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.

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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.

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8 Comments

  1. leslie johnson on May 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Check out one of Obama’s best buds
    Bill Ayers Roots For The Decline Of America

    I can’t believe that this guy is still teaching college students in America today. He really should move to Europe or the Middle East; he would probably be more welcome there.

    http://www.westernjournalism.com/bill-ayers-roots-for-the-decline-of-america/



  2. Friday, May 4, 2012 - CommPRO.biz on May 4, 2012 at 7:54 am

    […] Obama’s “Secret” Afghanistan Trip: Latest Obama Drama Is an Election Year PR PloyPublic Relations…By Lisa Vallee-Smith, APR, Co-CEO of Airfoil Public RelationsNo 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. […]



  3. Robespierre on May 4, 2012 at 10:44 am

    How very cynical. Ms. Vallee-Smith, your politics are showing!



  4. Lynne Boschee on May 4, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Ummm, no kidding. It’s an election year. Are you suggesting that the President shouldn’t campaign?



  5. Sam on May 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    And if Obama had stayed in the White House, I expect you’d have been among the first to criticize him for not going over to memorialize the anniversary of the death of the guy who took more than 3,000 innocent American lives. You republicans are all alike — find any little thing and jump on it. But then you have so little else to talk about these days and you really need to direct attention away from your leadership’s unwillingness to tax the rich in a fair and equitable way. Oh well…



  6. Zack Germroth on May 5, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Vallee-Smith, You’ve entirely missed –or chosen to ignore– the audience benefit of President Obama’s recent Afghan signing venture. Saying that President Obama’s signing an agreement with Kharzi on Afghanistan soil is essentially grandstanding for the media and political gain –while returning tens of thousands of US troops from a war zone, and laying out a 10+ year vision /agreement on which the world (our friends and enemies) is watching– is equivalent to saying the Pope’s Christmas Mass celebration is strictly a fund-raiser. Let’s see, I’m also assuming that you view George Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier declaring victory in Iraq in a different light? I like when our presidents take bold actions, and make America look good, help defend against US enemies, and underscore our commitments: Republican or Democrat. Most importantly, how would the troops remaining in Afghanistan, the American taxpayers, and the Afghanistan people and military feel today if –as you suggest– the signing took place in Dayton, Ohio (or similar remote location) as compared to having a US President on Afghanistan soil for the signing? As a former Public Information Officer for the US Army, and a PR practitioner of 25+ years, I think that your politics has blurred your sound PR and personal judgement.



  7. Fred Winters on May 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Yes, and? As other commenters have pointed out, every president does it. And I would add that when dealing with Republicans who swiftboated a genuine military hero and are now saying “even Jimmy Carter” would have made this decision – despite the fact that President Obama risked the same kind of military catastrophe Carter indeed incurred in trying to rescue the Tehran hostages – it is the wise politician and statesman who will take a dramatic opportunity to remind everyone what he has accomplished.



  8. Linda on May 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

    The President’s very-adept media manipulation is one of his greatest assets. As PR people, we ought to have the capacity to explore and discuss the ins-and-outs of his techniques objectively, as we do other electeds and organizations. But it seems that here — as in so many other places I’ve found — his worshippers can’t tolerate the slightest examination, let alone criticism. Sad for our industry, and our country. And I know, I know…it’s all George Bush’s fault. Yawn.