Obama gets help from Gipper

STUNG by criticism he is aloof and out of touch, Barack Obama has turned to the great communicator for inspiration.

He has used his Christmas holiday in Hawaii to read a biography of Ronald Reagan.

The icon of the Republicans and the Tea Party may seem an unusual choice of subject matter for the Democratic President, who spent the first day of 2011 with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha at Pyramid Rock, a secluded beach at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The first family then hit the tennis courts at Kailua Racquet Club, a private club near the neighbourhood where the Obamas are renting a luxurious ocean-front home.

Like Mr Obama, Reagan suffered a huge drop in popularity and heavy losses in mid-term elections, yet managed to bounce back to win a second term.

Reagan, like Mr Obama, endured what was until then the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s and saw unemployment rise to more than 10 per cent.

Voter disenchantment led to a large swing to the Democrats in the 1982 mid-term elections.

As the economy recovered, however, he went on to trounce Walter Mondale, his Democratic challenger, in the 1984 presidential election, winning almost every state.

Mr Obama’s approval ratings, at 47 per cent according to last week’s Gallup poll, are nowhere near as low as Reagan’s, which fell to just 35 per cent at the beginning of 1983.

Mr Obama, a former law professor who is regarded as distant even by his own staff, is studying how the Hollywood actor achieved his remarkable comeback.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs revealed the President’s holiday reading included Lou Cannon’s account of Reagan’s administration, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.

“Like Obama, Reagan greatly valued his privacy and was not naturally gregarious,” noted Bradley Bloch on The Huffington Post, adding Reagan was a master of “the personal relationship”.

“Reagan knew that at the end of the day politics — even (and perhaps especially) at the global level — is ultimately about people,” Bloch wrote. “As Obama looks to get his groove back, Reagan may be his most accessible role model.”

Perhaps inspired by “the Gipper” — Reagan’s nickname from one of his film roles — Mr Obama is expected to return to Washington tomorrow to start the second half of his presidency with renewed vigour.

Apart from the political biography, he has been reading Our Kind of Traitor, John le Carre’s latest spy thriller, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by the British author David Mitchell.

But golf has dominated the 10-day holiday. “His swing looks a lot better this year,” said Mark Sousa, the golf professional at the Mid Pacific country club in Kailua, where Mr Obama played several rounds with old friends from Hawaii.

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