Call this the wages of dithering. After a summer spent mainly on the golf course and at Democratic fundraisers while terrorists seized vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria — and butchered two American journalists on video — Barack Obama returns to work to find his popularity at its lowest ebb in the Washington Post/ABC News poll series. Americans now take a dimmer view of Obama’s leadership capabilities than ever before, and a majority see him as a failure:

Barack Obama’s rating for strong leadership has dropped to a new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, hammered by criticism of his work on international crises and a stalled domestic agenda alike. With the midterm elections looming, Americans by a 10-point margin, 52-42 percent, see his presidency more as a failure than a success.

Just 38 percent now approve of Obama’s handling of international affairs, down 8 percentage points since July to a career low; 56 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time. Fifty-two percent say he’s been too cautious in dealing with Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria. And the public is ahead of Obama in support for a military response to that crisis, with 65 percent in favor of extending U.S. air strikes to Syria. ….

In general assessments, moreover, Americans by a 17-point margin say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, a rating worse than George W. Bush’s early in his poorly rated second term – and one that’s deteriorated among Obama’s supporters as well as among his critics. Just 43 percent call Obama a strong leader, down 11 points in the past year to the fewest of his presidency. And his overall job approval rating, at 42 percent, is a point from its all-time low this spring.

His job approval is 42/51, which surprisingly isn’t a new low in this polling series. In November, as the ObamaCare rollout turned into a meltdown, Obama got a 42/55, which was the worst spread of Obama’s presidency. At the beginning of summer, Obama had a 46/51 overall job approval, so the movement here is surprisingly incremental given the plunge seen in the issues ratings.

For instance, Obama gets a 42/54 on the economy, worse than his overall job performance but the best issue he has at the moment. On foreign policy, Obama went from 46/50 to 38/56 in two months, a drop of 14 points in the gap. Strong disapproval of his handling of international affairs went up seven points, from 36% to 43%, which now outstrips his combined approval. His handling of ObamaCare gets a 38/56, which hasn’t changed much at all since the rollout debacle, but shows that ObamaCare is still a potent issue for voters. And on immigration, Obama went from 38/50 on June 1 to 31/59, with 45% strongly disapproving.

Also of note: These approval ratings come from the same sample that shows Democrats with a midterm advantage on enthusiasm, 71/63, and 30/23 among the very enthusiastic. This may be the only media poll we see with that tilt. Even among those with the most rosy of rose-colored glasses, Obama stinks on ice.

Obama will give a speech on ISIS tomorrow, but he’s playing catch-up to the rest of the country:

Support for military action has risen dramatically in just the past few weeks, coinciding with the beheadings of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, which were recorded on video and released to the world by Islamic State terrorists.

Today, 71 percent of all Americans say they support airstrikes in Iraq — up from 54 percent three weeks ago and from 45 percent in June. Among those who say Obama has been too cautious, 82 percent support the strikes; among those who think his handling of international affairs has been about right, 66 percent support them.

Nearly as many Americans — 65 percent — say they support the potentially more controversial action of launching airstrikes in Syria, which Obama has not done. That is more than double the level of support a year ago for launching airstrikes to punish the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons.

Yes, it is — because it’s a completely different subject. Americans were skeptical of strikes on Assad in large part because they realized that attacking Assad would benefit the terrorist networks in Syria, ISIS among them. Americans want to go after terrorists rather than create failed states that benefit terrorist networks, and they only need to look at Libya to understand why. That’s a level of nuance that pollsters don’t seem to recognize.

Even with the friendly sample, Obama has become a boat anchor to Democratic hopes this midterm cycle. It’s no coincidence that polling in Senate races has tilted toward the GOP as the summer progressed. Democrats need to get Obama off the golf course and off the $30,000-a-plate speaking circuit to repair the damage he’s done to them this year, and tomorrow’s speech will be a big test to see whether Obama wants to be President or just enjoy the perks for another two years.