TODAY'S reader-poll question is whether President Obama should be taking a vacation while so many Americans are out of work.

Not just any vacation, mind you - but should he be cavorting with the rich and famous on Martha's Vineyard, as opposed to, say, spreading his blanket on the beach at Wildwood?

The blogosphere was abuzz with this burning issue yesterday. The line of reader comments under the various news reports on the subject was directly proportional to the length of the lines at the local unemployment office.

We know that this president is a lightning rod who risks a direct strike every time he raises his head. In an election season when the chairman of the Fed can be accused of treason for printing money, the dust-up du jour can be about nothing.

This one is about less than nothing. Presidents have been taking vacations since Washington kicked back at Mount Vernon a couple of hundred summers ago.

That didn't keep GOP front-runner Mitt Romney from casting the first stone, even though, as governor of Massachusetts, he was known to take in the sun at Martha's Vineyard himself.

"If you're the president of the United States and the nation is in crisis - and we're in a jobs crisis right now - then you shouldn't be out vacationing," Romney declared.

Someone pointed out that Congress was on a vacation that started before and ends after the president's. Romney had an answer for that.

"And, yeah," he snorted, "go back to the office yourself, pull back members of Congress and focus on getting the job done."

Now, there's an idea whose time has come and gone. Another two weeks like that Capitol Hill slapfest over the deficit-reduction plan and we would all need a vacation.

This contrived controversy followed a two-day whine on the president's use of an expensive bus for his tour of the Midwest. Veterans of the school-desegregation wars will remember the phrase, "It's not the bus, it's us."

This is not about the bus or the beach. This is about a president whose opponents are flush from their victory in the deficit wars. They smell blood in the water. It's a feeding frenzy.

Which is why I'm all for having him take a long, soothing vacation. It's no more than the minute that fighters take between rounds so that their trainers can rinse their mouthpieces with cool water and wave a towel in front of their faces.

Barack Obama fights like a guy who is observing the Marquess of Queensberry rules against a guy who has a horseshoe hidden in his glove.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggests that Obama is unpatriotic for not serving in the military, and Obama responds by saying, "I'm going to cut him some slack."

The tea-party wing of the GOP has redefined the entire national debate as a deficit crisis at a time when 9 percent of the workforce is out of work. Republicans posture as populists while supporting tax cuts for the rich and balking at payroll-tax cuts.

They get away with arguing that corporate-tax cuts will spur the economy and lead to job creation after years of corporate-tax cuts that have failed miserably and consistently on both fronts.

They argue that liberals want to redistribute the wealth despite volumes of data that show a persistently widening gap betwween the richest and poorest Americans fostered by business-friendly tax and regulation policies fostered by both parties.

When polls clearly showed that most Americans favor a deficit-reduction plan that included revenue hikes as well as budget cuts, he deferred to a "bipartisan" commission. GOP members of the so-called bipartisan commission declared before the first meeting that they weren't going for tax hikes.

Even calling the scheduled end of the Bush tax breaks a tax hike is letting the enemy dictate the rules of engagement.

Maybe it's his nature to fight fair. But he's not fighting for himself, and nobody else seems to be fighting for the little guy.

Instead of cutting the opposition some slack, he needs to cut them a new one.

Send email to smithel@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2512. For recent columns: www.philly.com/ElmerSmith