Barack Obama has managed a rare feat in American history: The longer he is president, the less presidential he has become. Obama has reversed the usual process of growth and maturation, appearing today far more like a candidate for the presidency—and a very ordinary one at that—than he did during the latter stages of his campaign…

It may be … that Obama has created a box for himself from which he cannot escape. He has so monopolized and personalized the public relations aspect of his office that now only his own voice can speak for the presidency. Profligacy in the use of public access—almost a speech a day—has made indirectness impossible. A president who has become his own chief point man puts at risk an asset that is helpful to his standing and vital for the nation’s political system: the dignity of the presidential office…

With his stately voice, his elegant presence, and his command of the language, Barack Obama possesses more personal tools to be presidential than any of his predecessors since Dwight D. Eisenhower, but—Bill Clinton, of course, excepted—he has shown less inclination to be so. By urging him down the path of populism, Obama’s political counselors do not seem to have the slightest clue of the damage they have done to him, because they have no conception of what the office of the presidency is all about.

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If conservatives want to succeed in taking our government back, we need to drop the popular but misguided slogan about “taking our country back.”

[I]f we actually did lose America, when exactly did that happen? Even the most ardent Tea Party supporters don’t really believe that the people have given up their irreducible goodness and decency; that our churches and small businesses, cops and soldiers, neighbors and families have been universally corrupted by Barack Obama and his welfare state. The current surge in Constitutionalist ideology and patriotic fervor, measured by promising polls regarding the upcoming elections, indicates that we don’t need to “take our country back” because the country and its ideals never really got taken away. What happened in the election of 2008 brought purely political change, not some deeper spiritual or cultural transformation that rendered the United States unrecognizable. Obama and his minions initially assumed that their electoral victory signified precisely this sort of fundamental alteration in our national consciousness but the vigorous push-back to all aspects of their agenda, not to mention the president’s plummeting poll numbers, proved to the world that they were wrong…

Talking about “taking our country back,” conjuring images of an eternal battle between us-and-them, can only alienate that crucial element of the populace with few ideological attachments and chronic disinclination to firm allegiances. The moderates who decide most political battles feel uncomfortable with harsh rhetoric from either right or left, treating rivals as some alien other.