How did it happen? It still comes down to three big mistakes: the president’s spending decisions, his health-care bill, and the White House’s strange inability to understand the breadth and depth of the economic crisis. Spending was both high and same-old-same-old: The 2009 stimulus and the budget proposals were Democratic wish lists. This at the exact moment voters were coming to fear that we are losing America, the strong country of old, and the first thing we must do to right things is stop the hemorrhagic spending in Washington. The health-care bill was huge, expensive, vaguely menacing and lacking in any serious reform. Most amazingly, the White House failed to understand what the financial crisis was. They did not understand it was systemic, world-wide, would last years, and would change everything. They seemed to think it would pass. But the crisis rendered old campaign promises null, and demanded new approaches…

This is all so dire and critical that I will swerve and end with three things I’ve admired about the president since he entered the White House.

The first is that he has an intact, multigenerational family, a wife and kids and mother-in-law all living together in that big house. This is no doubt a source of strength for him, but it’s also moving and impressive to see in a country ravaged by family breakup and fatherless—and sometimes motherless—children. It is a needed example. As nothing human stays intact without great effort, all credit to him, and them.

The second is that he isn’t mean. His staffers do snark and push-back, but they don’t do targeted abuse, they don’t seem to try to take down foes in a personal way, as administrations before them have. Credit goes to the president because it’s always the boss who sets the tone.