Will Tabloid and Paparazzi Attention Hurt Obama?

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 2, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight: when the presidency meets the paparazzi. Some political analysts are predicting Barack Obama will continue to grace celebrity magazine covers, even while he's in the White House, becoming the first president to get the tabloid press treatment. Will this help or hurt him? Joining us now from our New York studio, FOX News contributor Ellis Henican.

Hey, Ellis, you know, whether it's Us, We, People, you know, every one of these, I mean, he's all over the cover, the kids, the wife, the whole deal. First of all, why is the celebrity press so interested in him? And secondly, it means that people can't get enough, right? I mean, they wouldn't have him on the cover if nobody wanted to look at him? So what's going on?

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ELLIS HENICAN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right, John. If people didn't buy those magazines, believe me, they count how many they sell each week or each month, and he would not be on.

Listen, this is the first time really since John Kennedy we've had a president in this country who had that little sizzle that's the kind of thing that connects some famous people with the vast majority of Americans out there. And listen, it has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with policy. It's just a kind of a twinkle that is magnetic, and he is a real pop culture star. Can't deny it.

KASICH: Now Ellis, you know, they said that the regular press, they were in their little pools, you know, probably behind a gate somewhere, and here's the paparazzi, you know, underneath the sand, taking little photo lens pictures of him, right?


KASICH: So does this begin to change the way the regular press treats him?

HENICAN: Well, it does, and that's partly because the Obama campaign, the folks around and into the administration, understand that you can reach the American people, you can communicate with people and lead them and inspire them in ways other than showing up in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal or those traditional methods. There's a whole different other media out there, and it is increasingly powerful today. And it, frankly, can be manipulated even more easily than the old-fashioned media can.

KASICH: Ellis, remember when the president of France, his name is Sarkozy...

HENICAN: He has a nice-looking wife, too, doesn't he?

KASICH: Well, I'm going to get to that. He came in to be the president of France, trying to turn the country around from enormous problems, social and economic. So all of the sudden he starts — he gets a divorce, and he starts hanging out with Carla Bruni, OK, who used to date Mick Jagger. I mean, you see that I read We — these magazines.

HENICAN: Even you know this stuff, right?

KASICH: Right. But here's the thing, Ellis. I think it hurts Sarkozy.

HENICAN: No. Wrong.

KASICH: In a way, it did, because it got him off — let me tell you, I followed it. And as it went on, it hurt him. Now he's getting his focus back. I'm a little concerned that this sort of attention sort of takes you off stride over time.

HENICAN: Listen, you know what it is? It's a tool that you can use. It's a way you can motivate people. It's a way you can connect.

One of the things we know from the study of celebrity — this really is a science today; it's not an accident — is that when you let the public into your life and you reveal a little bit about yourself and you become human, people connect with you, and then they want to lead where you follow. You think it was an accident, John, that we had all this discussion about the kids' dog? I mean, that's just the kind of thing that makes normal folks...

KASICH: I think the dog — I think the dog — I think the dog was smart. But I think there's a point at which a person needs to — when you're a leader, you know, they didn't go into Eisenhower's tent and, you know, do all these little intimate stories.

HENICAN: You're behind the times on this one, John.

KASICH: Well, no, I know that we're a celebrity culture. I know…

HENICAN: Powerful tool, my friend.

KASICH: OK, look, one last question, Ellis. They built him up. Are they going to tear him down?

HENICAN: Eventually, sure. I mean, the press gets bored in a hurry. But they'll keep showing those flat ab pictures, I promise you that. You wouldn't see them if he had a big, old fat gut in there. They wouldn't put that on the cover, I promise you.

KASICH: No, that's right. You know, Ellis, if they put us on People magazine, there would be two copies bought. Maybe four: your wife and mine. But I'm not sure of that.

HENICAN: I'm not taking off my shirt unless you go first.

KASICH: All right, Ellis. Thank you. Happy New Year.

HENICAN: Happy New Year. Good to see you.

KASICH: Thanks for being with us.

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