Suzanne Fields

WOODS HOLE, Mass. -- All politics may not be loco, as one famous pundit (Michael Barone) puts it, but the ancient maxim that all politics is local is demonstrably true. Consider a feature called "Obama Watch" in the Cape Cod Times. There's nothing in it about the rising unemployment figures, the crash of the president's teleprompter, his health-care legislation or the latest on whether his diplomatic offensive is cooling fanatic fervor in the Middle East.

The big question for the president on Cape Cod is whether Barack, Michelle and the girls will follow the example of Ulysses S. Grant and Bill Clinton to Martha's Vineyard for a vacation in August. How you stand depends on where you're sitting, as a wise man I once knew was fond of saying, and that goes double for an economic stimulus.

The natives, as a summer visitor quickly learns, are eager to be stimulated, and an invasion of the Secret Service, snarling traffic jams and attracting landlubbing gawkers is regarded as a small price to pay to lift all the boats at the docks along the Massachusetts coastline. It's a needed reminder to the hundreds of politicians, policy wonks, academics, journalists, bureaucrats and other refugees from Washington that intelligent life thrives beyond the Beltway.

For example, the residents of Woods Hole are more fascinated by what's going on fathoms below the surface of the Atlantic, as discovered by a robot called Nereus, which has gone deeper than any deep-sea vehicle before it. Engineers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution began working on Nereus nine years ago, and early this summer Nereus successfully reached unexplored depths in the Marianas Trench in the western Pacific.

The dimensions of the trench are mysterious and breathtaking -- it's nearly seven miles deep, the deepest indentation of Earth's crust (the SS Titanic sank to a depth of "only" two and a half miles). Few sea creatures live there, and Nereus, designed to withstand pressure a thousand times greater than the pressure at the surface of the sea, is expected to find them. At that depth, a day without methane is like a day without sunshine topside.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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