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DINNER WITH BARACK….Last night Barack Obama had dinner with conservative uberpundits Bill Kristol, George Will, David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer. If George Bush had done something similar with liberal columnists eight years ago, Jon Chait thinks wingers would have gone ballistic:

And the reason is that they wouldn’t have confidence in Bush or McCain to be surrounded by liberal ideas without being deeply influenced by them.

….And that’s why liberals aren’t having a cow. They know that Obama understands far more about policy than any of his right-wing dinner companions, is used to being exposed to opposing ideas, and won’t come out of that dinner telling his staff, “Hey, did you know we cut half the capital gains tax and raise more revenue?”

I don’t know if Obama thinks he can actually persuade Kristol & Co. to support his ideas, but he’s self-aware enough to know that a face-to-face meeting can change the tone of criticism even if it doesn’t stop it. Once you’ve met someone in person, it’s just a little bit harder to be really nasty toward them in print. It’s the same dynamic that makes it hard to unload both barrels against a debate opponent: things are different in person than they are when they happen second or third hand. Obama’s demonstrating yet again that he’s a smart cookie.

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