Democrats in tough reelection races have a blunt message for President Obama: Keep away…

“It’s a no-brainer,” said one operative who works for a senator up for reelection in 2014. “The second term has been a bit of a disaster, his approval ratings are the lowest of his presidency and Washington is in disarray.”…

Many Democrats in Congress complain that Obama is indifferent to their concerns. There is also a broader sense on Capitol Hill that Obama just isn’t the guy they thought he was, who would deliver on his vaunted promises of hope and change.

“He’s not the most popular man these days,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said. “A lot of people think it’s been one disappointment after the next and he can’t really get his bearings.”


The president arrived in Colorado this week. Udall did not appear with him. “It bothers me a lot,” one liberal Coloradan told a reporter, as she took her place at an Obama rally. Maybe Udall couldn’t believe that he was in a close race with Republican Cory Gardner, a cherub-faced congressman whose brightest moment in the spotlight came when he asked Kathleen Sebelius to defend the “brosurance” health care ad campaign. But Udall’s fear and trembling gave Gardner a week of easy attack lines. In campaigning, as in facing down a bear in the wilderness, it has never been a good idea to broadcast weakness…

Please remember that Mark Udall’s tap dance happened in a state that Barack Obama actually won. Twice! The 2014 election is likely to give us many more moments of gut-wrenching agony and Democrats going all Apostle Peter on the president they universally supported when elected in 2008. Members of the White House political team will grit their teeth and ask low-level campaign staffers if, you know, it would be OK for the commander-in-chief to show up. They will be told to call back in a few days. Often, they will be told, “No thanks, but send money.”


A convergence of security crises is playing out around the globe, from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Ukraine and the South China Sea, posing a serious challenge to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and reflecting a world in which U.S. global power seems increasingly tenuous.

The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s, U.S. security strategists say, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, revolutionary Islamists took power in Iran, and Southeast Asia was reeling in the wake of the U.S. exit from Vietnam…

The chaos has meant that the Obama administration finds itself in the middle of a second term reacting to rather than directing world events. Dangers for the president and for the U.S. are growing as militant groups gain greater control. The organization known as the Islamic State, which now holds parts of Iraq and Syria, poses a particular danger…

“Our allies are looking for a quarterback to call some plays here, and our body language sometimes doesn’t show that we’re doing that,” said Brian Katulis of the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “Obama’s always been a look-before-you-leap guy. And I think that leads to some of the confusion here at home, but also abroad.”


Overseas and at home, the administration seems besieged and befuddled. Obama is in danger of cementing an image of haplessness that would be hard to undo…

Increasingly friends and foes around the world seem comfortable disrespecting the United States . In Egypt, a court sentenced journalists to prison hours after Secretary of State John F. Kerry left Cairo expressing confidence in the government’s commitment to democracy. U.S. ally Bahrain, home to the Navy’s 5th Fleet, expelled an assistant secretary of state. Days after Obama visited the Philippines to support rule of law in the South China Sea, China towed a massive oil rig into waters claimed by Vietnam and, Vietnamese officials said, intentionally rammed two of their ships…

At home, the administration seems equally taken aback by the thousands of Central American children flooding across the Southwest border. It sends mixed signals on whether it wants to change the asylum law in response. In the most elementary sort of staffing snafu, the president found himself needlessly on the defensive during a trip to Texas because he refused to visit the border.

Meanwhile the White House message varies by the day. Growing economic inequality, which last December Obama said “challenges the very essence of who we are as a people,” now is rarely mentioned. There seems to be no strategy to propel objectives the White House had set forth as fundamental: immigration reform, trade deals with Asia and Europe, investment in education and infrastructure.


Their report concludes that in the last year as the United States and other Western countries have begun to ease some of the sanctions on Iran as an inducement to negotiate an end to the country’s nuclear weapons program, the Iranian economy has begun to recover.

The recovery of Iran’s economy is a good thing for the Iranian people, who suffered a currency in free-fall, staggering inflation and a contraction of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. But at the same time, the economic sanctions that President Obama has credited with forcing Iran to begin these negotiations have appeared to lose their bite, according to the study that is scheduled to be released Monday…

The loosening pressure on Iran’s economy may help explain why most observers do not expect any breakthrough in talks this week in Vienna.


President Obama had just disembarked from Air Force One and was still on the tarmac in Rome when he turned to his host, John R. Phillips, the American ambassador to Italy, with an unexpected request: How about a dinner party tomorrow night?

Sometimes stretching into the small hours of the morning, the dinners reflect a restless president weary of the obligations of the White House and less concerned about the appearance of partying with the rich and celebrated. Freewheeling, with conversation touching on art, architecture and literature, the gatherings are a world away from the stilted meals Mr. Obama had last year with Senate Republican leaders at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington…

In Rome in March, Mr. Piano said, the president seemed happy to talk about something other than politics and current events. “I think he was refreshed to sit down in a beautiful place, with good food, and talking with serenity about important things,” Mr. Piano said.


The president’s trips outside of Washington — or even just stops outside the White House — have become something of a coping mechanism. He’s taken to walking to and from events close to the White House, albeit with Secret Service agents and journalists trailing him closely. In between fundraisers and speeches in Colorado and Texas this week, Obama made time to drop by local restaurants for pizza and barbeque, as well as play a game of pool and have a beer with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Almost all of these types of events are planned by the White House, though not publicly announced before the president’s arrival. And the White House’s increasing reliance on such events as a way to garner attention opened the president up to ridicule from Republicans when after he declared in Texas that he wasn’t going to take a first-hand look at the humanitarian crisis at the Texas border because he was “not interested in photo ops.”

“Obama’s presidency has been defined by photo-ops and political theater,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who advised Obama’s 2012 presidential rival, Mitt Romney. “Every time he’s gotten in trouble, he’s sought to seize the airwaves or the podium to try to frame his crisis negatively.”


In one key respect, each president’s tenure has followed a similar arc. Each initially sought the White House promising to bridge the nation’s widening partisan divide. Clinton pledged to transcend “brain-dead policies in both parties” with his “New Democrat” agenda. Bush declared himself a “compassionate conservative” who would govern as “a uniter, not a divider.” Obama emerged with his stirring 2004 Democratic convention speech, evoking the shared aspirations of red and blue America, and took office embodying convergence and reconciliation…

Clinton pursued agreements across party lines more consistently than either Bush or Obama. But this persistent polarization likely owes less to the three men’s specific choices than to structural forces that are increasingly preventing any leader, no matter how well-intentioned, from functioning as more than “the president of half of America.”

That phrase, coined by Will Marshall, president of the centrist Progressive Policy Institute, aptly describes an environment in which presidents now find it almost impossible to sustain public or legislative support beyond their core coalition.


All presidents find that events at home and abroad don’t always unfold as they had imagined or hoped. They find that they’re often unable to get things to turn out as they’d like.

This realization seems to have come as something of a surprise to a man who, while campaigning for the office, proclaimed that he was a better speechwriter than his speechwriters and a better political director than his political director…

Skittering and scampering doesn’t seem to be making things better. Blasting House Republicans for blocking legislation when they have passed more bipartisan bills than the Democratic Senate doesn’t pack much wallop.

Scuttle policies that aren’t working. The alternative is something Obama does not seem to have considered: Back up American promises and pledges abroad. Govern within the Constitution.

Any chance he will?