With an aggressive Texas Gov. Rick Perry closing fast in his rearview mirror, an intransigent Congress as his legislative dance partner for the duration and approval ratings dipping below 40 percent for the first time ever, it's clear that President Barack Obama needs to switch things up if he wants to find himself back in the public's good graces.
And the sooner the better.
So for the third year in a row, I'm urging Obama to forgo the annual trip to Martha's Vineyard.
Two summers ago, I suggested that Obama take a "staycation" to show folks that he was willing to work overtime through the dog days of summer, and last year I recommended that the Obamas spend their vacation time "munching cotton candy and playing the slots at popular Gulf resorts like Biloxi or Panama City" to help bring tourists back after the BP oil spill. This year, no matter how much he needs a break, Obama simply can't afford to be seen lounging by the seaside while we slog through another hot, unemployed summer.
Although it's as nice a place as any for a family getaway, the Vineyard — and all that it implies — represents everything wrong with Obama's image.
Martha's Vineyard, of course, is the vacation destination for the African-American elite. So elite, in fact, that the nation's only black president — brought up in Honolulu by a globetrotting single mom — barely qualifies. The island, with its roster of A-list summer residents — from The Root's editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., to Vernon Jordan, Bill Clinton's black consigliere — is a logical place for the Obamas to spend a late-summer holiday.
But the Vineyard's golf courses and cloistered estates are the last place Obama needs to be if he wants to reconnect with the American electorate. If he loses his bid for re-election, he'll have all the downtime he wants to stroll the sidewalks of Oak Bluffs and Chilmark. Right now, however, he ought to think about taking the first lady and the kids somewhere they can play miniature golf and that serves funnel cake and domestic beer.
Here are eight things, including a new vacation destination, that Obama should consider doing now:
Go to Disneyland
The Obamas should go to Disneyland — or any amusement park. People want to see their president having fun — just not more fun than they can ever have themselves. The Obama girls have a lifetime of semesters abroad to look forward to, but for the next two summers, they should be at a waterslide park while Dad plays blackjack with tourists at an Indian reservation.
Go to Church
Even people who don't go to church would feel better if Obama played a little less golf and spent a little more time in the pews on Sunday morning.
Say "I'm Rich"
Americans — rich, poor or middle class — like rich people. The reason people listen to Warren Buffett when he says that billionaires should pay more taxes is that before he says it, he reminds them that he's a billionaire. Instead of asking for "shared sacrifice," Obama should just say, "I'm a millionaire, and I'll pay more if it will help the country out."
Lose the "Peyton Manning Face"
It's that bemused look that the Super Bowl champ wears when he walks to the sideline after an interception — first spotted by ESPN's Bill Simmons and later described by Malcolm Gladwell as "the look of someone who has just faced up to a sobering fact." You've seen Obama's. It has to go.
Obama BFF Valerie Jarrett's official White House title is "senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement." If she can name one sector of the American public that believes it has been adequately engaged, then she should keep her job.
Economic advisers Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer and Larry Summers are gone. Obama needs a charismatic egghead who can sell his jobs plan. Get Laura Tyson on the payroll, stat:
Give Us the Plan
And if there is a jobs plan, don't keep us in suspense. On Wednesday, the White House announced a plan to announce a plan in early September. Why wait? With Congress on recess, right now Obama has the microphone all to himself.
Then Sell the Plan
After he makes his plan public — infrastructure bank, payroll tax holiday, whatever — he needs to find one good slogan, once and for all.
"Yes we can" is played out. "Win the future" is terrible. "We kept a recession from becoming a depression" didn't catch on the way that "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here" caught on for George W. Bush. And "I feel your pain" is already taken. Obama needs something forward-looking and no-nonsense that people won't forget and that fits on a bumper sticker. Something like…
"Enough talk, America." Let's get to work.
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.