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Vacation, all I never wanted…

There’s been a great deal of discussion about President Obama’s vacation this week to Martha’s Vineyard, specifically whether Michelle would drive on the way there or back and if the Bidens would take the fold-out sofa or the room with the bunkbeds.

Opponents of the president, who also thought he should not have celebrated his birthday, believe it is inappropriate for him to take 10 days off while the U.S. economy is in peril. It’s possible he might completely forget about the financial crisis while away and have to rely on the tattoos on his chest (“U.S. BROKE” and “BUY GOLD”) and polaroids of himself with Ben Bernanke to get back up to speed.

Mitt Romney claims that if he were the president, he would recall Congress, which is on recess, to Washington to resolve the economic crisis (“Resolving the Economic Crisis in 10 Days” is also the name of a TLC reality series Romney is pitching).

“The first thing I’d do is go back to my office immediately,” Romney said in response to a question about what he would do if he were in the White House. “If  I were president today, I wouldn’t be looking to go spend 10 days on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Remembering that he was at one point the governor of Massachusetts, where Martha’s Vineyard is located, Romney quickly added:

“Now, Martha’s Vineyard is in my home state of Massachusetts so I don’t want to say anything negative about people vacationing there… But if you’re the president of the United States, and the nation is in crisis, and we’re in a jobs crisis right now, then you shouldn’t be out vacationing. Instead, you should be focusing on getting the economy going again. And yeah, go back to the office yourself, pull back members of Congress, and focus on getting the job done. This action of somehow this is campaign time and vacation time is exactly the wrong dose of medicine for the American economy.”

Oh yeah, the GOP would also prefer that Obama not do anything remotely related to campaigning for re-election (part of its “Obama rolls over and plays dead” strategy).

The criticism did not alter Obama’s plans but he did offer to substitute a blow-up doll in his image that the GOP leadership could ignore, walk out on, and demonize on FOX News until he returned.

Sarah Palin, demonstrating her usual level of self-awareness, questioned Obama’s work ethic.

“You know, economies are crashing — markets are crashing — there’s a lot of turmoil right now. And he just seems so extremely absent from the reality that  the rest of us are facing in this country today,” she said. “And that’s illustrated by his desire and now his action to go on vacation again, this time for 10 days  . . . where the rest of us are kind of shaking our heads saying: Really? At this time? Perception being reality in politics, why in the world would he do this?”

What makes Palin uniquely qualified to criticize Obama is that she is arguably a victim of his economic policies. Obviously, his election cost her a potential promotion to vice president. She was then forced to quit the job she had for reasons that are still unclear even after repeated viewings of her resignation speech. Since then, she’s been as gainfully employed as a Kardashian with reality show appearances and her current role as Shirley Partridge, traveling the country on a PAC-funded bus tour where instead of performing songs, she just sort of shows up.

Palin might also have issues with metaphor comprehension: “I don’t know why our president bothers even making promises at this point or spewing those platitudes. One in particular: He said he promised to not rest
until every American who wanted a job got that job.” Her literal reading of the president’s statement might qualify her for the Amelia Bedelia of Alaska Award. She also suggested he invest in adult diapers rather than wasting the nation’s time on frivolous bathroom breaks.

Supporters of the president point out that most Americans with means take summer vacations. In New York, for example, it’s not unusual for executives to work from their Hamptons houses on Fridays because they desire a more pleasant view that the homeless guy outside their window urinating on Broadway. No one demands that businessmen not vacation until the economy recovers. Moreover, vacations are a critical part of the economy for many towns where summer tourism is their chief industry. They are like farmers whose sole crop are overpriced Bud Lights they claim are “local” drafts and crappy souvenir t-shirts.

Ronald Reagan — shortly before calling forth Lazarus — took 25 days vacation when unemployment was at 9.5%. George W. Bush was on vacation “42% of the time” during his first seven months in office. Bill Clinton took just 28 days off during his eight years as president, which reinforces why most people are distrustful of workaholics who can never find time away from the office. They are usually involved in some sort of complex embezzlement scheme or are having an affair with a colleague.

The presidential vacation as political PR stunt hit its nadir with Clinton, who —  taking the advice of Dick Morris, his Faust with a foot fetish — dragged his family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1996 based on a poll Morris conducted. It’s still uncertain if the public didn’t play a prank on the Clintons. Anyway, the idea was that it would appear less elitist than previous trips to the Vineyard. I think my vote at the time had been for the Clintons to climb into a station wagon and drive cross-country to Wally World.

It’s all rather silly and reflects the less-benign bull-fighting match that modern politics have become. Ardent foes of Obama do not stop to question the logic of thinking he’s doing a terrible job while resenting his spending a few days not doing a terrible job. Not that anyone should expect Palin to question her own logic:

“… (Obama’s) ideology is one of big, centralized government that can plan an economy and make decisions for our businesses and for us as individuals,” Palin said. “So I think that he is not the one to provide that inspiration and that empowerment that is so desperately needed today to get us out of this really chaotic situation that we’re in.”

It’s like the line from “Annie Hall”: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible” “Yeah, I know, and such small portions.”

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Political Theatre

 

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Obama on the Bubble…

According to this USA Today article, President Obama’s “weekly ratings” have hit a record low. Google News had 6,010 results for “Obama ratings,” so I suppose it’s as important a measurement tool for Obama’s performance as the Nielsen ratings for TV and the weekend box office results for movies.

The question now is how to improve these numbers? Clearly, the debt-ceiling debacle has been a momentum killer, perhaps even a “jump-the-shark” plot line. If things don’t turn around, there’s a good chance Obama won’t be renewed next year.

Can this “on-the-bubble” administration be saved? Here are some options:

Replace Speaker Boehner: Obama needs a good antagonist, but John Boehner is as supercilious and unlikable as Frank Burns on “M*A*S*H.” When Burns left the series after the fifth season, his replacement was Charles Emerson Winchester III. He still gave Hawkeye a hard time but he was a competent surgeon and frequently demonstrated basic humanity, as opposed to the cartoonish Burns. Unfortunately, the only Republican from Massachusetts — where Winchester hailed — is Scott Brown and he’s a senator. Still, the former “Cosmo” model might have the appeal necessary to increase audience interest.

Bring Back Osama bin Laden: It turns out that killing bin Laden was a short-sighted May sweeps stunt. There was a brief spike in the ratings but now no one remembers or cares. Perhaps Americans realize the ongoing economic crisis is a greater and more immediate threat to their way of life than the machinations of a pornography-viewing madman… or they just could have incredibly short memories and are only ever aware of what’s happening three feet in front of them. Either way, you don’t knock off your star villain and not expect to lose a good chunk of your audience. Does anyone read those “Star Wars” novels that take place after Darth Vader dies? Imagine bin Laden returning from the grave for an epic confrontation in time for November sweeps? That’s entertainment.

Bring Back Bill Clinton: This guy is a ratings bonanza. He once had an approval rating of 73 percentafter being impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. They actually rose 10 percent after his impeachment. Obama’s peaked at 60 percentafter ordering the successful killing of a terrorist mastermind. Only 30 percent of Americans wanted Clinton to resign after his impeachment. That’s just marginally more than the number of Americans who believed Obama was born in another country (no, really). Clearly, Clinton has star wattage.

The face of a time when the U.S. was at peace and had two nickels to rub together. So, that's when we impeached the president ... because I guess that makes sense.

More Tragedy and Romance: As Tolstoy said, “all happy families are alike… and deathly dull.” The highly rated Clintons provided plenty of salacious, soap-opera storylines. There were naughty interns and betrayed spouses. America couldn’t stop watching. Conversely, the Obamas are like the Huxtables but less funny. They should take a cue from David and Sherry Palmer on “24.” That was “Macbeth” with soul. The Obamas should also consider adopting another child — maybe Lindsay Lohan.

Let’s hope this helps. However, if America’s credit rating falls — actually less of a shocker given the national debt than the fact that it was ever deemed “top-notch” — Obama’s own ratings might not matter. Sort of like when Conan O’Brien left NBC for TBS. Expectations are revised.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Political Theatre

 

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