President Obama has dusted off an old campaign strategy. It worked once. More than once, actually. FDR ran against Herbert Hoover not once, not twice, but three times. The Messiah is giving it a try against George W. Bush.
He stepped off his big black coach fit for the funeral of an economy the other day in the tiny Iowa town of Decorah - even now the town fathers are working on a historical marker to boast to future generations that it happened in Decorah - to reveal his scheme for re-election in 2012:
"We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, got the economy moving again - but over the last six months we've had a run of bad luck."
Not very convincing, and if one thing is sure, Barack Obama is not Franklin D. Roosevelt. But posers can dream, and soon it was time to fly to that celebrated island refuge of the common man. He retired to Martha's Vineyard with his books for beach and hammock, croquet mallets to assuage his fierce passion for warfare, and rueful contemplation of the campaign to come. Soon it was time to fire up the Secret Service caravan, a vast service-and-support appendage that Dwight D. Eisenhower might have envied on D-Day, for supper with the peasants, such as there are on the island where the summer elite meet to eat, greet and admire themselves and occasionally each other.
The nine cars and a truck barreled down the country lane called John Cottle Road, where there was little danger of exploding mines on the roadside, as in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it was a tough go. Politico's man on the scene tightened his seat belt and described a hairy patrol:
"The presidential motorcade on Martha's Vineyard peeled out of Blue Heron Farms at 5:15 p.m. with the president and Valerie Jarrett in tow. After 10 minutes, we made an abrupt left turn on John Cottle Road - an unpaved, deeply rutted eight-foot-wide private path hemmed in by ivy, scrub oak and big, scary boulders. After bottoming out four times - we're talking two-foot holes in a sand-and-gravel road, along with one hairpin turn - Obama and Jarrett arrived at the West Tisbury home of their friends, Brian and Aileen Roberts. It was 5:30 p.m." Big, scary boulders! Bottoming out four times! Surviving a hairpin turn! Not exactly a dispatch from Omaha Beach, but pretty thrilling stuff from the front nonetheless.
Only a churl would begrudge a president a respite from the rigors of the office, particularly because he takes the office with him. The president can fret about 9.1 percent unemployment (and the 6 percent or so who have given up looking for a job), 0.9 percent growth of the economy and dream of another stimulus that doesn't stimulate as easily on the road as in the sugar-white cocoon on Pennsylvania Avenue. Besides, he needs a little quiet time for contemplating his next vacation. But taking off to Martha's Vineyard and dining with a cable-TV mogul on his first night on the island is asking for jeers and ridicule, which he is getting plenty of. It's the way it looks, and "it don't look fittin'."
Bill Clinton, who grew up thinking a long weekend in Biloxi, Miss., would make a pretty good vacation, fretted over how his first vacation, on Martha's Vineyard, looked. He didn't know much about fittin' but assigned Dick Morris to commission a poll to see where the common folk wanted him to go for a holiday. He wound up the next summer on a mule in the Grand Canyon. Bubba understood retail politics. The Messiah doesn't. To be fair to the Messiah, Bubba made his own headaches, living proof that God gave man a penis and a brain but only enough blood to run one at a time. Bubba was never boring because most of his headaches came with big hair.
Barack Obama is boring in his summer of distemper. And if the Tea Party conservatives restrain their rants and raves and their schoolyard slanging matches, next summer is likely to be no fun at all for the president. But the growing chorus of ranters should keep in mind James Carville's caution written on the wall in the Clinton war room in Little Rock: "It's the economy, stupid." They also should keep in mind Woodrow Wilson's famous observation that you ought never get in the way of an enemy who's trying to destroy himself. Nobody knows better how to do it. All he needs is a little room.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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