“He’s kind of giving up on his job,” said The Hill’s A.B. Stoddard. “He’s planning his post-presidency … having lots of dinner parties where he doesn’t talk about policies or politics but the NBA playoffs. Anything but his job.” On Aug. 20, he interrupted his vacation to extend his regrets to the parents of James Foley, the American journalist whose beheading had been shared with the world by his killers. Minutes later, Obama was filmed in his golf cart, laughing his head off with friends.
With this in mind it made perfect sense when he appeared last week, tan suit and all, to say he had no idea how to deal with a menace his own appointees had said posed a critical threat to his country. By this time, no one expected one of him. They would have been shocked if he had one.
“Is there really no one on the White House staff with the standing to confront Obama when he is about to make a self-evident mistake?” asked Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.
No, there is not. At this point the skills that enabled this president to win an election have eroded, grown rusty, or withered away. Most pretty good presidents have their pretty bad moments, but these are subsumed in the overall record and do not sink the whole. Malaise occurs when there is no real record, just a long string of increasingly cringe-inducing moments leading up to one final gesture that ties a big bow on it all. Malaise is where “hope and change” has found its undoing. Bonjour Malaise, and Goodbye, Columbus. He wasn’t that much after all.