There have been several cartoonists' caricatures this year of President Barack Obama disguised as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, complete with hat, glasses, wide grin and cigarette with holder.
Most of these appropriately involve comparisons about FDR's response to the Great Depression of the 1930s and Obama's response to the current recession.
One caricature that also might be appropriate will be available for cartoonists if the president decides to visit East Tennessee Sept. 2 to help commemorate Roosevelt's dedication of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and advocate of the Smokies, said he intends to extend an invitation to Obama. "I'm going to personally encourage him to come," Alexander said.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., a Knoxville Republican, said he has mentioned the idea to Obama's congressional liaisons.
If Obama accepts the planned invitation, he will be only the second sitting president to visit the Smokies. We hope Alexander and Duncan extend the invitation, and we hope Obama accepts. The park is a treasure for our region certainly but as well for the entire country as the most visited national park in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Alexander has an elevated platform for his advocacy of the famous park in our midst. A Maryville resident, Alexander already had developed a reputation as the Smokies' biggest booster.
Recently, he became the top Republican on the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the panel in charge of funding for all national parks.
Alexander, who lives on the edge of the park and often sees its wildlife up close, said he sought the position primarily to make certain the park received its share of federal funding and to help the park confront some specific problems, such as the blight that is killing the park's hemlock trees and the dirty air that renders it difficult for people to view the mountains.
"Ten million people a year don't drive to East Tennessee to see the smog," Alexander said. "They come to see the blue haze that gave the Smoky Mountains its name."
Duncan and Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker also count themselves friends of the Smokies. Corker hiked in the mountains when he was a student at the University of Tennessee.
In fact, Corker was hiking up Mount LeConte with former Senate Majority Leader and Tennessean Bill Frist one summer when Frist convinced him to run for his Senate seat, which he won in a close race in 2006.
Corker said he believes some additional federal funding is in the works for the Smokies, citing former President George W. Bush's initiative to increase federal funding for all national parks through 2016. Duncan believes the Smokies funding also has improved in recent years.
Alexander, Corker and Duncan are in a good position to help safeguard the park's funding, and we hope they can convince Obama to make a presidential visit to the park in September. It will mean recognition at the top level of government of the park's importance.