According to the latest pool report, and confirmed here, Barack Obama dined in Chevy Chase, MD, tonight at the home of columnist George Will. Also in attendance: David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, and Bill Kristol himself.
I imagine this will generate some outrage from the left--potentially at the idea that Obama is already falling into the Beltway cocktail-circuit trap, or perhaps out of mere loathing for the crew in question (although the four fall into different categories, and Will and Brooks in particular have written some pretty nice things about Obama). But I think liberal outrage would be misplaced here.
First, it's hardly unprecedented for an incoming president to seek to neutralize potential adversaries. Remember how George W. Bush had Ted Kennedy over to the White House early in his tenure? Second, this isn't a new side of Obama. Think back to his appearance on Bil O'Reilly's show, or even the choice of Rick Warren for the inaugural. He's serious about trying to build bridges, at least on the level of public dialogue if not true substance.
Finally, why not? Obama will surely choose his words carefully and avoid saying anything that causes him trouble. He's certainly not going to make any new promises to appease the right. And a little personal charm is sure to buy him a few pulled punches among the columns and punditry of these men. (Hillary Clinton seemed to be rewarded when she personally called Brooks in 2007 to explain her health care plan.) It's not a perfect parallel, but Bush was able to turn Kennedy into a major ally on his No Child Left Behind Plan, which Kennedy would soon spend years denouncing on the grounds that Bush had broken his funding and implementation promises.
As one friend emailed me tonight: "These guys can stir up a lot of right-wing rancor over the stimulus--and over health care, iraq, energy/environmental reform down the road. He's not going to win them over on most of this stuff, but if he just takes the edge off and makes them think twice about the dishonest attacks they'd otherwise feed the Fox News crowd, then mission accomplished." Agreed.
Update: Or maybe liberals won't be outraged.
Photo: US president-elect Barack Obama arrives at a private home for dinner in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, on January 13, 2009. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)