Obama’s “Secret” Afghanistan Trip: Latest Obama Drama Is an Election Year PR Ploy

Lisa Vallee-Smith, APR, Co-CEO of Airfoil Public Relations

No one would ever call President Obama anything less than a savvy newsmaker in his relationship with the media. Rather than assuming the belligerent stance toward reporters of a Richard Nixon or the news conference schedule deficiency of George W. Bush, Obama has attempted to “friend” the White House press corps and to become a partner in broadcast media’s efforts to market the news.

His recent trip to Afghanistan (here’s CNN’s recap) to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Hamid Kharzi clearly was an election year play. I would agree with one of the most respected media outlets, The Christian Science Monitor, which cited this opinion of many Obama critics:

“By choosing the anniversary of the spectacular yet risky raid he ordered to get bin Laden, the president is turning an opportunity to explain a critical foreign-policy commitment to the American public into a presidential campaign event touting his leadership.”

Presidents don’t fly into war zones to sign military accords—they do so to acquire media coverage. Significant agreements surrounding the end of World War I and II were made in Versailles and Yalta. The Vietnam War ended at a table in Paris, and the war in Bosnia was settled at a meeting in Dayton, Ohio. But Obama chose a sensational middle-of-the-night entrance into the battle arena to meet with Karzai, a great but unnecessary drama for media consumption.

In the same time frame, he appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show; and he introduced the movie of the week, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” on the USA Network. Capping his burgeoning media blitz by giving NBC news exclusive access to the (empty) War Room for the first time ever was over the top.

The president may be racking up “Likes” from the reporters to whom he is offering drama and history, but their reports are the stuff that campaign ads are made of.


Lisa Vallee-Smith, APR, is Co-CEO of Airfoil Public Relations, where she is responsible for ensuring the agency’s success on three fronts: reputation/market position, strategic planning, and revenue growth/diversification. She takes an active role with numerous agency accounts, and leads the client solutions practice, which drives client strategy and creative execution as well as measurement and reporting. She is a public relations consultant with more than 25 years of experience.

Published: May 3, 2012 By: fays