President Barack Obama heads to his bus after having lunch...

President Barack Obama heads to his bus after having lunch with veterans at Anna's Pizza and Italian Kitchen in Hampton, Va., at the end of a three-day bus tour to promote his jobs legislation (Oct. 19, 2011). Credit: AP

Another day, another jobs bill/economic stimulus. And another presidential tour to promote it.

This time our president and partisan-in-chief chose North Carolina for the setting, and who can blame him? Who wouldn't want to drive through its mountains and vistas these beautiful fall days -- instead of actually working out a compromise with those tiresome types in Congress? The kind who are always raising irritating questions, like whether the president's programs will actually work. Unlike those that have succeeded mainly in raising the country's unemployment rate to 9 percent or more.

No matter how many times his presidential prescriptions have failed to do much for the economy, Dr. Obama assures us that the same old approach (spend still more) will work this time -- if we'll just increase the dosage and suspend disbelief.

But in the ways that matter most, like jobs, the patient seems to have grown worse, not better, under his ministrations. Those higher and higher unemployment rates are starting to look like a fever chart, and not an assuring one.

Yet this president won't change course. Unlike a real economic innovator like Franklin Roosevelt. FDR had his disastrous programs, too, but was quick to abandon them when they collided with reality, not to mention the U.S. Constitution. Anybody remember the NRA, its Blue Eagle and all the price-fixing that went with it? FDR threw it all overboard when it proved unworkable, legally and every other way. Barack Obama only doubles down on failure.

But the country is beginning to catch on. As this president's falling approval rates indicate.

It strikes some of us as passing strange that Mr. Obama should now be campaigning in a part of the country and culture whose people he used to describe/deride as hopelessly bitter types. Their only response to hard times, he claimed at one point, is to "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

That kind of talk may have gone over big at a party for the president's big givers out in San Francisco, but it struck a lot of us here in the middle of the country as about as dumb as anything else our bicoastal intelligentsia believes.

Barack Obama doesn't get it. Not emotionally, anyway. He seems so busy analyzing us he may not understand us. There is a disconnecting distance, an emotional coolness, to his words when he puts us under his microscope. The man might score high on an IQ test, but emotional intelligence is something else.

These folks he was subjecting to his oh-so-astute sociological analysis weren't clinging to their guns and Bibles because they were poor materially, but because their heritage, their faith, their history is so rich. You bet they're going to cling to it. And with considerable justification.

They know where they come from, these people. It is part of their being. And, yes, they're going to hold onto a heritage that is beyond price -- in good times and bad. They may even cling to it even more when their faith is tested. That is the nature of faith. For what good is a faith that holds up only in the good times?


The people Barack Obama was so neatly pigeonholing in a few ill-chosen words stem from the pioneers who followed the Cumberland Gap across the Appalachians to conquer a wilderness. They made those hills and vales American even before the American flag flew over them. Their descendants still draw their faith, and strength, from the intrepid explorers and settlers who crossed those mountains with, yes, a Bible in one hand and flintlock in the other.

One of the president's stops on his tour was at a general store in Boone, N.C. He seemed oblivious to the qualities that name still invokes, like self-reliance and freedom and adventure and in general the promise of this new world. They weren't seeking a European-style security but a new birth of freedom. But this president's slogan and message is no longer We Can, as in the last presidential election. Now it's Big Government Can -- even when the record of the past few years indicates it can't.

To spread his message this week, the president of the United States chose to grace the hills and hollers of North Carolina with his presence and that of his sleek, super-sized $1.1-million bus. (Are the U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for all that?) Let's just say his mode of transport wasn't exactly a covered wagon. Yes, Americans have come a long way since Daniel Boone's day but, on such occasions, the thought occurs that we've advanced only materially, not spiritually.

Listening to the president on his well-appointed Blue Ridge tour, some of us who have to take notice and even notes on presidential campaign speeches (for that's what he was really delivering) could only shake our heads sadly. No, the man just doesn't get it.


Barack Obama long ago lost the common touch -- if he ever had it -- but he still seems to believe he's talking the language of The People even when he's just spouting Washington nerdspeak. Or trying to do a poor, a very poor, imitation of Harry Truman giving 'em hell. Maybe because Mr. Truman was authentic. As solid as any other show-me Missourian. But this president shows more condescension than connection to the American spirit.

And the people this president presumes to speak for are starting to notice. Which may explain why they've stopped paying him much attention. Remember when one of his presidential addresses, whether before a joint session of Congress or at a general store in the hills, was an occasion? Remember when people were actually interested in what he had to say? Now? Not so much.

"It's as if he doesn't like people," to quote a loyal Democrat but independent thinker by the name of Mort Zuckerman, a real estate mogul and publisher of the New York Daily News. He was one those earnest middle-of-the-road Democrats who back in 2008 thought Barack Obama was just what the country needed. He no longer does. And the number of Americans who share his disappointment seems to grow every day, presidential bus tours or no presidential bus tours. Because it's not what a president says that matters so much in this always practical-minded country, but what he does. And this president is not doing well.

Even worse, this president seems to think that doing it all over again -- another jobs bill, another economic stimulus -- is just what the country needs.

It isn't.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is


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