WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is hardly the first president to speak at a public school. He’s not even the first to plan a live telecast from a classroom.

President George H.W. Bush did that in 1991, and without stirring anything close to the ferocious backlash the Obama administration has faced in North Texas and elsewhere.

But almost two decades later, the country is far more polarized. The media culture moves at relative hyperspeed. Conservative critics are more ready to pounce on Obama, even when he’s urging students to stay in school and out of trouble – just as Bush did back then.

The uproar this week prompted hundreds of complaints to Dallas-area school officials, and calls for sickouts so students could avoid “left wing indoctrination” during Tuesday’s speech.... +Continue Reading


They represented a controversial president during a time of an unpopular war and a major economic crisis. And now, the former members of George W. Bush’s communications staff are ready for anything. In the six months since Bush left office, ex-White House flacks have landed well — in the corporate world and the athletic world. And yes, the political world too.

Dana Perino, Bush’s third White House press secretary, started out the year with a monthlong trip to Africa. Upon her return, she followed in the footsteps of the first-ever female press secretary, Dee Dee Myers: She’s joined the ranks of cable news commentators.

Perino says she has been approached with many offers since departing the White House. She considered writing, particularly as an opinion columnist, but in... +Continue Reading


I am not sure how many people — especially animal lovers — Michael Vick won over with his news conference Friday in Philadelphia and his “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night. But he got me.

Sure, I reserve the requisite amount of skepticism for all athlete comebacks these days, but I believe that Vick is sorry for his crimes and understands that only his actions will convince people he has changed.

There were four moments in Sunday night’s exclusive “60 Minutes” interview that convinced me:

• When James Brown confronted Vick with a graphic recitation of the acts associated with the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting operation, then asked him, “For those who may say it showed a... +Continue Reading


WASHINGTON — Three guys, sitting around a picnic table, having a cold one.
Beer diplomacy? The “teachable moment” the president promised? Or just a way for the White House to get people to quit talking about the president’s comments on a racial brouhaha in Massachusetts?
When Barack Obama meets Thursday with the black professor and white policeman at the center of a national uproar over race relations, he is aiming for a show that will get positive news coverage and then go away.

“There’s no formal agenda other than cold beer,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
That’s not quite the teachable moment on racial unity that Obama talked about last Friday when he moved to undercut the controversy that had knocked him off message. Pressed about that, Gibbs... +Continue Reading


On my first day as White House communications director back in July 2006, I stuck my head in Tony Snow’s office to say hello. He bounded from behind his desk and said, “Come on — I want to show you something.”

Tony, who had been press secretary for a little over two months, led me out of the West Wing and up the driveway toward the Northwest Appointments Gate. “I do this almost every day,” he said. When we got close to the Secret Service guardhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue, Tony instructed me to turn around and look back at the North Portico of the White House.

“Look at that,” he gushed. “Isn’t that neat? That’s where we get to work. When I worked here the first time, for President Bush 41, I was too young and too stupid to appreciate it. This time I’m not going to take it... +Continue Reading


The way-too-cute, pre-arranged Huffington Post moment in Tuesday’s Presidential press conference was actually a good idea, poorly executed. President Obama answering a question from an Iranian citizen is an inspired notion – but one that would have been more appropriate as on online chat at than a planted question in a press conference.

But make no mistake: President Obama’s use of digital media platforms has not only been effective, it is redefining Presidential communications.

Looking back through history, however, a pattern becomes clear: The contributions made by the pioneer of each new medium are largely forgotten when his successor – with the benefit of further advancements in technology and broader adoption of the new medium – masters it.

... +Continue Reading


It seems to some people, even ardent supporters, that President Obama is getting way too much media coverage.

“You don’t have to be on television every minute of every day,” implored comedian/commentator Bill Maher on his HBO show last week. “You’re the President, not a re-run of “Law & Order.”

It may not seem like it, but there actually are days when Mr. Obama makes no public appearances, but they’re few and far between.

A check of my daily log of presidential activity shows that since taking office, there have been only 7 days on which Mr. Obama did not have a media appearance of some kind. All but one of those seven days were Sundays.

The one exception was last Wednesday. The president stayed cloistered behind the well-guarded doors of the Oval Office... +Continue Reading


Kevin Sullivan is the founder of Kevin Sullivan Communications, LLC. He was White House communications director under President George W. Bush, and before that was a communications executive with NBC Universal, NBC Sports and the Dallas Mavericks.

Michael Vick’s (notes) return to the NFL is inevitable. As long as there is demand for record-breaking, Pro Bowl QBs, there will be a team willing to bet that what he can contribute on the field will be worth the headaches and distractions off it.

Before Vick can put the pads back on, however, he must convince NFL commissioner Roger Goodell he is worthy... +Continue Reading


After reporting to Ross Perot Jr., Dick Ebersol and George W. Bush, Kevin Sullivan decided it was time to be the boss. He started Kevin Sullivan Communications to use what he learned as vice president of communications for the Dallas Mavericks, senior vice president of corporate communications for NBC Universal and communications director at the White House to help teams, leagues and brands more effectively tell their stories and reach their goals. Staff writer Theresa Manahan spoke with him recently.

Age: 50

New title: Founder of Kevin Sullivan Communications and a consultant for Weber Shandwick  

Previous title: White House communications director

First job: Delivery boy for... +Continue Reading


By and large, they personally forked out for his campaign, they voted for him, and they know he is capable of boosting TV ratings just by making an appearance.

But executives at the Big Four broadcast networks are seething behind the scenes that President Obama has cost them about $30 million in cumulative ad revenue this year with his three primetime news conference pre-emptions.

Now top network execs quietly are hoping that Fox’s well-publicized rejection of the president’s April 29 presser will serve as precedent for denying future White House requests for prime airtime.

“We will continue to make our decisions on White House requests on a case-by-case basis, but the Fox decision gives us cover to reject a request if we feel that there is no urgent breaking news... +Continue Reading