The legendary Casey Stengel once lamented about his hapless expansion-season New York Mets, “Can’t anyone here play this game?” Two stories this week prompt the same question about Barack Obama and his political team. First, Obama spent $2.2 million in taxpayer money to buy specially-made buses for a three-state tour about jobs — without actually having a plan to flog. At least the $2.2 million puts some Americans to work, right? Well … North Americans, maybe:
President Obama is barnstorming the heartland to boost US jobs in a taxpayer-financed luxury bus the government had custom built — in Canada, The Post has learned.
The $1.1 million vehicle, one of two that Quebec-based Prevost sold the government, has been tricked out by the Secret Service with state-of-the-art security features and creature comforts.
It’s a VIP H3-45 model, the company’s top of the line, and is used by major traveling rock bands.
“That’s the more luxurious model,” Christine Garant of Prevost told The Post.
Barack Obama — rock star. Yes, that’s exactly the kind of image that wins votes in the upper Midwest. That’s bad enough, but buying two buses from a Canadian company while promising to create jobs in the US is the worst kind of optics imaginable. Why not use a manufacturer based in the US? I’m certain that Complete Coach Works in California could use the work, for instance, or North American Bus Industries in Alabama. Setra USA manufactures its buses in Greensboro, North Carolina, a key state that Obama could easily lose in 2012. Wouldn’t a $2.2 million buy there have turned a few heads? For that matter, Obama could have bought them from Motor Coach Industries and picked them up in his home state of Illinois at the start of his tour.
Next, there’s the problem of going on a jobs tour without a jobs plan. Obama has been in office for over 30 months, and the last explicit effort he put forward on jobs was Porkulus in Month 2. Obama’s telling voters that he will come up with a plan down the road, when he should have had the plan in hand before stumping for it on the road. Not only that, but according to CBS’ Mark Knoller, the new plan is going to sound a lot like the same old plan Obama has for everything:
Senior Officials stress the September speech would contain new ideas – but their descriptions sound like Pres Obama’s current proposals.
The officials says Pres Obama would use the speech to propose new measures to accelerate job growth in the short term.
Ah, yes, another series of short-term gimmicks like Porkulus and Cash for Clunkers. Remind us again how well those worked out. No wonder he wants to wait until he’s off the road to unveil his plan.
Speaking of going off the road, Obama will end his trip today and then take a vacation. Presidential vacations are always dicey, even though a President never really goes on an actual vacation; they just change locations. George Bush took plenty of flack for his annual August retreat to Crawford, Texas, where his ranch is located, even though Bush was just as on the job as in DC and Congress was out of session during the same periods. Obama’s taking flack for taking off even though Congress isn’t around to send him any bills, which is unfair — to a point.
The difference between the two is that Bush just went back to his rather rustic and relatively humble home in Crawford, which could never be mistaken for a hoity-toity retreat for the Upper 400. Instead of going home to Chicago, Obama will rub elbows with the wealthy in Martha’s Vineyard who use summer as a verb, and the optics even have Democrats complaining:
With 14 million Americans out of work, a volatile stock market and a historic downgrade of the country’s credit rating, President Obama is set to begin a 10-day retreat Thursday at a 28-acre Martha’s Vineyard compound called Blue Heron Farm, which costs an estimated $50,000 per week to rent. That divide — and the presumed hypocrisy of a president who has pledged not to rest “until every American looking for a job can find one,” going golfing and biking on an island playground for wealthy celebrities — has been too much for political pundits to resist.
Obama has taken heat the past twosummers for renting Blue Heron, but the difference this time is the intensity of his critics and the fact that they are on both sides of the political aisle. Republican strategist Mike Murphy told the Daily Beast that Obama is “acting like the rich guys he wants to raise taxes on,” while liberal columnist Colbert I. King wrote in The Washington Post that this is the wrong time “to dwell in splendid seclusion among the rich and famous.”
Yes, a respite at Martha’s Vineyard is Obama’s idea of “not resting,” which more or less undoes the common-man connection Obama wanted out of his rock-star bus tour. Why not go to the Gulf coast, as the Obamas urged last year, if they didn’t want to come to Chicago in the summer? Why not Camp David, as Colbert King suggested, which is a way for Presidents and their families to take a break outside of the public eye while still giving the impression of being on the job? Camp David wouldn’t have cost the taxpayers millions in additional security:
Obama has paid his family’s share of the property’s rental cost each summer. But as is the case each time the president travels on official duties, taxpayers are on the hook for the millions of dollars it could cost for the Secret Service to secure the island, as well as for the transportation and housing of dozens of White House staff.
It seems that no one at the White House knows how to handle optics. This August will be a festival of failure on that score.