The Great Over-Communicator Monday, Jul 26 2010 

An odd thing happened in Washington last week: Two days passed without the President’s appearing on television.

My first reaction was to call my TV repairman, but on second thought I checked with friends at broadcast and cable news to see if I’d missed something.  Also ESPN, on the possibility that the Nation’s Sports Analyst-in-Chief hadn’t appeared at some off-hour to offer his opinion on whether the New Orleans Saints would repeat as Super Bowl champions. (I was told no, but they did have that penciled in for mid-August, an interview with Erin Andrews in the Oval Office.)  Finally, a call to a producer at the Family Network to ask whether, in the absence of all other possibilities, Barack and Michelle had taken a turn on America’s Funniest Home Videos. . . .

To the point, though stating the obvious makes dull table-talk (except around the CIA lunchroom), Barack Obama in eighteen short months has become the most-over-exposed president in American history.  A comparison? All right: Even Bill Clinton, in one of his most egocentric moments,  would never have called a full-dress Rose Garden news conference in 100-degree-heat to announce the firing of an insubordinate general (Harry Truman did it with a perfunctory statement.)

All of which leads to a personal observation as to why, for all his legislative victories, Barack Obama’s poll numbers keep falling. It’s an observation based on received wisdom from an embattled office-holder I worked for in the 1970s who, despite my urging that he go on a Sunday morning talk show, refused for the following reason:  “Politics,”  he said, “is a business of hills and holes. When you’re in a hole, the more your face shows on television the deeper it gets.”

Ancient history, but translated for the Twenty-first century political world of Barack Obama, still on target: Unemployment at 9.7 percent, the Louisiana wetlands soaked in BP oil, our troops fighting overseas, and what do Americans turn on their television sets to see? Their President on the Larry King show, advising LeBron James to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Not to say that a President should disappear during hard times, but Rose Garden Specials five times a week? A suggestion: If by chance there’s a camera-addiction clinic somewhere near Martha’s Vineyard, it might be a good place for POTUS to check in for a weekend this August.

Baseball Quote of the Day Monday, Jul 26 2010 

“Being with a woman never hurt a professional ballplayer. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.”
—  Casey Stengel, manager, New York Yankees (pre-Steinbrenner)

Whatever happened to Wesley Clark? Wednesday, Jul 21 2010 

Any  week now we’re going to see David Petraeus’ spartan  visage on the cover of  Time or  Newsweek   — certainly The Weekly Standard — with a cut-line proclaiming him  the GOP’s Great White Hope for 2012.  That  Petraeus  has done nothing to discourage this sort of  speculation is a given.  The General didn’t show  up  for  accolades  and applause from a fawning AEI  audience a few weeks ago because  he doesn’t like the Washington spotlight.  But before the start of a lemming rush to launch a Draft Dave movement in the Republican heartland, a few questions are in order.  For instance:

What will Candidate Petraeus have to say when asked by inquiring reporters or town-hallers,   “How do you stand on the Value Added Tax?”   or “Do you favor repeal of the Jones Act?”  or  “Are you for a constitutional  amendment  to ban abortion or should it be left to the states?”

Then there’s the matter of  the uniform coming off,  along with the aura that goes with it.  Gripping stories about  the Surge in Iraq are likely to wear thin after the first week in New Hampshire , and as far as Afghanistan is concerned, history tells us that an Army General’s best shot at getting elected President is to win a war.   Sorry, “The Washington  politicians tied my hands and wouldn’t let me win” excuse won’t cut it.   (Reference:  Douglas MacArthur.)

Nation-Building Quote of the Day Wednesday, Jul 21 2010 

(In case you thought the rigging of the recent election in Afghanistan was an anomaly):  “This is an exercise in democracy.  Let them exercise it twice.  We can’t be perfect.”

— President Hamid Karzai on being told that many Afghans had voted multiple times in the August 2004 elections

Speaking of the Year of the Republican Woman… Thursday, Jul 15 2010 

It was 46 years ago this month that  the  then-reigning queen of  GOP conservatives delivered a seconding speech to Barry Goldwater’s nomination for president.  To measure the downward  trajectory of Republican conservatism  since that time, all we have to do is compare the woman who fills that role  today to Barry’s seconder,  Clare Boothe  Luce — congresswoman (Conn.), playwright (“The Women”), editor (Vanity Fair), ambassador to Italy.  A woman best described by her biographer as “brilliant, idealistic, tough as a Marine sergeant but almost quixotically kind to unfortunates;  the complexities of her character are as numerous as the facets of her career.”

Any difference between that and the reigning queen of Republican conservativism, 2010?   You  betcha!

Murphy’s million Thursday, Jul 15 2010 

The 7/12/2010 edition of the N.Y. Times featured a front-page story about Meg Whitman’s putting $1 million into a production company owned by Mike Murphy in order to get Murphy to handle her campaign for governor rather than that of a Republican  primary  rival.  In  the story Murphy is described as the GOP campaign genius who got Arnold  Schwarzenegger  elected governor.  (A confession:  I’d mistakenly thought Schwarzenegger had something to do with it.)    Left unnoted in the Times’ story (and obviously by Whitman’s crack human-resource team)  were such Murphy triumphs as Oliver North’s brilliant Virginia campaign  for the U.S. Senate, Lamar Alexander’s awe-inspiring campaign for president, and Nick Lazio’s dazzling  New York campaign for the U.S. Senate,  in which Lazio succeeded in making Hillary Clinton a sympathetic figure by following Murphy’s instructions to stalk across the debate stage and demand that Hillary sign a phony anti-tax  pledge.  (Lazio, incidentally, also lost.)   All of which leads me to ask, since Meg never tires of telling California voters what a shrewd businesswoman she is:  If the lady’s so rich, why ain’t she smart?

Aphorism of the day Thursday, Jul 15 2010 

“No good deed goes unpunished.”  — Clare Boothe  Luce

(That’s right,  not Dorothy Parker  who, like Churchill, gets credit for a lot of things others said. )