Defenders of these tactics are quick to point out that many presidents have enjoyed great success in taking their message directly to the people. Among the most oft-quoted are FDR’s historic series of radio broadcasts, colloquially referred to as the fireside chats. It’s worth noting, however, that Roosevelt delivered only thirty such performances over a period of eleven years. The fact that they were infrequent made them all the more noteworthy to the public, particularly in an age when media saturation was still decades away.
There is little doubt that a large portion of the duties of modern presidents falls into the category of public relations. The entertainment value and popularity of the show can readily translate to good “ratings” for the administration, with high hopes that the applause will result in both support for their policies and electoral success further down the road. As with any popular production, though, too much of a good thing can indeed exceed the limit of the public’s attention span.
CBS ruled the Neilsen ratings books for several years running, largely on the success of their crime drama CSI. In an effort to capitalize on the public’s appetite for such fare, they launched CSI Miami to mixed reviews. By the time CSI New York debuted, even the most hardcore fans were reaching the burnout stage. The point is, we tend to grow indifferent through an excess of familiarity.
The president of the United States is not Gil Grissom, nor is he some sort of Doc Severinsen on a beltway version of Johnny Carson’s nightly production. I suspect there is a limit on how many episodes of The Prime-Time Presidency we will collectively sit through before the viewers begin to wonder what it is that the star is supposedly doing at his day job. I predict that the launch of CSI: District of Columbia would have a short run, so our president may want to dole out his guest star stints a bit less frequently