Obama's battle bus no symbol of hope

Mr Obama boards his bus for his Midwestern tour Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hope arrives - on a big black battle bus?

In British elections we're used to what we call "battle buses", cheerfully painted wagons, festooned with party slogans and colours.

US President Barack Obama has embarked on his first bus tour in office.

But his vehicle for the trip through the rural parts of three Midwestern states looks like it really is heading for a battle.

Big, blocky, black, with painted-out windows, it looks more like a police mortuary van than a symbol of hope arriving on your street.

It is a ponderous business campaigning when you are president - all that need for protection and the weight of office on your shoulders.

Two years in, the problems you inherited are now the problems you own. Part of President Obama's message is that it is not his recession, not his fault. It's the blame game.

In a nutshell, stripped of rhetoric, this is what he is saying on the campaign trail:

  • President George W Bush caused America's huge debt by running up the bills for two wars on credit
  • Growth is returning to the economy but America's recovery has been damaged by accidents, such as the Japanese earthquake, that no-one could have forseen or prevented
  • He has plenty of ideas to bring jobs back, but Republicans in Congress who put point-scoring before their country are blocking them

Mr Obama's eyes are, of course, keenly focused on next November's election. But he's only talking about this September.

He is for now all but ignoring the potential Republican candidates and focusing his fire on their compatriots in Congress.

He says when they come back next month the American people will see what choices they make.

The president's strategy is to hold his opponents' party up to the light and cast them as the wreckers, the partisans, the obstructionists preventing American recovery.

It is a fair strategy, delivered without much verve. Mr Obama is good only when he has to be, and today felt more like a practice run than anything else.

Neither inspirational nor angry enough, he needs something fresher - and to find another mode of transport than the battle bus from Mordor.