Politico wonders: Why is our very successful president doing so badly?

A fun piece thanks partly to the self-pity evinced by a “top Obama advisor,” partly to the griping about how many arrogant jerks now populate the West Wing, and partly to the hostility exhibited by Politico towards its frequent nutroots antagonists. A quote to whet your appetite: “The liberal blogosphere grew in response to Bush. But it is still a movement marked by immaturity and impetuousness — unaccustomed to its own side holding power and the responsibilities and choices that come with that.” Thank goodness none of our more mature, less impetuous big media outlets take their cues from these not-so-merry lefty pranksters.

You can argue over whether Obama’s achievements are good or bad on the merits. But especially after Thursday’s vote you can’t argue that Obama is not getting things done. To the contrary, he has, as promised, covered the uninsured, tightened regulations, started to wind down the war in Iraq and shifted focus and resources to Afghanistan, injected more competition into the education system and edged closer to a big energy bill.

The problem is that he and his West Wing turn out to be not especially good at politics, or communications — in other words, largely ineffective at the very things on which their campaign reputation was built. And the promises he made in two years of campaigning turn out to be much less appealing as actual policies.

“I tell you, it’s very frustrating that it’s not breaking through, when you look at these things and their scale,” said a top Obama adviser, who spoke on background to offer a candid take on the state of play. “Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had achieved even one of these? Part of it is because we are divided, even on the left…And part of it is the culture of immediate gratification.”

Translation: “Scoreboard.” Except … most voters don’t care about the scoreboard, do they? Here’s what happened: The One decided from the start that passing something, anything, would be his top priority on major legislation. The details were less important than the fact of passage; that’s why he let Reid and Pelosi take the lead on the stimulus and eventually O-Care. Letting them write the bills increased his chance of drawing majorities in both houses and thereby avoiding Clinton’s haunting failure with HillaryCare. The problem with that approach, though, is that it guarantees a result that’s further to the right than lefties would like and, with a Democratic president and Congress, waaaaay further to the left than righties would like — and while that might be tolerable with routine legislation, on epochal items like the stimulus and health-care, it’s a recipe for disaster. We ended up with a $787 billion pork-packed stimulus instead of the $3 trillion or whatever leviathan that Paul Krugman keeps daydreaming about. And then we ended up with (almost) universal health care that not only falls short of single-payer but lacks a public option. As Politico puts it, “Conservatives think he stands for backdoor socialism. Liberals think he is a sell-out.” Which, again, would be manageable for the White House if they were dealing with smaller ticket items — but on big, marquee legislation where passions run hot, who’s supposed to be happy with the product? If, like Clinton, his drift was towards reducing the size of government instead of expanding it, then at least he could sell himself to low-information independents as the centrist hero who’s looking out for their pocketbooks. As it is, the sticker shock from all this crap has indies freaking out too. With all that bearing down on him, it really is a testament to Obama’s personal charm that he’s managed to keep his approval rating near 50 percent. If President Hillary was in this position, she’d be lucky to see 40.

What he probably should have done is split the difference on the stimulus and ObamaCare by taking a more centrist/righty approach on the former and then going harder left on the latter by including a public plan. That would have given both sides one thing to be genuinely pleased about. But no worries: I’m sure his hugely expensive cap-and-trade bill and the DOJ’s lawsuit against Arizona’s fantastically popular immigration law will get everything straightened out. And after all, how many seats realistically could the GOP win? Ahem.