It's merely idle speculation, but this is one of those moments when Barack Obama misses Rahm Emanuel, who once held the role as the first, uh, chop buster in the White House.
Imagine sitting around the Oval Office discussing presidential travel plans and someone says: "Hey, I've got a great idea. Let's have the president travel to the Midwest for several days talking to people about jobs, their struggles with unemployment and basically how fouled-up everything is and then POTUS can leave for his vacation on a 28-acre compound in tony Martha's Vineyard."
"Why Haversham, that's a simply bully idea. Let's do it."
Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff and the master of the well-turned phrase, likely would have responded: "Are you &%$#*& people ^%$#[email protected]!*&%$# crazy?!?!?" Or words to that effect.
No one begrudges any president time away from the stresses and demands of the job. But the juxtaposition and timing of spending a few days in the heartland of America on a listening tour of the jobless, followed up by a fancy-pants vacation in one of the most exclusively affluent enclaves in the nation is, to put it bluntly, a really boneheaded idea.
Not to be insensitive here, but what is Obama likely to hear on his stops in Cannon Falls, Minn., or Decorah, Iowa, or Peosta, Iowa, or Atkinson, Ill., that he hasn't heard before? People are scared. They fear the loss of their jobs. They lose sleep every night worrying about being foreclosed. They see the homeless on the street and see themselves. They look into the future and don't see very much — for them.
And they see a president dropping in for a photo-op conveying an image of caring, before heading off for 10 days on the shores of Martha's Vineyard, where the struggling folks of Cannon Falls and Decorah and Peosta and Atkinson couldn't afford a cup of coffee.
This is probably why I would make for a lousy presidential adviser, or not last very long. But if I were in charge of Obama's itinerary for the next few days, here's what I would have suggested for the president's summer vacation, or as I would call it: "The Give 'Em Hell Barack Tour."
Forget the warm and fuzzy hand-holding of the jobless. They know their lives are in shambles, and the president knows it, too. They don't need a shoulder to cry on. They don't need a flowery speech. They need a job.
If the president really wanted to help people, I would have Obama crisscross the country knocking on the doors of the nation's biggest corporations and publicly demanding pledges to hire X number of people within the next 30 days.
Would this be a crass, Michael Moore-ish publicity stunt designed to burnish Obama's populist political credentials? You betcha.
If Obama wants to give some speeches, fine, but not in the middle of cornfields. I would have the president delivering his remarks, with the jobless ranks in tow, at the front doors of the likes of Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland, DuPont, Exxon Mobil and General Motors.
I'm certainly not averse to the president and his family enjoying some quality down time. During the tour of the nation, the Obama family could visit a wide variety of tourist destinations: Knott's Berry Farm, Pedro's South of the Border, Cedar Point's famous roller coasters (how appropriate) with perhaps a stop in at the Righteous Brothers Show (minus one Righteous Brother) in Branson, Mo.
We'll be having way-big fun now!
The president loves to play golf. But instead of posh country clubs, I would have the president teeing it up on public courses, such as Tampa's historic Babe Zaharias Golf Course, playing 18 holes with retirees, blue-collar workers and just plain folks. It would be a master class on the middle class.
I suppose there might be a pinch of resistance to my vacation suggestion, especially from the family quarters of the White House. Tough beans.
Obama wanted this job, and now he has it. But there is more to being president than rubbing elbows with international leaders, engaging in rhetorical flourishes and yes, even killing the world's foremost terrorist, satisfying as that was.
Being president sometimes calls for getting one's hands dirty, getting in the trenches with the little people who elected you and defending their interests.
All politicians love to extol their fighting credentials, how they are willing to fight for this, fight for that.
This summer, it would be nice to see Obama actually throw a real punch, get some blood on his fist. Now that would really impress the Martha's Vineyard crowd.