The truth is that there is practically nothing Mr. Obama could do to gin up better jobs numbers before next year’s election without massively increasing the deficit—and the Republicans won’t let him do that. Even with the word “stimulus” banished from his remarks this week, no one will be fooled by new calls to “invest” in roads and bridges and infrastructure. Or by the expected hodgepodge of other proposals from extending the payroll tax holiday to tax credits for new hires.

The irony is that the president has blown the one chance to do something of substance without looking weak. Back in July when he was negotiating with Speaker Boehner, the two had agreed on a grand bargain that would include real cuts in entitlements. The “give” on the Republican side was that the deal would address “revenues,” which to the president means raising taxes and to the speaker means relying on growth to bring in more money to the Treasury’s coffers…

In music there’s a saying about a performance that was “too small for the house.” That’s becoming true of the president. There was a day when Mr. Obama’s taste for the marvelous—a campaign address in Berlin, the faux presidential seal, the Greek columns that surrounded him during his speech accepting the Democratic nomination—all seemed to herald something exciting and historic.