By Robin Adair
By nature I’m not a pessimist. Neither are you, I suspect. Neither are a lot of Americans. So I’m stumped at how the body politic, in only 50 years, has allowed itself to downshift from “I Like Ike” to “Alibi Ike.”
President Obama, aka the Whiniest Generation’s “Ike,” is a government leader without peer. He volunteered for the top job in 2008, promising hope and change in a dreamy, oh-so-likeable package. Now he delivers excuses while asking for a second term. He tells 23 million unemployed Americans how sorry he feels about their situation, but quickly points out that he inherited a virtually unsolvable economic mess from his predecessor. He spends our money like the proverbial drunken sailor, but passes along blame for our mounting debt to those profligate Republicans on Capitol Hill. Between campaign stops, he dissembles about his administration’s participation at the Islamists’ growing Mideast bonfire. Obama’s empty watchword is “Forward,” his strategy is temporizing and his direction for America is completely wrong.
That track record notwithstanding, many Americans say the President’s opera on the Potomac deserves a second act, giving credence to H.L. Mencken’s tart observation that “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
As I say, Obama is not even a pale reflection of our ‘50s President, who traded in his Supreme Allied Commander uniform for the chance to lead a post-war America and a Cold War world. The current Commander in Chief is just our “Alibi Ike.”
I have good reason to suspect that many fellow voters are clueless about the origin of the nickname “Alibi Ike.” Ring Lardner, that celebrated writer of a century ago, created a short-story with that title. The central character, Francis X. Farrell, is a baseball player who makes an excuse for everything, on and off the field.
“I guess the ‘X’ stands for ‘excuse me,’” Lardner’s character explains.
For decades Americans employed the nickname at and away from the ball park. Fair-minded, industrious people are like that.
In recent years the idiom has been mostly a lexicographic curiosity, even among cliché-loving baseball writers and broadcasters. Obama, however, is infusing new life into “Alibi Ike.” At least among fair-minded and industrious people who worry about the country’s future.
Count me in.
While on the road this week, I read a letter to the editor that sums up the gravity of our situation:
With each passing day, it becomes more clear whom to vote for in November. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is deteriorating. Witness the debacle in Libya and the brutal death of our ambassador there. The facts are accumulating daily, and the picture isn’t pretty….Quit your whining and looking for excuses, and do the math. In November, you are either smart or dumb….
Sure, a rock-steady Eisenhower on the ballot would be nothing short of a game-saver this election year. Even Lardner would agree with that. But an “I Like Ike” election isn’t to be. There are two choices for America’s lead-off spot this fall, and only the grandstand managers get to make the call.
Our new “Ike” I don’t like. Frankly, I can’t tolerate him, or his alibis.
And with the stakes of this game as high as they are, neither can you.
Writer Robin Adair, a former business editor, regularly shuttles between hometown Cleveland and points east in search of truth and decent pizza.