This may seem hard to believe, considering all of the deep experience Barack Obama brought to the presidency, but a consensus in Washington has formed that he may be in over his head. Mark Halperin writes at Time Magazine that even Obama’s political skills don’t seem up to the task of governing, and now perhaps not even campaigning. Instead of making the positive case for his agenda, Obama seems eager to punch below his weight instead, and it has political insiders wondering whether Obama has a grip on his job:
Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November’s elections.
With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.
Gee, who could have guessed that Obama didn’t have the skills or experience needed to handle the toughest executive position in the Free World? It’s not as if anyone pointed out that Obama never held an executive position in his life, had only three years in the US Senate, and just seven in the state legislature — where he cast over 130 “present” votes rather than go on the record on contentious issues. Did anyone highlight Candidate Obama’s connections to radicals, his insularity among his hard-Left patrons and advisers, and his utter lack of a record of accomplishment outside of getting himself elected?
Oh, wait …
As it turns out, incompetence and arrogance produce really bad results. Who’da thunk it?
Moreover, there is a growing perception that Obama’s decisions are causing harm — that businesses are being hurt by the Administration’s legislation and that economic recovery is stalling because of the uncertainty surrounding energy policy, health care, deficits, housing, immigration and spending.
And that sentiment is spreading. Many members of the general public appear deeply skeptical of Obama’s capacity to turn things around, especially, but not exclusively, those inclined to dislike him — Tea Partyers and John McCain voters, but also tens of millions of middle-class Americans, including quite a few who turned out for Obama in 2008.
But … but … but … experience and competence were bad in 2008, remember? The media insisted that what America needed was change. And Hope! They assured us that Obama was no unthinking ideologue, but the Smartest Man Ever To Live In The White House. Every utterance was sheer brilliance, and every promise that he would transcend partisan politics the God’s Honest Truth. The biggest issue was Obama’s level of enchantment with his new position.
Halperin notes with discouragement that Obama seems incapable of dealing with the failure of his own policies, and instead spends his time looking for scapegoats:
Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership — or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief. In the past few days, we have witnessed the spectacle of the President himself and his top advisers wading into allegations that Republicans are attempting to buy the election using foreign money laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, combining with Karl Rove and his wealthy backers to fund a flood of negative television commercials. Not only is this issue convoluted and far-fetched, but it also distracts from the issues voters care about, frustrating political insiders and alienating struggling citizens (not that many are following such an offbeat story line). Feinting and gibing can’t obscure those job numbers.
No, but when you can get the rest of the farm chasing Snowball, it certainly provides a distraction from actual misery, doesn’t it?