Washington Babylon — February 4, 2009, 12:43 pm

Obama Strategy for Managing G.O.P. Opposition: Cookies

Somehow, I doubt this approach is going to work. Obama won an overwhelming mandate, I wish he’d start acting like it.

Can the shrill tone of Washington be changed through a presidential act of contrition? Or, perhaps, an enticing platter of oatmeal raisin cookies? This week, President Obama has already served up both at the White House.

To one set of visitors, a gathering of Democratic and Republican members of Congress whom he invited to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, he carried around the freshly baked cookies as he mingled with his guests. To another set of visitors, the five broadcast and cable television anchors he invited to the Oval Office on Tuesday, he extended a blunt mea culpa and said he took responsibility for nominating aides with tax troubles.

With two weeks of the presidency now under his belt, both of these cases offer a window into how Mr. Obama may try to build relationships — and dispatch controversies — during his time in office. Since the inauguration, one of the hottest tickets in town has been an invitation to the White House. And Republicans have been scoring them nearly as often as Democrats.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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