Salena Zito

DETROIT – Elaine Holder fussed over her elderly parents while waiting for a flight home to New Philadelphia, Ohio.

   “We just returned from a funeral,” said Holder, who appears to be in her 50s, “but it was a good thing.

   “I was one of eight children, one of 32 grandchildren. There were cousins and grandchildren and nieces and nephews who never laid eyes on each other, all seeing each other, sometimes for the first time – connecting.

   “That is, after the iPhones were all shut off,” she added. “These young people and their parents don’t know how to connect. I mean, really connect, not on Facebook but person-to-person.

   “They learned the joys of that, and even the pains and discomforts this weekend.”

   Every day, Americans confront the joys, pains and discomforts of life: the loss of a job, the heartbreak of a child being cut from the baseball team, a diagnosis of illness and other reversals of fortune.

   When they see neighbors, towns or the country as a whole confronting a recession and job losses, they look to see if their leader is with them.

   They want to know that the young men and women from down the street, who went to high school with their children or worked beside them in the office and now are fighting three wars thousands of miles away, are foremost in their commander-in-chief’s mind.

   Projecting such commonality is not something that President Barack Obama does well.

   Given his political sermons of the 2008 election, when he wowed even the stoic, that is downright surprising to many.

   “His message has been off since the day after he won,” said one Democratic strategist in Washington. “He did the politicking flawlessly. Once he took office, his communication skills have been a series of failures.”

   Take the simple act of playing golf on weekends.

   Most golfers, according to Western Pennsylvania Golf Association spokesman Jeff Rivard, get in about 20 or so rounds a year. The president has played more than 70 rounds in two years – during a recession, three wars, a Mideast meltdown, and an economy not flourishing under his stimulus and bailout programs.

   “That is well above average, especially for a man with a schedule like that,” said Rivard. “Pretty much double the average.”

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.