Here’s the thing: When other presidents have reached this point–at least other Democratic presidents, Carter and Bill Clinton–they have recognized the problem and tried to get fresh advice. Carter had a series of excessively well-publicized meetings with critics. Clinton met secretly and more effectively with non-liberal strategist Dick Morris. And Obama?
The president is in a situation in which virtually none of his considered beliefs–in Keynesian economics, in the power of redistributive populism, in coalition politics, in his own oratorical skill–is being affirmed by the real world. It’s like the period Thomas Kuhn talks about in his famous Structure of Scientific Revolutions, when scientists are working along within the old “paradigm” but the data start coming back funny. Most scientists just ignore the discordant data and keep plodding along. A few start to question the “paradigm.” You’d want a President in tough times to be one of the latter, no?