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The Omnipresent President

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He's everywhere, or at least it seems that way. It's hard to imagine a President who has dominated the airwaves, editorial pages and digital landscape more than Barack Obama in his first 105 days (even in our celebrity-obsessed culture, it's unprecedented).

He's on the cover of New York Times Magazine (again), he bounds into the White House Briefing Room to confirm the resignation of the Justice Souter, he announces the bankruptcy of Chrysler and he personally welcomes Senator Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party. And that was just the end of last week.

He indeed appears to be everywhere, doing everything. While there's been criticism and concern about him taking on too much, there is no denying that he is dominating the stage like no one before him.

And yet by traditional measures, he's been no more visible than his two most recent predecessors. According to the New York Times, in their first 100 days Bill Clinton held 13 news conferences while Obama held 12. In his first 100 days, George W. Bush held 197 public events, while Obama held 187. And despite what has felt like a saturation of the airwaves, Obama gave two nationally televised broadcasts -- exactly the same number as Bush and one fewer than Clinton.

All of this begs the question: Why does it seem as if Obama is everywhere all the time, if he's really not?

Is it a fawning media that critics claim fell in love with him during the campaign and now can't help themselves as they focus on every action big and small - from Bo to Bailouts - in creating a truly larger than life President?

Maybe. A Washington press corps fatigued by eight years of obfuscation passed off as "message discipline" during the Bush years is undoubtedly enjoying a new approach and better access. And there is always a bit of a media honeymoon with a new president, although it is truncated these days (see President Clinton and gays in the military on Day 9).

Perhaps it's the fact that there are crises on so many different fronts - the economy, the auto companies, Afghanistan, swine flu - that the President is addressing (seemingly personally). These are big issues that demand public attention. While both Clinton and Bush took over in the midst of mild recessions, neither had the magnitude of immediate challenges Obama faces.

There is of course the historic nature of his presidency as the first African-American president, which coupled with his youth, energy and oratorical skills make a compelling story.

Chances are it's a combination of all of the above that have worked together to create the omnipresent President.

Whatever the cause, he clearly relishes it and uses his ability to dominate the stage to his great advantage. He makes his opposition seem small and petty by comparison (although given the state of his opposition, perhaps that's not such an accomplishment). They shrink as he takes dramatic action and tackles big issues while they focus on grainy details. As he elevates these issues to major topics of coverage he draws support and puts his opponents on the defensive from the outset.

There are risks, of course, to being omnipresent. There is the threat of over saturation that may lead the media, Congress and voters to tune him out simply because we've heard and seen him so often

There is also the very real risk that he comes to own all of these issues in the public's eye and when one or more of them worsens, he will bear the brunt of criticism and, worse, disappointment.

While these outcomes could hobble his still young presidency, they are risks he's obviously willing to take given the potential payoff.