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Originally published Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:32 PM

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Tips from past presidents for Obama

After covering the White House for years and reading copiously about the problems of previous presidents, I have some suggestions for Obama that some of them tried, writes syndicated columnist Ann McFeatters.


Syndicated columnist

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We are all worried about President Obama.

If he is to fix our fiscal problems, do something about Syria, Iran, North Korea and the Middle East peace process and also comanage the upbringing of two teenage girls, some changes must be made.

After covering the White House for years and reading copiously about the problems of previous presidents, I have some suggestions that some of them tried.

While golf is the sport of presidents, most Americans do not (cannot afford to) play and may resent political leaders being seen golfing while the rest of America is standing in lines trying to get health insurance.

But several presidents played bocce ball on the White House lawn. Now this is a sport that U.S. House GOP Speaker John Boehner knows well (he is from Ohio). A meeting of minds between our politically divided leaders over bocce ball might work.

President Reagan spent over a year of his eight-year presidency at his beloved California ranch. He never actually moved the seat of power to Rancho del Cielo, but he would have liked to do that.

Obama grew up in Hawaii and vacations there every year. Moving the official White House there would take a lot of pressure off Obama since most Americans never think of Hawaii unless they are there on honeymoons or 50th wedding anniversaries. Some tea partiers do not even believe Hawaii is a state.

Some presidents started wars, including a pre-emptive war or two. This is not a good idea for Obama, although many Canadians are angry that he hasn’t made a decision on the Keystone pipeline extension.

But he could declare an exciting new peace agreement with Burkina Faso, which would include tinkertape parades, elaborate signing ceremonies and a gala ball with many Hollywood celebrities, even including Republican movie stars who haven’t been inside the White House since the Reagan years. This would give the media days of diversionary delight.

With one of Obama’s major goals, immigration reform, still unresolved, he might challenge every member of Congress to adopt a Hispanic student who is a high-school valedictorian but whose parents are undocumented. The lawmakers immediately would pass immigration legislation to enable these new family members to get all the benefits of citizenship, perhaps even free college.

Boehner, who often mentions how hard he worked as a youngster alongside his brothers sweeping floors in his father’s bar and understands the difficulty of feeding a lot of mouths, already is signaling he is interested in doing something about immigration.

When President George H.W. Bush wanted to spur the economy, he went on a shopping spree in Maryland and bought socks. While this did not prompt millions of Americans to buy new underwear, it did promote a lot of talk.

Obama has bought books in public, but if he went to every Sears store and purchased automotive gear such as windshield wipers or battery trickle chargers, this would remind Americans that he saved the U.S. auto industry.

President Clinton pardoned a notorious felon, which was hugely controversial but sort of made people forget that he took a lot of White House furniture when he left office.

Obama could grant whistle-blower/traitor Edward Snowden clemency. This would rock the globe. Half the world thinks Snowden rightly disclosed the huge scope of National Security Agency spying. The rest think Snowden betrayed his country and must spend his life in prison, if he ever goes back to the United States. Obama’s action would be so controversial it would consume Fox News and MSNBC.

Or Obama could do nothing about Snowden and get the same result.

At the least, Obama could follow the precedent of recent presidents and declare popular opinion polls fleeting, indicative of nothing and not worth the computer time it takes to tabulate them. Until the polls change in the president’s favor. At that point, the people have spoken.

© , McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. Her email address is amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.




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