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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 15, 2014
TEEING OFF WITH AND ON THE PRESIDENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s take a little trip down memory lane, which in this day of high tech and low retention means anything that happened more than five minutes ago. Still let’s hearken waaaay back to 2008 and that primary campaign ad for Hillary Clinton, the one that started, “It’s 3:00 in the morning at the White House” and then went on to ask who would answer when the phone rings and some crisis comes a-callin’.
The idea was that Hillary had the necessary experience to deal with the matter, while neophyte Barack Obama did not.
We all know how well that worked for her. Fast-forward six years, and President Obama now has had plenty of experience with sleep deprivation from taking those calls. (Have you noticed how gray his hair has gotten?) Hillary got the consolation prize: He named her his first secretary of state.
So here we are, facing 2016. Once again, she’s running for president, or at least dabbling in it. He’s maxed out, can’t run anymore. It’s August, he’s flown the coop, and when the phone rings at the White House at 3:00 a.m., no one’s home ...
He’s playing golf in Martha’s Vineyard; he and the fam are hobnobbing with the elite in a spot that has become a symbol of privileged leisure. In the process, he’s given Republicans still another opportunity to bludgeon him, which is one of their specialties. Actually, comparing a vacationing president to Nero fiddling while the world burns is a bipartisan cheap shot, one of the few endeavors that are bipartisan.
Still, the Obamas make it so easy. Say what you will, frolicking with the rich and famous in an exclusive venue is lousy optics, which is the political consultants’ way of saying it looks cheesy. No matter how many times the White House validly points out that POTUS is having a “working vacation,” fully in touch using all his sophisticated, albeit portable communication devices, he’s still teeing off while Iraq is teetering, under attack by ISIL fanatics, while Ukraine is fighting off Vlad Putin, while Gaza’s deadly hostility continues. Here at home, Ferguson, Missouri, erupts while many Americans are fighting off the debt collectors. True, the chief executive interrupts his golf games to address each crisis, but still ...
And there was that other diversion, right down the street. Hillary Clinton was also on the Vineyard, doing still another book signing, fresh off her interview with The Atlantic, where she stuck the knife into her former boss in her inimitable style. She praised his intellect and dedication, yada yada yada, and then made clear that she was separating herself from his lackadaisical approach to global crises. “Great nations need organizing principles,” she purred, “and ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
There are those who argue that this really demonstrates how Hillary can be her own worst enemy and come across as a conniving bundle of nasty intrigue and that in her interview she was just living up to her reputation, or more accurately, down to it.
Perhaps she was just assuming that she is a lock to be her party’s nominee in 2016 and was already matching what most Democrats are doing for the midterms this year, which is to put as much distance between themselves and Barack Obama as they can.
Of course she wanted to have it both ways, so her spokesperson quickly put out a statement assuring us that “nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies or his leadership.” Not only that, but they’d be partying together and would be “hugging it up,” whatever that means. No one would say whether they actually hugged. That information was very, uh, closely held.
So, thanks to Hillary, golf is not the only game-playing in which the president must participate. As for that phone call, let’s hope the White House has call forwarding.
© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.