After Leaks, Obama Leads Damage Control Effort
“The American people don’t have a Big Brother who is snooping into their business,” he said, amplifying his answer to a question about the hunt for a national security leaker. “I’m confident of that. But I want to make sure everybody is confident of that.”
Wherever he goes, whatever else is on his agenda, Mr. Obama in recent weeks has made a point of reassuring Americans that he is not spying on them. His statements are part of a carefully orchestrated White House damage-control effort in response to revelations about surveillance programs that have unnerved many Americans and exposed him to criticism from the political left and right.
The strategy reflects the sensitivity of a president elected after assailing counterterrorism policies that he ultimately adopted in some form after taking office. With a blitz of statements, briefings, interviews, Twitter messages and selected disclosures, the White House has pushed back aggressively, arguing that his policies are both necessary to protect the nation against terrorists and yet more respectful of civil liberties and checks and balances than those initially enacted by President George W. Bush.
Mr. Thiessen, who now writes a column for The Post, has some understanding of the situation the White House finds itself in. When Mr. Bush’s counterterrorism policies were revealed by the news media, Mr. Thiessen wrote a speech for the president defending them while announcing that he would empty secret C.I.A. prisons. Still, he said Mr. Obama’s situation is more precarious than Mr. Bush’s was. “He’s got a different political dynamic,” Mr. Thiessen said. “The president has his own base up in arms while we had our base more reflexively behind us. And the opposition is more vocal now.”