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Does the President Govern from a Bubble in Washington, D.C.?

All rulers risk losing touch with the people they rule, and today’s president in Washington, D.C., protected by a phalanx of Secret Service agents and handpicked supporters at every public event, inevitably finds himself in the so-called White House bubble.

The bubble limits what the president knows and thus influences how he decides and acts. While each president finds himself in a bubble of one size or thickness, it tends to become a political liability only when it becomes apparent to voters that the president truly is isolated, even ignorant of what’s really going on.

Most Americans assume that the president has access to the best information available and that his advisors make sure he gets it, but that isn’t necessarily so.

Some presidents, despite the inherent isolation of the job, try to break free from their small circles of advisors. President Kennedy, for example, was famous for reportedly calling midlevel desk officers in the State Department to get direct answers from bureaucrats who actually knew their subject matter. President Obama reportedly surfs the Internet to augment the information he receives through traditional channels.

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