“Obama may be a loner in terms of his web of Washington relationships, but remember he was not here that long before he came into office,” she said. “The White House is no place to make friends. People want things from you, and you cannot rely on them to act in the interest of anyone other than themselves.”
Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, was nothing like Obama. He spoke to everyone in a room, called lawmakers personally and rewarded donors with invitations to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom. More recently, Republican George W. Bush, who liked heading to bed early, wasn’t especially fond of schmoozing either, though he was known for bestowing nicknames on lawmakers and aides, and had an affinity for wooing people during one-on-one conversations.
A former constitutional law professor, Obama appears to prefer policy over politics, even as he wields a fiercely competitive spirit.
Those who know him say he’s more comfortable listening to advisors and reading briefing books before relying on a small core group to help him make decisions. The advisors are mostly transplants who moved from Chicago with him and former Clinton aides, including Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, who runs Obama’s re-election campaign from Chicago. On the night of the second presidential debate, as the pressure was on for the president to boost his performance, he turned to longtime friends — Mike Ramos, a businessman and friend from Hawaii, and Marty Nesbitt, the head of a real estate investment company in Chicago.
“Anybody who reaches the height of the presidency has a close group of people to rely on,” Burton said.
Obama prefers to leave the schmoozing to Vice President Joe Biden, a former senator with a knack for networking, or more recently Clinton, after the two repaired what had been a testy relationship during the Democratic primary campaign in 2008.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a top Obama surrogate, described the president as focused: He’s usually all business, with not a lot of small talk.
“As he should, he’s focused on the issues,” Van Hollen said. “When you’re talking to the president you’re getting down to business.”