Keep walking, Mr. President.

Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg

Democrats to Obama: Shut Up

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Democrats, especially members of Congress in competitive elections this fall, have a simple ask of President Barack Obama: cool it.

Specifically, they would like the president to keep as low a profile as possible for the next five weeks, to foil Republican efforts to make him the centerpiece of the midterm elections. They are particularly concerned about news-making interviews. The latest flap flowed from the president's weekend sit-down with "60 Minutes," in which he suggested that the swift rise of Islamic State was due in part to faulty U.S. intelligence.

Predictably, the intelligence community struck back, with articles in the New York Times and the Daily Beast in which unnamed sources said it was the White House that didn't respond to warnings about the growing threat. The front-page Times piece said high intelligence officials were "bristling about being made into scapegoats" by Obama. The White House press secretary yesterday insisted that was not the president's intent.

Whatever the merits, say these Democrats, it was a no-win situation for the White House and them. When an Obama controversy dominates the political conversation, they worry it plays into Republican hands.

This is one of a number of so-called unforced errors by the Obama White House. Months ago, the White House put out the word that since Congress hadn't passed immigration reform,  Obama planned take an executive action to liberalize rules by the end of the summer. Democrats privately complained to the administration that this could hand a couple of close congressional races to the Republicans. Obama then backed down, though officials now say he'll do it after the election and before year end. Even Democrats who favor more liberalized immigration policies cringe at the political fallout of such back-and-forth.

Critics believe these mishaps are compounded by an excess of Obama media interviews. Some White House aides acknowledge they sometimes falter in the political message war, but believe the president is their big weapon. By one calculation, Obama has given 818 one-on-one media interviews -- more than two and half times the number granted by his predecessor, George W. Bush. For Obama, that's an interview almost every two days. 

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To contact the author on this story:
Albert R. Hunt at

To contact the editor on this story:
Tobin Harshaw at