There’s nothing wrong with this as far as gimmicks go. Eric Cantor did something similar with YouCut, after all. And if you read this harrowing WaPo piece today about the dramatic loss of faith in government after the debt-ceiling standoff, then you’ll understand why the White House might want to do some interactive outreach to the public. But after watching the video on the petition website, I still can’t help snickering. Who are these petitions meant for, exactly? They can’t be meant for Obama, can they? Note to The One: If you need a petition to tell you what’s on voters’ minds these days, you’re beyond help. Throw in the towel and enjoy a comfortable retirement in 2013.

If, as I suspect, the site is really just a ploy for his campaign so that they can direct Obama donors there and crank out talking-point petitions for him about how “the people” demand tax hikes on the rich or whatever, then it’s very much true to form. Petitions are supposed to be grassroots populist measures aimed at getting the government to act; if this is a campaign device then it’s really the opposite, a way for the head of government to get his supporters to act on his behalf so that he can get reelected. In fact, tea-party groups are already looking into this as a type of lobbying venture paid for with taxpayer money. I doubt it’s illegal, but it tells you a lot about how far the 2008 magic has faded that Captain Charisma might now be relying on Internet petitions to try to influence Congress.

I’ve got a petition idea, actually: “We the undersigned believe that the guy who packaged himself as an avatar of hope three years ago should try not to act like a total d-bag next year.” Click the image to watch.