Bush Fails to 'Schmooze' Like Reagan

It is ironic that this president — who admires Ronald Reagan — has failed to learn one of Reagan’s most important lessons: The art of schmoozing.

Unlike his predecessor, Jimmy Carter (who ran and governed as an outsider), Ronald Reagan understood the need to develop friends and allies in the press and in Congress. Symbolic of Carter’s disdain for Washington was his 1977 selling of the presidential yacht — the Sequoia — which was often used by presidents to schmooze members of Congress.

Reagan, of course, was almost always the exact opposite of Carter. Though he also ran as an outsider, Reagan understood that for his presidency to succeed, he would need to stroke the egos of the Washington elite. It takes a humble man to subject himself to stroking the egos of lesser men. This would mean attending dinners and dinner parties (even when he didn’t feel like it) with pretentious people who would stab him in the back the next day.  Reagan did it dutifully.

In short, he would be, "in the DC world, but not of the DC world."

In fairness, Reagan was no doubt helped by his days as an actor and governor of California, and by his wife, Nancy. For example, the Reagan’s friendship with former Washington Post president Katherine Graham, is one example of that. Still, he understood that after campaigning to become president, he would then have to campaign to be president.

The presidency is a heady job. Upon attaining that perch, you might conclude that you will never have to again be deferential to any person or institution. But the truth is that none of us are ever so important that we can afford to be through with the business of cajoling. Not if we want to get things done, that is.

Has George W. Bush finally learned that lesson?