August 31, 2010; Source: New York Times | It’s not nice to be so obvious to Maureen Dowd. President Obama’s speech from the Oval Office announcing the departure of the last combat troops from Iraq (leaving only 50,000 non-combat personnel) wasn’t one of his most stirring speeches to be sure. But Dowd noted that the Oval Office backdrop has been altered, redecorated by “chichi” interior designer Michael Smith in browns, beiges, and leather that Dowd compared to “an upscale hotel conference room”. Dowd had the good memory to remind her readers of the President’s recession-sensitive message in February 2009 when he unveiled his FY2010 budget: “There are times where you can afford to redecorate your house, and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding the foundation.” Calling this the latest “tone-deaf” move by the White House, Dowd said that the message was, “I care, but not enough to stop the fancy vacations and posh renovations.” The renovations were paid for by a nonprofit, the White House Historical Association. Noting that the new Oval Office rug is embroidered with quotations that the President finds inspirational from the likes of Lincoln, JFK, FDR, and Teddy Roosevelt, Dowd suggests he should have added one from Cool Hand Luke: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Or perhaps James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It was the wrong time for the White House’s nonprofit to undertake a new home decorating project when another million homeowners are going to lose their homes to foreclosures, despite new programs for restructuring underwater mortgages, and the unemployment rate climbs to 9.6 percent, and that’s considered good because it might have risen even more.–Rick Cohen