- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This was supposed to be Recovery Summer, with all the good things Barack Obama has been doing to stimulate the economy finally kicking in to create jobs, jobs, jobs, to cool the planet, cure all ills and diseases and rid the world of skeeters, chiggers and maybe even bedbugs. The president, to be fair, never quite promised those things, but he left the impression that he could do all that and more when he wants to. But all this messiah has made so far is a mess.

Recovery has become retribution, with recriminations leading to lust for repudiation. All the rant and rave, if the polls are within a country mile of telling it like it is, is building toward a rout of remarkable proportions. Recession remains with us, despite Democratic invocation of the famous Aiken rule, set out by the late Sen. George Aiken of Vermont to quiet the domestic tumult of the Vietnam War: Declare victory and come home.

By plane, train, bus and automobile, Congress got out of town en masse Thursday, scattering to what one Republican pollster calls “the killing fields” waiting for them back home. Nancy Pelosi is so embattled that even armed with her large majority, she had to cast the speaker’s vote to adjourn the House, and prevailed by only a single vote.

President Obama, told by many Democratic congressmen to please stay out of their districts, continued his “backyard campaign” across Middle America, trying to find his mojo. He drew a large crowd to a rally at the University of Wisconsin, traditionally the home of boys and girls in unwashed black turtleneck sweaters, pretending to be Marxists on their daddies’ capitalist dimes (and many dollars). He offered the usual rant, that Republicans are bad and that he couldn’t be the anti-Christ, because George W. Bush is.

The president is getting an earful, with questions respectful but unusually brisk. Most of the questioners are no doubt Democrats, collected by presidential advance men who know how to arrange a friendly crowd, but some of the backyard burghers sound as if they had come straight from the tea party. One man confronted him with a question about the tax increases coming with the expiration of George W.’s tax cuts. The president responded with a presidential version of the argument traditionally used by mayors under fire for mismanaging municipal finances. “All right,” His Honor would say, “we’ll close the orphanage.”

The president acknowledged that Americans don’t want to pay more taxes, but complain about the deficit that has stalled the mighty job-making machine that was only yesterday the envy of the rest of the world.

“Most of the spending is for veterans, for education, for defense,” the president said. “Foreign aid is 1 percent of our budget. They say, ‘Why don’t you eliminate earmarks, all those pork projects that Congress wants to spend?’ Even if I could end all those earmarks, that’s 1 percent of budget.”

The president turned theological, or at least philosophical, with answers to questions about his religious faith, speaking with an ease that ought to put to rest the accusation that he is a secret Muslim.

“I’m a Christian by choice,” the president told a voter in the Middle West. “My family, frankly, weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life I would want to lead. Being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God. But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.”

That’s enough to curdle the skim milk in the coffee in the president’s left-wing base, where intolerant atheism and aggressive secularism are the only approved faiths. Mr. Obama’s answer could pass muster at many Pentecostal testimony meetings. But it’s still the economy, stupid, and the performance of Mr. Obama and his partisans have indelibly defined him, and them, as something most Americans just don’t want. That’s how we got to Refudiation Summer.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.