What's a Presidential Link Worth, Anyway?

It's not uncommon for a president to recommend scholarly or journalistic work. It's rarer for the process to happen entirely online, as in the case of Ron Brownstein's recent blog post on the Senate healthcare bill.

The post, which argues that Reid's bill is more cost-efficient than critics suggest, was deemed required reading for White House staffers by President Obama at a meeting on Monday. On Tuesday morning at six-thirty, Politico's Mike Allen wrote about it. By ten after ten, HuffPo picked it up. TPM DC had it at 11, adding that Rahm Emmanuel told staffers "not to come back to the next day's meeting if they hadn't read the article." The Daily Beast got it at one twenty and, by afternoon, it was at the top of the Memeorandum--a site that highlights in real time what is being most heavily linked to--homepage.

Brownstein's colleague Andrew Sullivan drew attention to the news on his own blog this afternoon and, in the past hour, the piece has been reprinted in full under the headline "Obama and the Atlantic." According to a spokesman for the magazine, it was "the single most-viewed blog post or article today... impressive since it was originally posted more than 72 hours ago and normally such a post wouldn't be seeing much traffic at this point." Oddly, the Atlantic hasn't not release more specific traffic figures for the post. The site received just under a million unique visitors in October according to Compete.

Critics will undoubtedly suggest that this is another sign of Obama giving preferential treatment to the reporters who are more supportive of his policies. Or, as one TPM commenter suggested , perhaps this was a carefully crafted ploy by both Brownstein and Obama to prepare "liberals for the dropping of the public option." On the other hand, when a president regularly links out as well as getting linked to, it's also a sign that he gets the "ethic of the link--connecting people to knowledge wherever it is;" he's paying attention, and hopefully responding, to the comments, criticisms and suggestions that are buzzing around the public sphere.