Sunday, May 09, 2010

WH Visitors Logs:

Charm Offensive & Diverse Voting Blocs

(From the White House photo gallery: "Oct. 13, 2009: 'Much to Sasha’s chagrin, the President starts dancing to the music at the Fiesta Latina event on the South Lawn of the White House.'")

One of the best perks any President has at his disposal is granting access and making invitations for many occasions at the White House, and the Obama administration is no different in this regard than any other recent occupant of the Oval Office.

What is unique with this administration is that they are revealing, on a regular basis, the visitor logs. After drilling down through the search engine using key terms and words, I see evidence illustrating a charm offensive directed at several important Democratic voting blocs.

The receptions, bill signings, briefings, and meetings show a small piece of the larger picture of who is going to the White House and in most cases, a few words about why they were invited. There's a charm offensive at work here -- engaging through access and face-time, those blocs Obama and Biden are going to need in 2012 for reelection.

Let's look at more details from the logs:


The word cinco returned the names of the nearly 300 Hispanic leaders and others who were at a May 4, 2009, party on the eve of Cinco de Mayo.

Searching for Latino, I learned that on October 1, 2009, a meeting was held for 143 Latino leaders, according to the description column of the logs. Meeting may be the wrong word, but unlike other events where the logs say briefing or reception, the description simply read "Latino Leaders."

A few hours after that event, the Veep and Dr. Jill Biden held a reception at their official residence for Hispanic leaders, according to the White House blog, which said 150 leaders were present.

Using fiesta as the search term, revealed the Fiesta Latina Event on October 13, 2009, with almost 400 celebrants enjoying the occasion. This is the event that gay WaPo journalist Jonathan Capehart attended, perhaps with a relative, and that is the reason I knew to search for fiesta.

The term Hispanic retrieved info about an October 28, 2009, briefing for Hispanic journalists. Good to see outreach to Latino voters through reporters for the Spanish language press. 43 people attended the briefing.

Ole, to this bloc for receiving much special attention.


Four separate meetings show up when searching the word Jewish. The logs use two terms in the descriptions: Jewish Outreach Meeting or Jewish Community Outreach Meeting.

One meeting was on September 22, 2009, with 50 people; another was held on September 25, 2009, and 65 showed up. Then 91 people attended an October 14, 2009, meeting, and 56 Jewish leaders were there on October 20, 2009.

The Obamas opened up the White House on December 16 for a Hanukkah reception, and 600 people were invited.

Mazel tov, at getting four meetings over a one-month period, and a holiday reception.


For the word diversity, the one result was for a December 7, 2009, diversity initiative briefing for 92 key leaders from assorted constituencies, including the gays, but the topic of the briefing was not solely about our issues alone.

Gay leaders present included transgender lobbyist Mara Keisling, who's been to the White House four times; Aubrey Servis representing gay vets; gay lobbyist Steven Elmendorf who's received $430,000 in fees from HRC in the past four years and who has been to the White House at least 8 times; and Mark Bromley, who used to work for Tammy Baldwin and now heads up Global Equality.

Maybe more gays, whose names I'm not familiar with were there, but four out of 92 ain't so bad.

Drilling down for LGBT events, two receptions were held. The first on June 29, 2009, for nearly 350 gay folks and family members, has been widely documented, debated and reported on. However, the second reception, for only 32 gay staffers at federal agencies, was given six days after we lost the right to gay marriage in Maine, and that news was broken by this blog.

This is awkward. On the one hand I want to see gay briefings, just like other constituency briefings, at the White House, but then I stop and think of the weak official gay leaders from HRC/GLAAD/NGLTF/GLSEN/MCC/DNC, and laugh. There isn't enough 420 in San Francisco to get me to think Gay Inc leaders would actually get tough at a briefing, or accomplish much. Still, for purely symbolic reasons, there should be a gay briefing at the White House.

Fabulous, that gays warranted two receptions, and inclusion in the diversity event, but a limp-wristed slap at Gay Inc and the administration for not yet holding a briefing with Democratic gay leaders.


Looking for African-American turns up nothing, but that is because of the seriously deficient search capabilities of the White House search engine. For the all-important description category, the engine picks up only the first word and nothing else.

A search for African returns info on a September 25, 2009, meeting for what the logs say was an African and African American clergy briefing. More than 120 people were present for it.

Hallelujah, for scoring a briefing. Wouldn't surprise me to learn, with a better search engine, of other engagements with a wider array of Africans and African-Americans.


Looking for women, I found info on two meetings. The first, for 46 individuals, took place on December 7, 2009, and was listed as relating to women and girls.

And on December 8, 2009, there was a meeting on women and HIV/AIDS, and a crowd of 60 folks showed up. This meeting could count for two, being that it dealt with HIV/AIDS and women.

A search for world brought back the names of 51 people who were at the November 30, 2009, meeting on the eve of World AIDS Day. Using the word AIDS as the search term revealed nothing of relevance, highlighting yet again a major flaw in the White House's search engine.

Girlfriends, way to go! Two meetings in two days is laudable. Now let's see Obama sign off on the his National AIDS Strategy, release it to the American public, then implement the immediate do-able top recommendations.

A charm offensive has a legitimate place in our politics, and expanded White House access to a President's key voting bloc is a positive course of action, but I want the Obama administration to show me its road map to permanent federal changes for gays that require more than a memorandum.

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