hawaii at the beach doing the vacationing Presidents do but with a lot less flab. The picture -- and it is everywhere, trust me -- is a reminder that it's really been a while since we've had a camera-ready President-elect and first family.

But the question tonight, just what does glamour and charisma buy you as a President? And how could it hurt?

The "Raw Politics" from Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Take a good hard look, a bare-chested photo that made its way around the world hours after it was taken. At first, a big question, did the photographer breach security to get the shot? Turns out, the answer is no.

But there was lots more to talk about. Here's the front page of today's New York Post. "Fit for Office" is the headline and there are plenty more lines about Ab-bama and Beach Barack. Is this just more of the so-called rock star treatment some say Obama had during the election? The celebrity McCain used against him?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?


JOHNS: And during the campaign, Obama certainly used magazines like "US Weekly" and "People" which regularly features celebrities on the cover to help him win the election.

He appeared on the cover of "Time" magazine 14 times this year. Now the election is over and the questions remain. Is Obama getting great coverage because of his celebrity status?

It's not like he hasn't courted the coverage and generally the star treatment benefits a politician who can handle it.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's such a great gift. Reagan had it, John F. Kennedy had it. And it's become very valuable to a country when it's uncertain about its future.

How does he use it? Look at the way he's using it now; you inspire, you don't stop campaigning just because the campaign is over.

JOHNS: But on the other hand, right here in the New York Post next to the beach photos is a report that 45 percent of Americans believe either Obama or one of his top campaign aides is tied up in the Illinois governor scandal. That's no political honeymoon.

Being a celebrity President really cuts both ways. When you compare the kind of media Obama's gotten to say, Bill Clinton, his saxophone made for some sexy shots, but you'll probably find that the guy appeared on the front page of the tabloids a lot more than Obama, particularly when Monica Lewinsky surfaced.

So given all that, why did this photo generate so much fascination? Pretty simple, unlike some other Presidents or Presidents-elect, this guy is young, fit, trim, and he looks pretty good in a bathing suit.

Go figure.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


HILL: Yes, but is it ever really that simple?

More on celebrity and the Presidency when we come back with Ed Henry who as the country is finding out, looks fine in shorts himself, doesn't he? David Gergen and Roland Martin also with us.

And meet the rescuers and the people they rescued from a strange and totally unexpected wall of water this morning.


HILL: President-elect Obama there surrounded by the media, something he says he tries to tune out as best he can. He's got a lot of serious work ahead of him. Clearly, he is a serious guy.

If reaction to the snapshot, though, that you've been seeing right here is any clue he also possesses something that not every President has. It's that same kind of quality that people ordinarily associate with movie stars. So the question tonight, can what some would call superficial attributes actually help when it comes to getting very serious matters accomplished.

Talking strategy now with Ed Henry, David Gergen and Roland Martin.

Ed, I want to start with because, you're there on the ground as part of the press corps. And Ed, he's not the first President or President-elect at this point that you've covered, but I know this is different.

As you're clamoring for access to this President, it's not just journalists there, but you're dealing with a large amount of paparazzi. How does that change things?

HENRY: It changes it enormously because obviously as you heard during the campaign, John McCain used this whole "he's the biggest celebrity in the world" as a weapon against Barack Obama politically.

And that's why as you noted and Joe Johns said in his piece that can cut both ways. And I think broadly the big picture over the long- term, but in the short-term, how it changes things is they have to sort of be looking over their shoulder.

They're worried the President-elect and first family incoming about whether their privacy is going to be violated. And I can tell you I spoke to a very senior Obama adviser tonight who said though, that they frankly don't care that much about the peck shots; the pictures of the President-elect without his shirt. They frankly think it's a little silly. They kind of laughed it off.

But they're more concerned that paparazzi also took pictures of their daughters, their two young daughters. That's something that the President-elect has been very firm in saying he wants to draw what he's called sort of a zone of privacy around them. And David will remember that the Clintons did the same with Chelsea Clinton to mostly good effect.

And that's something that there's going to be some push and pull with the press corps on but sort of makes sense. That Barack Obama realizes that given the historic nature of his victory, it's going to be impossible for him to sort of stop the paparazzi from following him in Hawaii or anywhere else but he does want to sort of draw the line at his children.

HILL: Ed, just to quickly follow-up on one point you made; you talked about this zone of privacy but it's not just about the privacy, it's also security and not just the security of the future first family, --


HILL: But of the country. Is there concern, have you heard at all? Is there concern among the Secret Service that this could make it, in fact, more difficult to keep the President and in turn the country safe?

HENRY: They're watching it very closely, I can tell you that. But so far they have not indicated that it's a problem. They have got a Secret Service check point near the private home where Barack Obama is staying. And obviously, I don't want to get in too much detail for those very security reasons that you mentioned.

But here in Hawaii, all of these public beaches like Waikiki beach here are public. And so anybody can walk on them. And so the President-elect is staying at a home near a public beach. And so there's a check point, the Secret Service is there to check people out and make sure some of those doesn't just walk up to his front door. As you said that's a security issue not just for him, but for the country now.

And so the paparazzi basically were able to walk up to that Secret Service check point and with the long lens just take a picture from a couple hundred feet away. I think with the zone of privacy with the daughters, what they are trying to carve out is when he's president, making sure that there is some privacy, some separation between the press corps and the President when, for example, maybe he's taking his daughters to school so that people don't see those pictures and say, ok, that's the direction that they take the daughters into the school door every day. That's obviously a very serious matter.

So there's a line there and I think mainstream media organization will do all they can to respect that line while also fighting for as much access, a credible and sensible access as we can get -- Erica.

HILL: So in addition to the privacy and the security, there is also the question of just this celebrity in general.

And David, you've been an adviser to some of the so-called celebrity Presidents that Joe Johns mentioned in his piece there. What burdens come with that label?

GERGEN: Yes, let me just say one last thing, Erica. I do have some concerns about the fact. When an outsider can so easily penetrate his privacy, how easy is it going to be an outsider to penetrate his security?

And I think that's the question raised in part by these photographs.

HILL: Do you think enough is being done to secure the security and safety of the future first family?

GERGEN: Well, I think when Ed Henry says, look, he's on a public beach and people come and go in public beaches -- that raises a lot of security questions in my mind. That's exactly -- well I think he gets out of his car on Pennsylvania Avenue on inaugural day and just starts walking along and they haven't taken huge precautions, just think what could happen.

So there are all of those issues, I think that are still -- that are buried here and I think they're going to have to resort that out. Without knowing what the Secret Service did and whether they in fact permitted that photographer -- they know who he was and they permitted him to be there -- we don't know that for sure. But I do think there are questions.

MARTIN: Erica, I think we've got to keep certain things in perspective and that is, look, when it comes to paparazzi, they don't play by the mainstream journalism rules.

HILL: Right.

MARTIN: I mean, these are individuals who are used to taking photos from 500 to 700 yards away or whatever limitations are of celebrities. And the reality is, the Obamas are occupying a different sort of world.

If you study the media over the last 30 years, you've seen a progression of Presidents and politicians going from being sort of folks who are in a different world to now infiltrating sort of this whole celebrity culture.

So we shouldn't be shocked by that. And so we should simply expect more of it. The other piece is here, the Obamas also want to be careful that they don't become so secluded that they become different from the rest of the American people.

HILL: Right.

MARTIN: I think Americans appreciate going to a public beach. And so they understand that aspect of it, as well.

HILL: But it is a tough line and, --

MARTIN: Of course.

HILL: And especially when it does come to security.

I do want to get back really quickly, though, and David I'm going to throw this to you if you can do it 30 seconds.

GERGEN: Sure, ok sure.

HILL: But giving an idea and not only of the benefits to that celebrity status as a world leader, but how does it perhaps detract from his efforts and even his resume?

GERGEN: Charisma was a great asset for both John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in their governing both here and abroad. But it can raise expectations.

And one of the things that really surprised me about a CNN poll that came out today was that people are very down on the economy today. But seven percent of the people now say that the economy is either good, very good or somewhat good, just seven percent.

55 percent believe that a year from now, the economy will be good. That's excessive expectation. That's what comes with being, you know, when people begin to think you're Obama, you could change everything. That's what he's got to worry about.

HILL: We'll focus on that.

Can you help us out?

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