Oh, how the intellectuals love him

In other words, it’s not just the way President Obama’s policies have not worked out that invites the Jimmy Carter parallel. It’s also the over-the-top praise each received before entering office. In both 1976 and 2008, each Democrat was presented as the kind of smart, cool, new politico who was going to—fill in the cliché—”transcend politics as we know it,” “appeal across traditional lines,” “bring America together,” etc.

Ironically, here Mr. Romney has a case, for some of the differences between the two presidents favor Mr. Carter. Faced with raging inflation and a declining dollar, President Carter appointed Paul Volcker chairman of the Federal Reserve. He supported deregulation. Most of all, in contrast to President Obama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because he wasn’t George W. Bush, President Carter actually earned his, at least for the Camp David Accords that brought about peace between Israel and Egypt.

Mr. Obama can’t be blamed for the excesses that saw him hailed as the new FDR, the new JFK or the new Lincoln, or for the Norwegian committee that bestowed upon him a Nobel. He can be held to account for encouraging them: by delivering a campaign speech in Berlin, by accepting a prize he hadn’t earned, by breaking out not only a Lincoln quotation but the Lincoln china and the Lincoln Bible for his inauguration.

An American politician steeped in—dare we say it?—Niebuhrian realism would have appreciated that no president could live up to such hype.