American conservatives look at the defeats and disappointments, and they fulminate about Obama. They call him weak and inept — and surely in some areas he has been both. But they are wrong in thinking that another person would make much of a difference. Times have changed. America’s power is diminished — relatively, for sure, but absolutely as well. As a superpower, America invaded Iraq. Saddam is dust. But that brief war is now in its eighth year.

In 1987, Paul Kennedy published “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” It created great buzz because, among other things, it predicted the relative and absolute decline of the United States. Kennedy attributed this to military “overstretch” and deficit spending — problems that have since gone from the theoretical to the acute. In a sense, we have more wars than we have cash…

Obama presiding over the unpresidable, the president overseeing the incomprehensible, the full panoply of meaningless power — Air Force One, Marine One, the limo, the motorcade, the briefcase with the nuclear launch codes — all amounting in this case to man railing against the sea, a somber lesson for us all. The spill goes on. The war goes on. The debt grows — and so, for too many of us, does denial.