Priorities: Team Obama held meeting on how to ingratiate him with D.C. social scene

Congrats, Washington Times. You’ve found the mother of all “What if Bush did it?” items.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration invited top editors of Washington’s three local luxury lifestyle magazines, Capitol File, DC Magazine and Washington Life to a meeting where, among other things, they discussed how the President and first lady can embrace Washington’s glittery social scene.

The White House is “identifying tastemakers in order to help create grassroots interest in some of the programs they are working on,” said Washington Life’s Michael Clements, who attended the meeting. “They wanted to introduce themselves. It was certainly a departure from previous administrations.”…

A White House aide who spoke on condition of anonymity dismissed the notion that a publicly populist Obama White House is privately courting socialites, contending that the meeting was held to explore how the Obamas can “engage in the community.” The aide also pointed out that similar meetings were held with representatives of sports, entertainment and philanthropic organizations in Washington…

Chuck Conconi, a former social columnist, says the Obamas are taking a leaf from the Reagan playbook by blending social Washington, political figures, and Hollywood.

Nothing wrong with this, really. Charming the local (and not so local) power structure is good, smart politics, as is having dozens of interest groups aligned on your side coordinating their message with a daily phone call. And just as conservative groups could never get away with that without dark media insinuations about the “right-wing noise machine” building a wall of propaganda around the White House, George W. Bush could never have gotten away with holding a strategy session on how to gladhand the D.C. glitterati while issuing near-hourly warnings about how we’re on the brink of Great Depression II. I can just picture the mocking nutroots YouTube clips, destined to be recycled on “Hardball” and “Countdown”: First a quote from a story about Bush’s interest in socializing, then a clip of him and Laura dressed in finery and dancing at an inaugural ball as graphics about the market’s implosion and this year’s $1.75 trillion deficit roll merrily by. They’re … out of touch, you see. Exit question: Couldn’t the meeting have been postponed until, oh, say, after Geithner came up with a bank rescue plan and Treasury had been staffed? This isn’t going to reassure George Will or Tom Friedman about Obama’s ability to prioritize.

Update: And lo and behold, as I was writing this very post, another Treasury appointee’s dropped out due to vetting issues.