Aw: Obama learning to schmooze again

His limited charm offensive, however, may be too late for his Republican critics and too little for Democratic donors, who expect more fawning attention before being asked to open up their checkbooks heading into the 2012 presidential campaign. That Obama is aloof is a caricature of the man, but it’s one that may not be easy to erase.

Advisers said a more accurate description is of someone simply self-reliant, lacking the insecurity gene that leads other politicians to crave constant attention and seek new acquaintances. “In his private time, he likes to be with his friends,” another close White House adviser said. “Admittedly, it’s a complaint you hear from fundraisers and reporters – that he doesn’t schmooze. But he just doesn’t like being with people who he doesn’t necessarily know.”

But there can be a downside to his cloistered approach: It does not give him ready access to political friendships that can prove helpful in a pinch or let him explore ideas with allies – or foes – outside the formal setting of meetings and phone calls. One Democrat who has been invited to the White House for several meetings said that at one encounter, Obama’s appearance was so brief he did not even ask any of his supporters questions or advice.

Some lawmakers see it more as a sign of insularity, if not arrogance. “He doesn’t suffer fools, and he thinks we’re all fools,” one senior Republican member of Congress said.