- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Good old Joe, always good for a laugh. However, that’s not President Obama or the White House wise men holding their sides and rolling on the floor. Joe is endearing enough in the way of crazy uncles, but when the attic door is left unlatched, someone has to be dispatched to find old Joe and pay for the damage.

Joe has been wandering around the country lately, trying to drum up support for the Obama jobs bill by blaming the Republicans for the regiments of rapists he sees stalking the land. He reminded an audience in Michigan that when the number of cops in Flint was reduced, violent crime increased. The Republicans in Congress oppose the jobs bill. Ergo, it’s the Republicans’ fault that so many evil men have taken up raping.

Joe got his usual laughs in the usual places, but only groans from the president’s wise men, who know better. When a reporter for Human Events, the Washington political weekly, asked Joe later at an appearance at the University of Pennsylvania whether he wanted to amend his remarks, the veep practically went postal. He shoved his finger at the reporter’s chest and let him have a bit of schoolyard bluster and bloviation. “I didn’t use, no, no, no … . Let’s get it straight, guy. Don’t screw around with me.” (And my daddy can lick your daddy.)

It’s not just old Joe. Alarm is the soup du jour not only at the White House mess, but wherever Democrats gather to groan. President Obama, winding up his bus tour of Virginia to pump a little energy into faithful fans of his $447 billion jobs package, reminded a small gathering at a firehouse in a suburb of Richmond that $35 billion of the package would go to prevent layoffs of cops and firemen. When only two people applauded, the president said: “You can go ahead and clap. Go ahead, nothing wrong with it.”

The president and his men look and sound rattled, as any serious man would be, by all the signs and slights evident everywhere they look. Mr. Obama put Michelle out to raise money. (For $2,500, contributors can get their pictures taken with her.) Someone even stole his teleprompter. But not all the news is bad. Nancy Pelosi is said not to be talking to him.

The president’s embrace of the Wall Street occupiers, after first keeping his distance, hints of reluctant romancing. All the girls, as the song goes, get prettier at closing time. The protests obviously appeal to a community organizer’s instincts and sympathies, but pollsters are telling him that the public hasn’t yet decided whether it likes or loathes the occupiers. So far there’s no indication that Occupy Wall Street is the terrific ‘60s writ large, or even small. A new Gallup Poll, taken for USA Today, finds that 22 percent of the respondents approve of the movement’s goals and 15 percent disapprove; 25 percent approve of the conduct of the occupiers and 20 percent disapprove. The figure that most of the pols see writ largest is the 63 percent who say they just don’t know enough about the movement to know what to think of it.

When Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster, sent an agent to Zuccotti Park, where the protests began, to make inquiries, he got back surprising data. Just 198 occupiers were polled, so this was hardly a scientific sampling, but an experienced pollster nevertheless is careful about whom he talks to. Just 48 percent said they will vote for Mr. Obama next year. Only about 15 percent are unemployed, and they clearly aren’t the downtrodden “99 percent” they claim they are. However, “We’re the 85 percent” wouldn’t make much of a message on a T-shirt.

For sure, the protest at Zuccotti Park is not a grit-and-granola operation imported whole from the fab ‘60s. “We’re running a five-star restaurant down there,” said Eric Smith, 38, the ex-chef de tournant at the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan, to the New York Post. He works in a soup kitchen that cooks 1,000 meals a day for the occupiers. “The other day, we made some wonderful salmon cakes with dill sauce and some quinoa salad and a wonderful tomato salad with fennel and red onion,” he said. “We use organic grass-fed meats, and the other day we made a wonderful fried rice and root vegetables and all kinds of soup.”

Someone ought to send a plate up to the attic. Joe may be a bit of gasbag, but he’s got the mood of a miserable White House down just right.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.