Prior to President Obama's recent surge of dinners and golf outings with members of Congress, the knock on the Commander-in-Chief was that he didn't have a great social game. He was aloof, distant, and imperious. He lacked a human touch, unable to alternately charm and cudgel with the effectiveness of a Lyndon Johnson.
I've always found this criticism a little overblown. Sure, charm offensives may matter at the margins, but there's a parallel here to the belief among segments of the diplomatic corps that world peace is always one amiably-worded communique away from realization. When you come right down to it, most people -- particularly those who inhabit positions of power -- are more likely to be driven by self-interest or ideology than flattery. And let's be honest -- those who bend their votes based on a dinner invitation are likely not long for the political world anyway.
Still, an anecdote in former Senator Olympia Snowe's forthcoming book (the answer to a question that no one is asking) may provide some insight as to why Obama doesn't rely on a lot of glad-handing: he's not very good at it. From the Portland Press Herald:
In an earlier phone call, Obama had told the Republican that she could be "a modern-day Joan of Arc" by supporting his health care bill, now known as "Obamacare." When Snowe pointed out Joan of Arc had been burned at the stake, Obama reportedly replied: "Don't worry, I'll be there with a fire hose!" She still voted against the bill on the Senate floor.
The use of the word "still" in that final sentence represents a massive amount of undue credit to the President. If his most persuasive pitch is to invite U.S. senators to imagine themselves immolated ... well, maybe it's for the best that he doesn't work the phones that often.