His mandate, he said, was to look “down the field to see the potential pitfalls in any move we make.” And it made sense, the Obama operative said, for the president to rely on a long-timer “who can anticipate his reaction to things.” Whereas Plouffe filtered Obama’s activities through the lens of reelection, Pfeiffer said he calibrates all the advice he offers through the “more complicated” prism of how the country, and the president, will see “Barack Obama 10 years from now.”
The long view of the president is changing by the day. The National Security Agency revelations, coming so soon after the Internal Revenue Service controversy and the Justice Department investigations of journalists, have changed the hope candidate into the panopticon president. Add to that the near-total Republican intransigence to the administration’s legislative agenda, and there is logic in Obama turning to the White House’s in-house image consultant to protect him for posterity.
“Dan has also been a ubiquitous presence around the White House for a long time,” said Axelrod, who acknowledged that although he and Plouffe had broader political backgrounds and unique relationships with the president, Pfeiffer has “real deep expertise in the minefield of communications in Washington.”
Facing Washington’s old guard
In a 11/2-hour interview a few paces from the Oval Office, Pfeiffer kicked his feet up on his desk next to a trash can overflowing with Diet Coke cans and empty bags of low-calorie Popchips. He hung his official designation as White House communications director on the mostly bare yellow walls because, he said, “I haven’t bothered to get my new one framed yet.” An awkward conversationalist at times, Pfeiffer rejected the notion that he lacks the experience and the chops to remove Obama from the swamp of scandal and advance his legislative agenda. He nevertheless remained at his most animated when talking about the “hyperactive, disaggregated media market.”
“That’s very relevant to our day-to-day life,” he said, “because the president’s capacity to communicate is related to everything else we do.”