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Published on: April 27, 2011
Falling Between Two Stools

President Obama is now passing through what one must hope for both his sake and ours are the worst moments of a presidency no longer young. Abroad, the intervention in Libya has not had the quick and clear results he had hoped.  While things may still go well, and one devoutly hopes that they do, […]

President Obama is now passing through what one must hope for both his sake and ours are the worst moments of a presidency no longer young. Abroad, the intervention in Libya has not had the quick and clear results he had hoped.  While things may still go well, and one devoutly hopes that they do, US prestige is deeply engaged in a confused civil war in which all NATO’s firepower has been unable to turn the tide.  As British and French advisers on the ground struggle to mold the rebels into an effective force and the allies thrash around to develop a politically responsible and accountable rebel leadership, the military’s lack of confidence in the civilian strategy is palpable.

At home, the President has been wounded both by his successes and his failures.  Colin Powell referred to the US victory against Saddam Hussein as a “catastrophic success”; President Obama now has a couple of those of his own.  The economic stimulus package aroused a fear on the hustings and, increasingly, in the bond markets about the looming fiscal catastrophe.  The health care bill, an achievement the President expected and believed would cement both his place in history and a new era of liberal Democratic hegemony in American politics, continues to weaken the administration; the patient is not (yet) accepting the transplant.

These successes would not be so damaging if it were not for the core failure to date of the Obama presidency: the failure to deliver what looks to most Americans like the promise of an improving economy.  Part of the problem is international; the turmoil in the Middle East, the global surge in commodity prices and the waning credibility of the dollar combine to push gas prices to $4.00.  For tens of millions of American families the price of gas is both an economic indicator and a key variable in their disposable income.  Add to that the persisting weakness in the housing market, where millions of families have watched the value of their prime asset shrink or disappear, continuing weak growth in employment and stagnation in wages, and there is a pervasive national sense that life is not getting better on President Obama’s watch.

President Barack Obama

The President looks like a man who is ridden by events; at just the moment when the nation craves a strong leader, the President looks weak, dodgy, uncertain.  The contrast with the inflated hopes that an untested and inexperienced Senator Obama did so much to build up is crippling.  Obama has fallen so far precisely because he and his supporters so hugely oversold him.

He once despised Bill Clinton for the comprising and triangulating that got him through his eight years.  President Obama was going to do it differently: he was going to fight and win.

Perhaps he will; politics is full of surprises and it is still almost a year and a half until the election.  But at the moment the President seems to be envying Clinton’s talents and attempting to emulate rather than scorn them.  From anti-Clinton to aspiring Clinton is a long fall and it can’t be much fun.

We are starting to get to know this President a little better, and his chief besetting fault is increasingly clear:  the President falls between stools.  He is a man of half measures, a man who spends so much money hedging his bets that he loses even when he wins.

Time and again the President angers one side without conciliating the other.  His public demand that Israel agree to a complete settlement freeze as a condition for peace talks alienated Israelis (and not just supporters of Prime Minister Netanyahu); his subsequent back peddling humiliated and angered the Palestinians.  He pleased no one, fumbled what he had once proclaimed a crucial priority of his administration, and is left with reduced influence with both sides.

At home the President’s hedging has antagonized and energized the right without delivering the goods to his base on the left.  The health care bill was so watered down from what candidate Obama proposed on the stump that key constituencies on the left were dismayed; the change was so large that the right was energized; the legislation so compromised and misshapen that it failed to satisfy.  The stimulus was the same: large enough to stir up the deficit hawks but too small (and too poorly constructed) to launch a “V” shaped recovery.  In the Middle East he has been too cautious and slow in siding with the revolutionaries to dent American unpopularity in the region — but by dropping US support for longtime ally Hosni Mubarak he antagonized and alarmed the Saudis.

Neither the Middle East despots nor the populists think President Obama is a reliable friend.  In Afghanistan also he appears to have found a policy that is too robust to please the doves who want out no matter what — yet his hesitancy and announcement of withdrawal dates has not convinced either the Pakistanis or the Taliban that the US will remain until its basic conditions are met.

This repeated lunge for the sour spot — the place where costs are high and benefits are low — now seems to be a trademark of the President’s decision-making style.  On the left it is earning him Carter comparisons from people like Eric Alterman; on the right it means that despite his compromises and yielding of significant ground he continues to feed the incandescent hostility of his bitterest foes.  Worst of all, it suggests to people abroad and at home that the way to manipulate this “split the difference”, consensus-seeking President is to raise your demands.  If you are going to get something like 50 percent of what you ask for, ask for twice as much as you really want.  And with this Presidential style, the squeaking wheel gets the grease.  Not surprisingly, all the wheels have begun to squeak.

Here is the paradox we face:  The President is a consensus-seeker whose decision making style rewards polarization and a conciliator who loses friends without winning over enemies.

The President’s problem is not, I think, that he seeks compromise.  It is that the type of compromise he chooses is so ineffective.  Splitting the difference is not leadership; leadership is looking at the positions of two sides and finding creative new directions that give something to all sides — but move the ball down the field.

Take the original sin of this administration: the failure to handle the economic stimulus package in a way that would have given the President enough fiscal room to jump start the economy in the short term without spooking either the voters or the bond markets.  Hindsight is easy, but even at the time many observers warned that the stimulus was poorly crafted.

President Obama in effect offered a compromise stimulus package: to avoid angering Republicans the overall numbers were smaller than the more left wing economists in Democratic circles thought would work, but liberals in Congress were greatly mollified by the freedom that the President gave them to craft the stimulus to benefit key constituencies.

As a result, the overall package was deeply flawed.  The headline stimulus number was enough to energize Republican and conservative deficit hawks, but left Obama vulnerable to charges from the left that he hadn’t done enough to create jobs in the deepest recession since World War Two.  Worse, the stimulus was inefficient, with its money spent over a long period of time.  Much of the spending would come in only years after passage, significantly reducing the prospects that the stimulus would kick start the economy.

Now the President and the Democrats generally are stuck in a trap of their own manufacture.  State and local governments, starved for funding and losing the federal assistance in the stimulus package are laying off workers and cutting benefits from one end of the country to the other.  Unemployment, especially including the long-term unemployed who have dropped out of the labor market, remains painfully high.  Key Democratic constituencies feel the administration’s economic policies have failed even as the political logic forces President Obama and his team to start negotiating deficit cuts.  He is back to disappointing his friends without winning over his enemies, and that is no good place for a President to be.

There seem to be several factors at work that repeatedly push the President into doomed compromises.  One is ideology; the President is no socialist or far-left crusader, but he is an urban liberal whose core convictions are on the left end of the center-left.  He is smart enough to know that he can’t always or even often get exactly what he wants, but having to govern from a position to the right of his own heart puts him in an awkward position.  It is hard to be creative when you are constantly on the back foot.

By instinct, President Obama is not a politician.  The President, like many other bright Ivy-educated lawyers, views the world through a legalistic prism, one that underestimates both the power and legitimacy of political considerations in the administration of government.  Closing Guantanamo and trying KSM in Lower Manhattan seem both obviously necessary and unambiguously good to the legalistic mind.  The ward-heeling politician knows better.  This lack of instinctive appreciation for the crooked pathways of the political mindset (a characteristic President Obama shares with Woodrow Wilson) further undercuts the President’s ability to play the political system like a true virtuoso.

Another problem is experience, or rather the lack of it.  While two years in the White House have made him a much more seasoned and experienced figure, there is still a lot about American and international politics that is new to him and to some degree alien to his instincts and values.  Moreover, he came to the White House with next to no experience at running bureaucracies or leading legislative coalitions.  He lacks Lyndon Johnson’s sure sense of what Congress will or won’t do (not to mention Johnson’s legendary ability to build support for his agenda), and he lacks the international seasoning of a George H. W. Bush or Richard Nixon. This kind of experience is what is necessary both at home and abroad to understand the agendas and instincts of various parties and to figure out innovative, forward-looking ideas that can work around entrenched positions and make genuine progress.  Another term or two in the Senate and some time as governor of Illinois might have made Barack Hussein Obama a cannier and more formidable president.  (Bill Clinton had served five extremely educational terms as governor of Arkansas.)

Finally, there is a kind of temperamental caution that has not, so far, served this President well.  Unlike George W. Bush, who liked to place large and even reckless bets, President Obama likes to hedge.  If he puts four chips on black, he almost immediately wants to put three chips on red.  He surges in Afghanistan, but time limits the surge.  He bombs Libya, but vows to keep the boots offshore.  This can look like a prudent step to limit losses; in some cases it may make bigger losses inevitable.

It is much too soon to write this President off and, for the sake of the United States and the wider world, one continues to wish him the best.  Politically the odds are still better than even that he will be re-elected (although they are less than they were).  He and his team are much more seasoned than they were and we can expect a determined effort to relaunch the administration at home and abroad.  The Republicans at home and his enemies abroad are also fallible and will give him opportunities.  We are likely to see one or more serious new crises blow up that will give him opportunities to seize the initiative.

But to succeed going forward, the President will have to grow and to change.  What he is doing now isn’t working, and he needs a reset.

show comments
  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Everyone keeps saying he still has a 50-50 shot at re-election, I think he looks worse than Carter.
    As to the stimulus spending, that has never worked anywhere. The Japanese spent for year after year, and it didn’t work for them, why would anyone think it would work here? The fact is for the government to spend it must borrow the money, which takes the capital from the private economy where it would be used for productive things and instead uses it for inefficient and wasteful things that a government does. If we are ever to get the economy working again we must reduce the burden of the Government Monopoly, it is now sucking down $2 trillion a year in borrowed money at the federal, state, and local levels. This massive borrowing has crowded out private borrowing that would normally already be creating Jobs. When you add in the loses in home equity which is the normal source of capital for entrepreneurial activity, which creates most new jobs, and you can see why I call this Great Depression 2.0.

  • Omar Ibrahim Bakr

    Re the President’s Middle East track record.
    That could be summed up in three outstanding events:
    1-The Cairo Speech
    2-The initiative to freeze all Israeli settlements construction activities in 1967 occupied Palestinian territories
    3- The Obama “search for peace” Palestinian/Israeli recent negotiations round .
    One could also bring in the American veto at the UNSC debate over Settlements construction except that it is much more of a resultant of above noted factors than a factor per se.

    ***The Cairo Speech was received with a packet of salt by Arab Public opinion to whom it was addressed; the prevalent reaction being ” Nice words…let us see if they will be followed by substantial action”.
    Later developments proved that they were only that:” nice words” that failed to be substantiated by concrete action.

    ***The Initiative to freeze Israeli Settlements construction activities notable mainly for the hasty and undignified, some would say shameful, retreat of a Super Power that confirmed the USA’s ? and its President’s inability to stand up to Israeli/AIPAC & Co pressures .

    ***The Obama Round not only reaffirmed the USA’s impotence to stand up to Israeli and to Jewish pressures ( by, interalia, Israel’s rejection of a USA minor request: to extend freezing period}BUT,more significantly, announced a virtual USA abdication from its presumed role as SOLE potential “peace maker”; a role that the USA has hitherto jealously self appropriated by banning, and vetoing, any other party(s)’s efforts
    The veto at the UNSC was only to be expected being the accumulated resultant of the above three factors.

    Rumours are, with what is going on now in the Middle East, the USA/President Obama will soon attempt a new “peace” initiative .
    Should that materialize it will be, with Presidential elections not far off , the worst fated USA initiative ever.

  • nadine

    Nicely put: “This repeated lunge for the sour spot — the place where costs are high and benefits are low — now seems to be a trademark of the President’s decision-making style.”

    But I don’t think mere inexperience is enough to explain Obama’s string of bad decisions. I would chalk them up to his adherence to a far-left ideology, which I don’t think is just left-liberalism, as WRM does, but is a kind of Alinskyite stealth socialism.

    Obama’s ideology has made him believe all kinds of counter-factual things, e.g. about the working of the American economy or the root causes of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Because his belief system is so counter-factual, it tends to blow up on first contact with reality, as we see in his handling of the I/P peace process.

    Obama really thought by “putting daylight” between the US and Israel, he would make the Palestinians more flexible at the talks. Instead, they adopted all Obama’s demands (they could hardly be less anti-Israel than the US, after all) then headed for the hills, openly proclaiming they would wait for Obama to hand them free concessions. Well, so much for that idea.

    This cuts deeper than Obama’s decision-making process. It is starting to occur to a great many people (not all of them in the opposition) that Obama just doesn’t know very much, and doesn’t care to master details. Not only does Obama fall between two stools, he is remarkably disengaged.

  • Rick

    Hit the reset button and Re-boot his [disrespectful suggestion deleted –ed]. We need a real American President, not an un-American President.

  • mary lucks

    I am so weary of the arching necessary to justify your vote for this most inadequate man. He is nothing if not a politician, albeit one with little scrutiny. Almost every decision he has made without the coaxing of the opposition has been wrong: nearly a trillion dollars of ineffective “stimulus” funds, an unexamined and now deeply cynical health care plan, unmanned drone missiles fired into civilian areas, campaigning when he should be governing, blaming his predecessor for all his inadequacies. He is a petty, pompous man that fooled many of the so-called best minds with his posturing. I am far more interested in his SAT scores than his birth certificate.
    I know, I’m ranting. Still, I can’t believe the the leeway he has been given. To my mind, Bush inherited a much more dire situation and never once did he blame national security weaknesses on his predecessor. You need to call him for what he is: a fraud and a mistake.

  • Danram

    This president doesn’t need a “reset”, he needs to be “retired”. It’s obvious to all but the most blatant Obama sycophant that the guy is in way over his head. He’d make a great law school professor or member of a litigation team, but he simply has neither the disposition nor the skill set to make an effective chief executive.

  • Chester White

    If gas prices go much higher, that alone will sink Obama. People will have no disposable income and the price of everything will go up anyway.

    The Republican campaign ads write themselves.

  • sayoung

    I confess I was not an Obama supporter from the start. I was alarmed at the sickening press coverage, the way the media willfully and knowingly abdicated it’s responsibility and doggedly researched Obama’s perceived enemies but not the man himself. Thet went through garbage cans in Alaska but couldn’t seem to drum up the same enthusiasm for real and necessary background questions of their new found chosen one. I was very fearful of electing a man who had NO experience whatsoever , other than a scant 18 months as a junior senator. We seemed to have a spoon fed glowing biography pushed at us from all sides and any who dared question was rewarded by attacks from the dogs in the media. In my opinion, it was only a matter of time before Barack Obama was in way over his head. i gave him two years for his polling numbers to drop below 50 percent- he accomplished that feat in half that time. I thought ,surely, he would use common sense to prop up our economy since he had suposedly surrounded himself with the “best and the brightest”. Instead we got the inept fool,Geithner, and the crooked Bernanke. Surprise! No recovery headed our way anytime soon. Now that little known details about this man are starting to emerge, the American public is starting to keep track. They are going down a list of what would seem on their own as the unintended consequences of a novice’s policies. Yet, add them all up, and a bigger picture with shades of INTENTIONAL design start to emerge. The average American is not stupid,pain at the pump, pain at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, the clothing store, paying one’s utility bills that are now suddenly 50 dollars a month higher than last year. We know precisely whose doorstep to lay the blame on for those. As the saying goes, the buck stops there.You are clearly right that Obama cannot seem to make a concrete decision- doing so does not fit into his plans.He will NOT be re-elected period and his chances are much less than 50/50.Do not be fooled again by the media and their so called non partisan polls. Go instead to a gas station or a grocery store and poll 100 people from there, even in the most inner city in America- you will be shocked by what you find.

  • wes george

    Hang on a second. Our good professor voted for this guy?

    And now he’s gently criticizing Obama, but suggesting it all might work out OK in the end? Obama’s problem is that he’s not a cowboy like Bush, but an intellectual who over thinks the issues???

    Where have I heard that narrative before? Oh, Yeah, in the MSM. You got to read this stuff like an old Soviet would read the Pravada. Between the lines.

    Me thinks the Professor is in total denial. We have a closet socialist as president. Obama, for God’s sake, just spent 14 trillion bucks in two years. The professor is right, Obama’s not a Cowboy he’s a bloody Dr. Strangelove.

  • pablo panadero

    Eventually, Obama will need to choose between sticking to his socialistic ideals or getting re-elected. Thus far, his ideals have prolonged a recession, made graft a feature (not a problem) of the Federal Government, and energized the opposition like it has never been before due partially to his extreme arrogance. To be re-elected, he must stop inflation, reduce energy prices, and end one of the wars. The only way to do the first two is to embrace Tea Party ideals. The only way to do the third is to stop pledging to fight with one hand tied down. In order to do these things effectively, he has to admit to himself that everything he believed in before be elected was wrong, and I don’t see him doing this.

  • alanstorm

    “the President is no socialist…”

    I keep seeing some form of this idea floating around, and it is a lie. You know, that thing that was so horrible when Bush was in office.

    If being raised by socialists, surrounding himself with socialists, and behaving as a socialist do not make him one, then what can?

    Every action of his, and every unguarded utterance, indicates that he believes that the state can and must control everything, save perhaps some unimportant crumbs.

    Trying to label him as a “urban liberal” in order to make him more palatable, is simply bowdlerization. To make it work, you hill have to define the term and differentiate it from “socialist”. Good luck with that.

    And please, PLEASE don’t bring up the idea that he’s not a socialist because he hasn’t nationalized everything yet. He’s made a good enough start – and that logic says that a football team with a losing record isn’t a football team, or a lawyer who doesn’t win 100% of his cases isn’t a lawyer. Nice try – but no prize.

    Of course he’s a socialist. The only argument is the exact type.

  • kitman3

    We need to rid ourselves of the progressive disease not hit the reset button.
    Progressivism = Totalitarianism
    the “O” has got to GO!!!

    http://www.theomustgo.blogspot.com

  • MichaelB36

    I agree He could win again because for no other reason but that He won in the first place. However, He will have to do it without the kids as they have already seen the movie; and the Latinos who are being hurt badly in this economy; and the soccer moms and center right college professors who have already proven to themselves that they aren’t racist.

  • Stacy in NJ

    Obama will win re-election if Republicans fail to nominate a serious and compenent alternative. That nominee will need to be acceptable to the wider independent voting public. So far, our candidates are of the bread and circus variety. The question is: are conservatives serious and trustworthy? Paul Ryan and his group seem to want to fill that void, but is the public distracted by the Trump/Palin/Gingrich circus?

  • Kim Gigstead

    After Obama leaves office (either January, 2013 or January, 2017) he will still be a very young man (either 52 or 56 years of age).

    That means just as we have finished with the most-annoying and embarrassing ex-president of modern times, 86-year-old Jimmy Carter, we will have a similar lightweight apologist to seamlessly carry on his “work.”

    The Nobel Peace Prize winners (Carter and Obama) and their enabling wives, both genuflected to dictators, alienated allies, gushed over alternative energy and ruined the economy.

    They are so much alike that I expected to see on Obama’s birth certificate that he was the illegitimate son of a Georgia peanut farmer.

    God give us strength.

  • NS Sherlock

    To condense it down to few words,way in over his head and still drowning.
    On top of that,the MSM still continues to give him a free pass everytime.Why? He acts like a child when he is off the teleprompter.

    My remarks on Obamacare.Poorly conceived and executed. If it is so good,why give waivers to over a 1000 groups??? Why give waivers,period? Need I say more?

  • Robert

    I remember back in the 1970s when Jerry Ford and Tip O’Neill used to play golf every weekend and accomplished the People’s business while on the links. Unfortunately, due to the highly partisan primary system our nation has drifted to over the last 40 years, it becomes harder and harder for practical minded non-idealogues to get elected either to the presidency or Congress.

    To fill the gap left by a virtually non-functioning Congress, we need a strong president who will actively engage in crafting legislation reasonably acceptable to the serious members of both parties.

    However, President Obama has proved to be a very weak man. He is unable or unwilling to “knock the heads” of the members of the far left and right of the political spectrum. As a result, virtually no progress has been made on the primary issues we are facing, undemployment and the debt crisis.

    We need a new chief executive in 2012 who is not only a strong adminstrator but also a strong politician who can force the members of both parties to cast aside partisan politics and act in the best interests of this country. We need a president who can “get things done.” Unfortunaely, Mr. Obama is not that person.

  • Exponent

    The key to Obama is this: He’s a dyed-in-the-wool lefty, and the main project of leftism is to revoke reality. That’s why his policies all come a-cropper: They’re based on deeply believed lefty delusions. We’ll be very lucky to escape his presidency with only major damage both internally and externally.

  • Tony V

    All these experts keep saying Obama has a better than 50-50 chance of being elected….[cattle byproducts! — ed].

    The man has a long list of failures, and no major achievements (Obamacare is majority unpopular and being legally challenged by more than half the states in the Union)

    From what I see, Obama’s already lost 2012 and has to work to win it back.

  • glenn

    This is what happens when you send a callow youth to do mans work. And as you say oversell him.

  • Graham

    I have to say this entire article is off base because of one line.

    “the President is no socialist or far-left crusader”

    That is exactly what he is and exactly why he is failing. The stimulus failed because the government cannot stimultate private sector growth. Capitalism is the only system that has worked every time. The President doesn’t believe in capitalisn and that is why he is failing.

  • http://moneyrunner.blogspot.com/ Moneyrunner

    Nice try at papering over failure Walt. At this point no one can call the Obama presidency a success and still be considered a serious analyst, so we have to re-define him and go in for pop psychology to explain why everything he touches turns to … failure. You’re joining Dana Wilbank in claiming that Obama’s just too smart for his own good. Really? We would really like to see proof.

    I was intrigued by your reference to gas prices PUSHING TOWARD $4. Gas prices are now moving so fast that between the time an apology for failure like this is written and the time it appears in print, the information is outdated. I’m reminded of the time between wars in Germany where people were paid twice a day and hurried out to spend their money during lunch hour because prices would be higher later in the afternoon. Thanks for the laugh. The next time you put in a contemporary reference like gas prices you may just want to use a European number like … $9, $10, or more. It will make your column appear less dated.

  • Constitution First

    While it Øbambi may caught in the headlights, but it’s the American that are getting run down.

  • RebeccaH

    If President Obama hasn’t been able to change his way of doing business for the last two and a half years, why do you think he’ll do it in the next year and a half? He truly believes that he’s done all the right things, and it’s everybody else who won’t cooperate. This man, who spoke of Great Change, isn’t himself capable of change.

  • Dantes

    “It is much too soon to write this President off and, for the sake of the United States and the wider world, one continues to wish him the best.”

    No it is not. A cardinal rule of success is to cut losses quickly. Obama is a total loss. Wishful thinking won’t change that fact.

  • Char

    We are likely to see one or more serious new crises blow up that will give him opportunities to seize the initiative.

    If only 9/11 had happened on Clinton’s watch, he’d have been the president I knew he could have been.

    That’s what they said about Bubba in the aftermath.

    They would have been wrong.

    The man said he finds The Constitution a hinderance.

    Communist mother, communist father, grew up in a socialistic country, schooled in a socialistic religion. Not to mention Haaavaaadddd.

    He surrounds himself w/the people he’s comfortable with, starting w/Bill Ayers & Frank Marshall Davis.

  • Jack

    “the President is no socialist or far-left crusader”

    One of the few court cases of which Obama was an official part was the case against CitiBank. (They wouldn’t lend to people with bad credit.http://www.mediacircus.com/2008/10/obama-sued-citibank-under-cra-to-force-it-to-make-bad-loans/)

    Or Obama’s views on reparations: http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=32892

    Or Obama’s views about Islamic science from his Cairo speech: “and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

    I would classify the above three examples of far left (and reality challenged) mainstream thought.

    You aren’t getting your money’s worth from your current group of researchers.

  • Jack

    Seems to me that WRM view of things is also falling between two stools.

  • David

    Mr Mead- I think you failed. It does not appear that many people who read the article are convinced. Nice try though. I realize you are starting protective mode for the 2012 election and will try to convince everyone that Pres Obama is not a lefty, socialist, etc. But everything he supports says otherwise. Again, nice try.

  • Harold Seneker

    Odds of being re-elected are better than even? Hmm, let’s see.

    The conservative end of the spectrum is energized against him and his fellow leftists (let’s leave aside the quibbling over just how far you have to go to be called a socialist) as they never have been energized before in memory and seem sure to turn out at the polls in truly massive numbers; independents have turned away from him and his fellow leftists in droves, not only in opinion polls but in the voting booth; unions continue to take weakening hits; the idealistic youth vote seems nowhere to be found; his fellow leftists are put out with him for making compromises that do not mollify even independents; even blacks, in a recent poll, are marking down their near-unanimous approval of him a few points. Meanwhile, he continues to make the kinds of gaffes pointed out here on a near-daily basis (everyone’s upset about gas prices, so let’s raise taxes on oil companies – how can anyone suppose that is sensible politics?). Doesn’t add up to even a snowball’s chance in you know where to me.

    His one chance seems to be if the Republocrats nominate a buffoon, of which they have too many running right now, who is perceived as even worse than he is, and so can be beaten even by a far-left Demican like himself. But there are some serious GOP candidates out there in the weeds, too, so one should not be giving big odds on that happening either.

    So I have to echo the question: Why is everyone, even to an extent our good professor here, so hell-bent on glossing over the grievous flaws of and painting lipstick on this (find and insert Politically Correct yet derogatory noun here)?

  • JungleCogs

    Obama was elected with only one mandate; to fix the economy (which he promised he could do). So what did he do? He pushed a bunch of Socialist ideological programs that only make our economic problems worse and our country more broke! Now he wants us to let him do more damage?!!! No thanks. It’s time we put an adult in the White House.

  • MarkJ

    “It is much too soon to write this President off and, for the sake of the United States and the wider world, one continues to wish him the best.”

    Give us a break. You guys were saying this “Give The Bamster a chance!” stuff a year ago and you’ll still be saying it next year too. How many “last chances” does Obama get? If His Majesty had been a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump would have already fired Obama and personally kicked his a** out the door.

  • teapartydoc

    It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone actually thought things would turn out differently than they have.Go and read Ann Coulter’s column back when it was beginning to become apparent that McCain would probably win the nomination and she admitted that she’d been pulling for Romney all along. She tagged The One as the next Jimmie Carter long before the first vote was cast. Every prediction she made in that column has come true.

  • Shawn Dudley

    The President has a very limited and narrow view of both the US and the world, brought on by living in the sheltered environment of both his upbringing and his long time in academia. Simply put he’s never crossed the railroad tracks, lest it ruin the grand ideas in his head. This lack of perspective gives him a very shallow perception of events and prevents him from actually seeking out solutions. He plays it very safe, and as a result suffers more (and we suffer along with him).

    Apart from the psychoanalysis, this president is stuck in his ways because he doesn’t have a pathway to change. His whole staff and entourage is from the same world he is: no one is around him to suggest something else. His biggest fans are in the media, which again works against him because they so busy defending him against Bristol Palin that they can or will not offer contrary views.

    Say what you will for Clinton, he was from Arkansas and knew “Red” America as well as “Blue”, and could slide back into policies that were more conservative without damaging himself politically. He was still shallow, but at least could grasp at the truth on his own. The current president is clueless.

    If you want Obama to reboot, keep dreaming. I suspect not only will he continue to cling to his worldview, he’ll become more petty and crass as he goes, and will eventually lash out at his opponents. If defeated he won’t go quietly, either, and this is the thing that worries me most. I don’t doubt he’s a one term, but I worry about what damage he might do between his election loss and the incoming president’s swearing in.

  • Ralph Gizzip

    Well, Mr. Mead, you voted for Obama to prove you weren’t a racist. Now who will you vote for to prove you’re not an idiot?

    Many of us saw this coming prior to the ’08 election. The signs were there even if the MSM refused to publish them. His association with Ayers and Dorhn. The Rev. Wright and his “church”. Yes, we saw the signs and tried to sound the warning.

  • http://www.aotc.net redmart

    “…at just the moment when the nation craves a strong leader, the President looks weak, dodgy, uncertain.”

    Typical confusion of government by committee.

    “…there is still a lot about American and international politics that is new to him and to some degree alien to his instincts and values.”

    Longhand for rootless. Just consider how and where he grew up.

  • http://2011.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

    Barack Obama doesn’t know how to get people on his side. People got on his side in the past because of things they projected onto him rather than because of traits he himself embodies. Now they can no longer delude themselves that he is what they hoped he would be, and he lacks the core character to take charge and make them support him for who he really is.

    We’ve had our first black president. I look forward to meeting our first SUCCESSFUL black president.

  • Brad

    Obama’s arrogance is so deeply rooted, so incapable of self recognition, that it will be his downfall. Liberalism doesn’t work, and a major adherent to it such as Obama is perpetually pounding square pegs into round holes. Obama makes it worse by constantly insulting those who suggest he try a round peg now and then. Instead, he looks for bigger hammers. The President is an arrogant fool, period.

    I agree with many of the commenters here that Walter is too generous in his assessment of Obama the man.

  • willis

    “While things may still go well, and one devoutly hopes that they do…”

    Really, things may go well? Either Obama will have to acquire knowledge and skills he seems not to have or the way things go will have to cease being affected by his performance. Do either of these things appear realistic to you?

  • Luke Lea

    When he’s on Mead is one of the best.

    Especially quotable: “Here is the paradox we face: The President is a consensus-seeker whose decision making style rewards polarization and a conciliator who loses friends without winning over enemies.”

  • C.Olivas

    Let’s face it. Whatever our president has tried has -basically- failed. The moment he threw his support behind the Libyan rebels, we all knew they were doomed. Alas, the only thing working thus far, is -gasp- the war he was utterly against, Iraq.
    It’s obvious that charisma can only take a leader so far, substance then has to take over.
    Obama has never known hardship, because all those he’s had around him, made life easier for the by-racial seedling.
    That has continued throughout his entire life. I dare say, that we elected our first Affirmative Action President.
    There are those, not unlike you Dr. Mead, that continue to make excuses and carry the water for him; and hope against hope, that he’ll grow up while president.
    Lots of his lefty supporters have written many a lucubration to explain his failures, but the facts remain. He’s in over his head.

    At this point is his presidency, a Carter re-run is now a best-case scenario.

  • thibaud

    Actually, Obama’s problems go deeper than a presumed legalistic bent. In reality, the man was never a skilled or accomplished lawyer. He spent a couple of undistinguished years as a junior associate billing only about 2/3rds as many hours as his peers, and with second-rate clients including ACORN.

    The other red flag about the man’s legal career is his bizarre inability to persuade.

    The test of real oratorical brilliance is not the ability to spin saccharine phrases but to actually move people’s minds and behavior in a different direction than the one they were previously disposed to go in.

    Far from changing minds or increasing popular support, all the evidence so far indicates that the more Obama speaks, the more his audiences OPPOSE his recommended policies.

    In short, the man was never a leader of anyone or anything. He is a narcissist who’s made book, twice, on his most amazing lifestory. Shame on us for elevating such a lightweight to the most demanding office on the planet.

  • tom swift

    The Presidency is a difficult position for anyone. Some men manage to grow into the office, some do not. So far Obama has failed to grow into the office; he remains a small man behind a large desk. There’s nothing in his previous history which leads me to expect that this will change.

    The comparison with Wilson is interesting. But I don’t see Obama’s (or Wilson’s) problem as mainly a lack of political savvy; Wilson would have failed even if he had succeed in his great goal of dragging the US into his new League of Nations, because of his bizarre and weirdly naive ideas about how Europe should be reconstructed on the basis of an ill-fitting (although not so bad, in the pure abstract) Fourteen Points. Obama is on the road to failure as well, because his socialist dream has already failed everywhere, showing us how it will fail here as well, if of course we wish to see. Can Obama really succeed where his socialist predecessors have fared so disastrously? It seems unlikely. He ain’t that good.

    And I don’t buy that “left-liberal” claim; Obama is a socialist, with all that implies – bizarre economic theories and expansive government and bureaucratic control of all aspects of life. The only question is exactly what type of socialist. He’s not a Marxist, exactly. I see more than a few parallels with Mussolini, though Obama seems to lack Benito’s only redeeming feature – unapologetic and unflagging patriotism.

  • JLK

    First I would like to say that the responses to WRM’s blogs are among the best out there on the “net”. Very thoughtful and lacking in the usual schoolyard epithets passing for serious comment.

    Second, I would have to take exception to WRM’s rose tinted hopefulness on Obama changing course, style, ideology or whatever. He is not that “intelligent” if you consider the narrowness of his intellectual capabilities. A Harvard Law degree, by itself, does not translate into effectiveness in the toughest job in the world. He is unable to stretch his thinking beyond the ideology developed over the years including his distaste for “Post Colonialism” that gives him a knee-jerk suspicion of the wielding of power.Ergo his unwillingness to embrace or even accept the majority of the American public’s deep-set belief in “Exceptionalism”.

    Being a nation of disparate immigrants, the US needs that belief for finding common ground on issues that affect the nation or the world. We don’t have the kind of binding thread that the Chinese or Indians have with their long histories of national identity. Even the UK has the Monarchy as a rallying point for the uniqueness of “British” identity.

    For this reason and others we find ourselves at a crossroad in our history with a body politic that is more divided than ever. Worse, our “leadership” is unaware of the meaning of the word. They are followers of the shifting sands of advanced polling techniques. Very few understand that “leadership” means just that…if something needs to be done they need to bring the public along and not just serve up ineffective nostrums for the latest public issue du jour.

    Bandaids are no substitute for policy that attacks the disease and you can’t cure cancer by treating diabetis.
    JLK

  • noahp

    I must admit I stopped reading your piece, Mr. Meade, when you rewrote the history of the “stimulus” package. Where was the compromise? And with whom? The stimulus was designed to support the continued over-spending on education and unionized construction spending. Obama was clearly happy with it and I am sure that he really believed Romer’s projections re unemployment. But actually the stimulus was dwarfed by the deficit spending that resulted from the collapse of federal tax revenue. In Keynesian terms it was basically irrelevant!

    I suppose it would be too much to expect Obama to acknowledge this obvious catastrophe for his favorite economic theory. But one wonders if he even dimly aware of how wrong he is/was.

  • TB

    The article might have been a lot shorter by simply invoking the word “incompetent.”

  • MERLIN

    “We are starting to get to know this President a little better, and his chief besetting fault is increasingly clear: the President falls between stools. He is a man of half measures, a man who spends so much money hedging his bets that he loses even when he wins.” This is a preposterous statement. He pushed through what was far and away the greatest peacetime government spending program in world history. He jammed through a “medical reform” program that would restructure the entire medical sector, without national discussion or even revelation of the content. He has eliminated all drilling for oil in the Gulf, off Alaska, revoked oil leases in Colorado, is working on shutting down coal production, and has done nothing on nuclear. None of these are half-measures. They are hard left policies, which are demolishing the economy. Isn’t this enough?

  • Jaime

    One and out is the appropriate response to Obama. He is, and has been, a total fraud. His decision making errors are not the result of over-intellectualizing (as some apologists claim). Really — what proof do we have that he is any more intellectual than any of his predecessors? What brilliant insight or idea has he ever brought to an issue?

    His problem is that he is a political hack with no history or track record of managing anything or having to make real decisions. Hell, his ongoing rounds of partying and playing, suggest that he really doesn’t even like to work. From the beginning he has been a completely empty vessel into which others have poured their own expectations. Once they have done that, they are reluctant to be called out as fools, so they give him a pass or blame things on someone else (shouldn’t there be an expiration date on the “Blame Bush” strategy?). Poor thing –he confused the preidency with a “position” rather than a job. Obama has held many positions, but it doesn’t appear that he has ever held, or done, a job.

    I will leave it to academics to decide whether he would, as suggested, make a “great professor.” I have no doubt he would be the center of attention in the faculty lounge, but I’m not sure that his students would end up shedding their “skulls full of mush” under his tutelage. As for being on a litigation team. Forget it. I am a litigator, and the last thing you need in serious litigation is some guy who thinks that the most important thing he can do is show up. And judges don’t let you bring a teleprompter into the courtroom.

  • leilani

    Mr. Meade’s essay can be summed up in one sentence: Barack Obama lacks even the most basic skill set which would allow him to be a competent executive even at a middling company let alone in a job requiring him to serve as steward of the largest economy the world has ever known and as Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful armed forces the world has ever seen.

    Which is precisely what so many of those who took an honest & objective look at his slender resume, his history of voting present on contentious political issues in Illinois, his unsuccessful stint managing the Annenberg Challenge Grant in Chicago – the single time he served in any executive capacity at all previous to arriving in the Oval Office, by the way – had feared before his election.

    Barack Obama has talents, to be sure. Being a competent manager & effective executive manifestly just aren’t among them.

    Unfortunately for all of us, the chair at the Resolute desk doesn’t come with training wheels.

  • jetty

    “Politically the odds are still better than even that he will be re-elected.”

    No, the odds are much less than that. In 2008, after 8 years of Bush bashing by the MSM, Obama promised “hope and change” without a record or paper trail, and managed to get only 52% of the popular vote. In 2012, he now has a record (boy, does he ever). He won’t garner more than 43% of the popular vote.

  • drivlikejehu

    Obama most certainly does not have a greater than 50% chance of being re-elected. Maybe Mead should stick to talking about things that already have happened.

  • MGCC

    Just a quick quibble – Bill Clinton’s 12 years as governor of Arkansas consisted of 6 two year terms, not three terms. Remember he lost his first re-election bid in 1980 and re-won the seat in 1982.

  • Charles

    Essentially 45% of people who file pay no federal tax. This is Obama’s cultivated base. Notice his approval ratings are essentially 45% no matter what! Simple plan – give them free medical and no taxes and you have a constituency for life.

  • Ben

    The best analysis of this Presidency I have read anywhere–and by a Democrat nonetheless. It is nice to see analysis not shaped by partisanship.

  • Ed

    You guys are delving way too deep into this. It is simply the old “Peter Principal”. Regardless of his philosophy, the guy is simply in way over his head. You don’t go from Tee ball to Yankee Stadium. This guy missed a million steps along the way. His greatest quality is that he can read a teleprompter. So can I.

  • peteinny

    Obama is the academic ideologue who has had the luxury of debating many alternatives in the faculty lounge without ever having to worry about delivering a result. Unfortunately for him – and for us- he is no longer in the lounge and we need results,

  • JES, Stafford, Va

    Nadine sums it up succinctly. President Obama is a naif, lost in and overwhelmed in his responsibilities of running the government. This incompetence is only part of his problem, the other being his ideology, which forms all of his decision making. I would add a third impediment to a successful Obama administration and that is Mr. Obama has been poorly served by his White House advisers who all share Mr. Obama’s inexperience and ideology. As General MacArthur surrounded himself with sycophants, Mr. Obama has done the same. There is no one to tell him the emperor is without clothing. Lastly, a compliant and complicit media has not challenged Mr. Obama’s lack of leadership, policy or accomplishment This makes for a perfect storm of unelectability, or even worse, a second Obama term. He may just be able to cobble together an coalition of special interest supporters that would vault him over an unimpressive GOP field. That alone, is scary. Thank you.

  • Trent Telenko

    WRM,

    Obama issuing his long form birth certificate changes nothing.

    The Obama birth certificate fiasco was simply a cultural/political lightning rod where people who don’t like Obama for his “not like them” persona to park their emotional/political discomforts or fears.

    The resolution of the issue will simply see some people retain the “birther” problem and others park thier fears & discomforts about Obama on another lightning rod.

  • Peter M. Todebush

    The Liberal thesis consistently ignores ‘economic growth’ as a policy prescription. The ‘private sector’ is the engine of growth. Their prescription is anchored on the public sector through pork, patronage, transfer payments and a 20yr wish list of liberal programs, the heart of over $1.2tril of ‘stimulus’ and ‘investment’. The results are in; the grade is ‘F’. The US has an ‘output gap’ in excess of $1tril, with lagging ‘aggregate demand’, which means the economy is ‘over taxed’. There is NO program in place that promotes ‘private sector’ investment, employment and growth. The true measure of income and spending (deficits) is their relationship to GDP and economic growth. The Reagan years were exemplary in economic growth (average 3% annually), adding 15.8mil jobs in 8yrs, producing revenues (income through tax cuts) of approximately 18.5% of GDP, with spending 19.5% of GDP, and deficits 3% of GDP. The results were declining inflation and interest rates plus growth. Now, give me Obama’s numbers, The other part of the economic equation is the solvency of the three entitlements, which mathematically (demographically) are headed over the ‘proverbial’ cliff. These programs can not be fixed. They have to be reformed. Pick a number; age 50. Everyone above keeps what is in place. Everybody below is converted from ‘defined benefit’ to ‘defined contribution’. The details have been enumerated ‘endlessly’, only to be demonized and ‘fear mongered’ by an ‘hysterical’ liberal establishment that DOES NOT have a solution.

    The health care issue; to be solved from the bottom up by leveling the tax code, competitive interstate health policies, Health Savings Accounts with catastrophic coverage, vouchers, uninsured pools, electable co-pays etc etc etc. You could write a one page bill (already written) rather than top down 2,600 pages creating 108 different agencies, staffed by unelected bureaucrats writing rules and accountable to no one, etc etc etc. The Constitution is 18 pages, the civil rights act of 1964 was 24 pages and the voting rights act of 1965 was 24 pages. A responsible Congress person, in due diligence, could/would never sign off on 2,600 pages that noone understands with rules and regulations to be written. The private sector has competitive solutions that manages the personal needs that is cost effective, driving the expense curve down.

  • tlopes

    The answer to the Obama presidency’s problems are strikingly clear, but human nature rerely minds the wisdom of Akham’s Razor; “the simplest answer is the most logical”.

    As an old headhunter, I would say that the press, by using the conspiratorial efforts of the members of JournoList, which are documented, forced a candidate down the throat of the electorate that simply could not do the job under any circumstances, due to inability and inexperience. The author of this article says the same things, but wishes for the incompetent President to be re-elected. Once again, journalistic departure from reality, being fed to the reading public.

    If you are a board member of a large company, would you vote in a president who was straight out of school, and had no real world experience? If you are a small business owner, would you hire a manager for your shop who had no experience in your field, or any field? If you are a factory worker, would you want to have a co-worker hired in who looked great, but had never worked in manufacturing before, and now you must depend on this unskilled, inexperienced co-worker as you do your job?

    Of course not. But that is exactly what happened in this case. Our press acted like Pravda in the now-perished Soviet Union. We bought their lies and cover-ups, and lack of vetting the candidate (imagine if Bush II had no experience as governor of TX for two terms; had only been in the US Senate less than 2 years).

    Hopefully, this president will lose his attempt to extend his tenure of incompetency, and hopefully, the US voter will never be so deluded again. Ideology is one thing; ideology with no knowledge of how to execute ANYTHING, from never having done so, is a disaster.

  • steve

    well, walter’s really taking it in the shorts over this essay. and as much as I regret to admit it, rightfully so. the preceding commenters have a much clearer grasp of the president’s deficiencies. WRM lays out all the flaws revealed in the past two years, but then distills them into some seriously flawed conclusions.

    and yes, the One is a socialist–if you don’t think so, try coming up with a president who was even close to this extreme. there have been none, even FDR.

  • Cerog

    In short, Obama has little – if any – leadership skills. Leaders stand up for what they believe in. Obama stands for nothing except his own personality cult of “the chosen one”. He knows neither the history of this nation, nor the history of other countries. He has accomplished essentially nothing through his own efforts. Obama is easily the worst president of my lifetime, baring President Nixon. Can we as a people stop electing legislators to executive positions? Please? The next time someone asks me to vote for a senator for president I’m going to say “So what are his real qualifications for the job? Because being a senator sure isn’t one.”

  • TW

    If the Republicans nominate someone serious and non thretening, then Obama is toast. The last few weeks have been very bad for him and the narrative is beginning to form in the publics mind that the man just does not care about his job. He is in full campaign mode and not attending to his duties as president. All he does it talk and talk and most of what he says is pure bull shit and the public knows it. The man is such an arrogant partisian lying prick that the public is tuning him out. Just imaging the publics mood in 20 months when gas is at $6.00 per gallon and his minions are declaring everyone racist for not liking it. We have already seen a preview of his campaigne. The theme is anyone who disagrees with his greatness is a racist, bible thumping, gun toting moron whose views are anti American. That will not sell with independents and middle America. He has already lost affluent suburbanites, soccer moms and middle class whites that shifted to him in the last election. They will not make the same mistake again.

    The era of “Hope and Change” has come to an end. The era of “you [extremely unpleasant — ed] morons” has just begun.

  • Real American

    It seems safe to say that the Obama bubble is bursting.

  • Sage

    So WRM has taken to the notion that the stimulus failed because it was too small? The key question is, if a trillion dollars–with a T–is too little stimulus spending to vindicate Keynesian theory, then perhaps the theory itself is wanting, not the implementation.

  • Miriam

    What you have missed in your otherwise excellent analysis is the underlying motivation for Obama’s poor decision-making.

    Obama is like the fabled monkey who is caught by placing bananas in a box with a hole in it – the monkey reaches through the hole, grasps the bananas, and will not let go of them, remaining stuck to the box, even as the hunter approaches and captures him.

    Obama is by virtue of his basic makeup, a narcissist. He sees every decision through the lens of his own selfish goals. This renders his judgment skewed as he is unable to be objective and see situations for what they really are.

    Also, like the monkey, he is unable to take risks or give up short-term benefits in favor of long-term gain – for himself or for others.

  • Ex-pat in Oz

    I enjoy your centrist perspective because I think most Americans like to think of themselves as pragmatists as opposed to ideologues. But even your tepid measure of this president’s prospects strikes me as too positive and tactical in nature. In the broad historical view, this presidency is a fluke. Unlike other flukes (ie. Truman’s ascension), this individual was poorly equipped to take on a role he fervently sought. Ideology aside, it will be fairly easy for the broad middle to write him off as a mistake and tack back to the natural center-right axis of the political spectrum. Let’s be honest– we all knew he didn’t have what it took back in 2008 and he would have lost if not for the market shock. But we thought we had the luxury of indulging ourselves as an electorate and made the impulse buy.

    The idea of an Obama re-set is fancicful, disingenuous and cynical in the extreme. The idea of an electoral political re-set in 2012 is a far more realistic forecast.

  • Mickey Mouse

    Face it, Mr. author:

    You are a silly rube and you were had by a charlatan. It’s time for you to join the real world.

    Millions of us had Obama pegged the INSTANT we first laid eyes on him; we screamed for 2 years about what was coming and guys like you called us racist flyover fools.

    How does it feel to be dumber than all of us alleged idiots? Listen next time.

  • BlogDog

    How can you possibly see the man who said to his political opposition “I won” and then shut them out of any consideration to be a “consensus-seeker” and a “conciliator?” I’m sorry but I have to say that your reading of the man is fundamentally wrong.

  • austrianguy

    “The stimulus was the same: large enough to stir up the deficit hawks but too small (and too poorly constructed) to launch a “V” shaped recovery.” Ah, Prof. Mead, member of the Church of Neo-Keynesianism – just conjure fiat currency out of thin air and everything gets better! Unfortunately, the truth is more sobering. Since 1980 total US systemic debt has been growing exponentially (thanks to the power of compound interest) at a faster rate than our income (real production net of government and non-profit spending). How long can the U.S. societal “household” last without an honest structural transformation (bye, bye Welfare State)? Prof. Mead still lives in a Krugman-inspired fantasy land that the U.S. can “grow it’s way out” of this predicament by spending unlimited amounts of money (read debt) created out of thin air. If that kind of thinking continues to rule the decision making process, the reckoning will come soon… and it will not be pretty.

  • Mister Lynch

    Good article, but the comments are even better.

    One problem with the hypothetical Obama “reset” button is that he has pushed it multiple times, already. He zigs left, he zags right; he speaks in dulcet professorial tones, then he thunders in indignation using a 6th-grade vocabulary.
    But the problem for him is that he has blown a lot of credibility with the posturing, the backtracking, the “explanations” and the back-room deals.
    Now that he is running for re-election, he has tipped his hand that his strategy is to demonize Republicans, once again showing that he has little to offer Americans hungry for leadership. His sales pitch comes down to: “I am not a mean, greedy Republican”.

  • JeAnna

    As a woman, all I had to do was look at his relationship with his wife, and wonder why he chose to be in a relationship with someone demanding, hostile, whose own father and brother said of her and the two walked away on their first date: “Too bad. She’s going to tear him up.” Only a hard-core appeaser could stay married to that type of high demand woman.

    I’m sure our enemies notice these things too. Then our liberal friends claimed he was the PerFECT candidate yet they knew he had:

    No governing experience,
    No military experience,
    No business experience,
    No economic experience,
    No foreign trade experience,
    No foreign policy experience,
    No energy experience,
    No healthcare experience, and had
    Chicago ties to some very unsavory people like Rezko. The point on all this is that his representative area of Chicago is horrible, and no one else could have run on such a terrible visual record along with a 100+ present votes. I’m still incredulous.

    Roll the tape of him saying that under his plan, electricity costs will “necessarily skyrocket.”

  • dapower

    I had to google a picture of the author to see if he wasn’t black. He’s not, just an historian academic writer…so it still makes sense to me why he wrote what he did about Obama and then comes up with a “glass-half full” conclusion.

    Clearly spending too much time in his ivory tower and not on the streets…I can best sum up what we all know to be true, but he thinks is “too soon”:

    Obama is toast in 2012!…

    No matter who the Republicans nominate.

  • SukieTawdry

    Actually, Bill Clinton served five terms as Governor of Arkansas. He was elected to three two-year terms and two four-year terms. He served two years of his final term.

    I’m afraid President Obama is far too much the ideologue to either change or grow. He’s on a mission to fundamentally change America until it closely resembles a European-style social democracy. The fact that those nations can no longer meet their social obligations seems to matter not at all to him.

    I’m convinced he would be perfectly happy if our economic situation deteriorated to a point requiring across-the-board tax rate increases and the establishment of a VAT, something the left has long wanted. With luck, all entitlements, including ObamaCare, will arrive at that point basically intact and forever enshrined in baseline spending. If this happens, America will never be able to go back to the nation we once were.

    I don’t think the president is particularly concerned about the election. He plans to spend a billion dollars getting re-elected and stills believes in the awesomeness that is Obama enough to think he can pull it off no matter what kind of shape we’re in.

  • DJ

    Barry could significantly affect oil prices if he’d get serious about expanding our domestic supply. Instead..he latches onto a green agenda that threatens to ruin us.

  • Toni

    This essay has knocked my formerly high esteem for its author down by about half.

    To call Obama a “consensus-seeker,” and to cite his “compromises and yielding of significant ground,” is to admit blindness.

    To refer to his “lack of instinctive appreciation for the crooked pathways of the political mindset” is to admit contempt for democracy. What is “crooked” about devising solutions acceptable to the electorate?

    Two years of on-the-job-training has been nowhere near enough to elevate Obama to competence.

    I too wish Obama well. I wish him well out of office.

  • Toni

    To call Obama a “consensus-seeker,” and to cite his “compromises and yielding of significant ground,” is to admit blindness.

    To refer to his “lack of instinctive appreciation for the crooked pathways of the political mindset” is to admit contempt for democracy. What is “crooked” about devising solutions that satisfy the electorate?

    Two years of on-the-job training clearly haven’t elevated Obama to competence.

    I too wish him well. I wish him well out of office.

  • Ralph

    Perhaps Hillary should fly to Moscow and retrieve that reset button from Putin. This country is in sore need of it at this moment

  • JB

    “Also, like the monkey, he is unable to take risks or give up short-term benefits in favor of long-term gain – for himself or for others.”

    I’ve been saying for almost two years – Obama’s is at times a very strong tactician but ultimately a very weak strategist. He set himself up for failure in the spring of 2009, as one thing has inexorably led to another.

  • Michael

    The guy is taking care of friends, screwing everyone else and expects to be reelected on his great personality.
    We are all going to pay for this psychodrama.
    Kudos, Mr Bernacke for playing along.

  • noahp

    Mr. Meade: Has the “blue social model failure” paradigm been discarded? It seems only yesterday you were describing how an astute visionary could satisfy our wants with a politically acceptable program that would return us to a path to prosperity. Clearly, Obama has no such plan. Yes, anemic or even moderately robust growth may appear under the hard Keynesian whip of 1.5T deficits (for surely without them we would remain technically in recession). But even ‘Rosy Scenario’ cannot save us…the math is not even that hard. Malkin recently dug up an old Krugman column from the mid 90’s calling for entitlement reform in light of 1.5T deficits (!) under normal accounting rules.

    I keep asking my lib brothers and sisters why they vote for this nonsense. Crickets and mumbling about Bush and social justice is the response.

    To paraphrase: “you make not be interested in fiscal catastrophe but fiscal catastrophe is interested in you”. But the rich and well connected may escape which includes Obama and a lot of his buddies.

  • Jocon307

    I certainly hope that what is going on in Libya is not “all of NATO’s firepower”. It seems rather to be what our gentle author sees as President Obama’s chief failing: bet hedging, difference splitting, half measures, etc.

    The mere use of such a phrase is indicative of our author’s rhetoric numbed mindset, or else things are far worse than I’ve realized.

    President Obama is a far-left ideologue who, it is now becoming clear, had no idea of what being President might actually entail. He certainly was very little engaged in the tasks of his prior offices, no doubt having seen them as mere stepping stones to the place where he could really “make a difference”.

    Let us not forget, this is a man who said upon his election (or was it nomination, never mind – it doesn’t matter) that he would (finally!) heal the oceans, aid the poor, cure the sick and raise the dead (just kidding about that last part!).

    That is hyperbolic nonsense, and while it seems to have done a good job of turning the heads of those, like Mr. Mead, who believe their own hyperbole, and a certain 10% slice of the American electorate, it was never more than nonsense.

    I like hyperbole too, love it to death, in fact, but you can’t run country on hope, change and malarky.

  • Nadine

    BlogDog asks, “How can you possibly see the man who said to his political opposition “I won” and then shut them out of any consideration to be a “consensus-seeker” and a “conciliator?””

    Obama shut the Republican caucus out of the heathcare debate, saying “I won”. But then he did not take strong stands within the Democratic caucus, alienating the Lefties who wanted him to fight for a public option.

    So your view of whether Obama is the consensus-seeker he claims to be will be different, depending whether you are inside or outside the Democratic fold.

    Within the fold, the Lefties have convinced themselves that Obama made compromises with the (boo! hiss!) Republicans, completely forgetting that the Republicans weren’t even in the room, and the guy who nixed the public option was named Joe Lieberman.

    But as Lefties are wont to do, if they feel it is true, they think it must be true. After all, if the Republicans weren’t so perverse as to oppose Obamacare, it would have passed easily, right? So it has to be their fault.

  • Luke Lea

    Wow! Amazing how one-sided the comments. Not only against Obama but anybody who dares criticize him less vociferously than they do.

    I agree Obama is failing and short of taking up the cause of white, working-class America I don’t see how he is going to pull it out

  • Luke Lea

    The cause of white, working-class America by the way is code for trade and immigration.

  • ConradCA

    There is no doubt that the worst president ever was Johnson. He established the great society which traps our poor into a lifetime of poverty and crime. Even worse he sent 500,000+ soldiers to fight in the Vietnam war while actively working to prevent them from winning. A war that cost 50,000 of our soldiers lives and disaffected a whole generation. There is no president in history that was such a failure for out country.

    I think that Jimmy Carter still has Obama beat as the 2nd worst president. But he still has near 2 years to go to better Jimmy.

    Jimmy Carter is responsible for replacing our friend the Shaw of Iran with the much worse Islamic regime. Obama working to beat this by replacing our Moslem allies through out the region with our enemies – Al Qaeda and the Moslem Brotherhood. We still can’t be sure but it looks like Obama is going to beat Jimmy’s foreign policy accomplishments.

    Carter was too worried about possible Iranian casualties to do the commonsense response to the Iranian occupation of our Embassy declaring war. So he just pontificated demonstrated how helpless the USA was. When he finally authorized a raid to free the hostages it was a complete failure which further demonstrated our weakness.

    The kinetic operation in Libya is the most incompetent war the USA has ever fought. It showed that Obama is a liar as he said “I believe the the president does not have the authority to commit US forces to combat without the approval of Congress.” and then failed to seek their approval. He and his advisors violated the rule of successful war fighting by never having a clear objective. He further violated the rules of successful war fighting by telling the enemy what our self imposed restraints where and by demonstrating a lack of determination for victory by withdrawing US forces and turning the war over to our weak allies. Obama belongs to the Johnson school of war loosing.

    Jimmy Carter looked into the Russian leaders eyes and fell in love, or knew he could be trusted. This idiocy motivated the Russians into invading Afghanistan! Then Carter failed to even try to counter this invasion. Point to Carter.

  • ConradCA

    Obama’s near trillion dollar stimulus was a complete waste. As he later admitted their is no such thing as a shovel ready job after telling us over and over that their were. He might have just poor all that money down a rat hole for all the effect it had on the economy.

  • ndc

    If I were putting together a reading list for a course on the Obama Presidency, this would surely make the list.

  • Larry

    Yeah, it’s really not quite so complex. He’s in way over his head and probably knows it. Nothing in his life has readied him for this job. The genius pose is just that–he knows what he got on his LSAT, for example, even if nobody else ever will.

    Flailing.

  • David Gillies

    The healthcare legislation most certainly will ‘cement his place in history': on one of those lists that amateur historians like to compile, and which always seem to include Polk and Buchanan and Millard Fillmore and Martin van Buren, and never Lincoln or Madison or Teddy Roosevelt.

    Obama’s chief failing is his galactic level of hubris. He actually thinks he’s as smart as his most enthusiastic hagiographers make him out to be. But he has no hinterland. He has no track record. Even as lacklustre a President as Chester Arthur at least had the administration of a major port under his belt. Obama is a neophyte, but too arrogant to admit it. Well, we all know what inevitably follows hubris.

  • 2ipa

    Well, Mr. Walter Russell Mead, you’ve gotten close to the measure of the man, for an ivory tower liberal, but your conclusions are all wet.

    I’m afraid that you’ve been totally schooled by Mickey Mouse at 3:25 pm!

  • http://1389blog.com 1389AD

    Bzzzzzt, WRONG!

    The real problem with Obama is not that he and his administration are falling between two stools. His real problem is twofold:

    1) Socialism never works. Ever.

    2) Appeasing an implacable totalitarian enemy (in this case, Islam) never works. Ever.

    And as far as his deliberate attempt to ruin the US by forcing fuel prices to skyrocket, the proper response is to put the blame back where it belongs – on Obama and his administration – and to keep it there until 2012 and beyond:

    Gas Pump Activism: Print This Poster!

  • Luke Lea

    Commenters are throwing around the word “socialism” with abandon. When the federal government took over GM, that was socialism. When it bailed out Wall Street with few strings attached, that was crony capitalism. Let’s call a spade a spade.

  • Jim

    Ideology aside, Obama’s biggest deficit is his leadership style. Sure, he hedges too much. But that’s just a function of hesitancy to make decisions and his failure to act.

    A successful leader must be ‘the decider’ and have a bias to action. Obama sorely lacks in both these areas.

  • http://www.david-prentiss.com Dave Prentiss

    Very helpful analysis. Perhaps a distillation of the many insights you present is that President Obama lacks the judgment (prudence) that a political leader and statesman needs. Sound and extensive background knowledge, the ability to identify and weigh the range of factors relevant to an issue, thinking through the necessary means to achieve the desired end, and the character/temperament/self-knowledge needed to say and act just the right way in light of all the above – in all of these areas he seems to have significant deficiencies. The ironic(and telling)anecdote for all this is the talk of Team of Rivals during the transition period. I don’t think so!

  • Don

    Given the damage Obama is causing to our country, we are left to wonder if he is simply incompetent or is Obama intentionally attempting to destroy our economy and our Nation. I suspect that most people don’t want to believe that he wishes to destroy America. But, the last option is something that we as a people are starting to consider and in growing numbers. It’s really very, very sad that Americans must consider this reality.

    I fear that we are truly at risk with this President; a President in name only who seems intent on gaining power and control over practically every aspect of our lives.

    We see more and more evidence of an ongoing assault on our country, our industries, the economy and our individual lives; from the EPA’s attempt to circumvent congress and enforce cap and trade by bureaucratic means, the attempt to bring back the “Fairness” Doctrine, the clear attempts to deceive the public about US oil exploration and development, efforts to shore up unions in Wisconsin, a likely misallocation of stimulus funds to support unions, his take over of GM and Chrysler and his foul and unfair treatment of Chrysler’s bond holders, and the attempted radical takeover of our health care system.

    His misplaced loyalties are evident in the undermining our traditional allies (the UK) and an alarming lack of support for the security of Israel. His treatment of Egypt’s Mubarack has now created a deep distrust with the Saudis. His failure to deal with threats along our border with Mexico threaten our national security and peace of mind.

    On the economic front, policies like “quantitative easing” – borrowing money like there is no tomorrow and refusing to tackle the issue of job creation and inflation, and placing our interests under control of the WTF are adding to a rising concern that our nation is more and more at risk with each passing day.

    He has no time to address concerns with his legitimacy and deal with core issues, but he has time to appear on Opra go into full-bore campaign mode having one and one-half years left before elections.

    One must wonder if the goal is to create problems and then before the next election, ride in and with the help of a corrupt press, and create the illusion that all is well in order to assure his re-election. If this is the calculus, I think both Obama and the major elite media will belatedly discover the American people are smarter than they thought.

    The issue with his birth certificate speaks volumes – not so much about the certificate but that a growing number of Americans doubt Obama’s loyalty to this country. Clearly this President is so out of step with American values and the core of the country, and so self-serving, it is no wonder that people question his place of birth. If there is a silver lining it may be that like other narcissistic people, he will eventually be defeated – by himself.

  • Mike M.

    I see little to no evidence that Obama is a consensus seeker. He sought no consensus at all from the opposite side on the health care bill, he adamantly refuses to make significant cuts in the bloated federal budget, and he got the United States involved in yet another war in the Middle East without even seeking consensus from his own side, much less the other side.

  • Anthony

    “Like any officeholder, the president plays a dual role in that he must satisfy the major interests of corporate America and at the same time make a show of serving the people. He differs from other politicans in that the demands and expectations of his office are greater and therefore the contradictions deeper. More than any other officeholder, he deals with the overall crises of capitalism, for he is the national executive, but also the only nationally elected leader (along with the vice-president, of course), and hence the focus of mass attention and mass demand. So the president, even more than other politicans, is caught between the demands of democracy and the one percent who own forty percent of country’s wealth.

    Therein lies the conundrum betwixt and between so much President Obama commentary vis-a-vis WRM’s “Falling Between Two Stools.” The 99%, who contest for the remaining 60%, want the only elected officeholder accountable to a national constituency to solve the nation’s problems and ameliorate economic/social tensions within the prism of their subjective expectations while inattentive to U.S. structural realities. The president’s role may be extensive but are we asking him to address the ‘common interest’ or the ‘special interest’ of the common system given our predilections?

  • http://www.culturewarnotes.com Steve Kellmeyer

    We can suppose that he lacks political instincts (how did he beat Hillary?), that he’s off his true game (how did he get ObamaCare through?) or we can posit that he’s as stupid as a bag of hammers.

    I think the evidence for the last proposition is strongest.

    Instead of getting a real man, like Allen West, we got [some awkward racial references deleted — ed].

  • MaxMBJ

    Astute analysis. This hedging nature of Obama is on display when he plays basketball. As a former player myself, I immediately could see a cautious, passive man on the court. He trash talks before and after the game, but while on the court he is always looking to pass, avoiding contact, slowing the game up.

    He isn’t going to change his basic nature. The best he can hope for is to get better advisors who stop whispering praise in his ear and start roaring some good advice.

  • Jim

    A well written piece, but does not get to the heart of the matter.

    First, his beliefs. On virtually every front from Keynes to class-warfare, to foreign policy, his socialist world-view blows up in his face when it meets reality.

    Second, the author describes a personality but doesn’t name it; he is a petulant child, coddled all his life without preparation for the largest job in the world. For any realist, the fact that the media can deliver an untried, untested narcissist to the Presidency is frightening indeed.

  • bob`

    Recently the President created a bipartisan deficit commission to come up with a long term strategy to deal with runaway debt. After they finished their work, he dismissed their recommendations and deflected from the subject.

    Basically he voted “present” when dealing with what many believe to be an existential and near term threat to our republic.

    That’s not compromise, that’s cowardice. It needs to be called out as such.

  • Victor Erimita

    I think you misread Obama when you say he is a consensus seeker. I remember a story told by someone who served on the Harvard Law Reivcew when he was president of that. He said Obama would listen to two sides of a dispute, and after he had replied both parties would come away with the impression he agreed with them. That isn’t building consensus. It’s playing both sides. It’s creating the illusion of consensus. One of Obama’s favorite ploys has been to accuse others of posing “false choices.” He is supposed to be able to see the deeper unifying principles beneath what others see as irreconcilable differences, hence the notion that a choice between the two is “false,” or unnecessary. But, aside from the fact that Obama himself is constantly using false choices of his own by creating straw men to argue against and imputing positions ot his opponents that they don’t actually hold, he doesn’t see any deeper unlying unities. He just tells both sides what they want to hear. Many were fooled by this ploy in 2008, and it appears many still are. But millions of voters have seen through Obama’s ploy. He seeks no consensus. He seeks to push hi agenda by any means necessary, including the now-transparent pose of enlightened compromise. Phooey.

  • Anthony

    How does the American presidency work and for what purpose? What are major forces shaping presidential leadership and how do they operate? Is President Obama consequence of the greatest show on earth (the presidential contest per se) the form of republican goverment with little of the substance? Comments on “Falling Between Two Stools” imply dissatifaction with present occupant at Pennslyvania Ave. but failure to critique the lesser-of-two-evils appeal that remains a cogent feature of Presidential elections. That is, we Americans are not so much offered a choice as forced into one every four years. And Obama, though dissapointing to many, fundamentally represents national interests within overarching framework of elections, parties, media, and voters. Review his executive appointments of Thursday eve regarding CIA, Pentagon, NSC, and Afganistan. All historically representative of U.S. interests both domestically and internationally. So for the Obama disparagers, the question is on a most fundamental level, beyond partisan rhetoric or personal predilections, are the governing differences among Obama/Bush/Clinton/name your President large policy differences impacting U.S. structural interests negatively? The upshot is no. The Obama angst among the electorate obfuscates old cleavages of class, religion, race, region,status seeking/social climbing, and ideological alignment.

    The above is not to deny significant differences vis-a-vis U.S. debt policies going forward or differences in long term delivery of medical service and its rising cost. The point is the national priorities are very similar at bottom no matter occupant in White House.

  • Geo-logic

    Nailed it.

    I’ve never seen anyone more capable at consitently making the worst possible choice. Whatever you think of his policies, his decision making ability is simply terrible. He seems to think he will just speak and a bunch of stuff will then be solved. He lurches from crises to crises without any plan or preparation. I feel like he is secretly muttering “Oh now what?” every time something comes up. He waves people off with “whatever, just make something happen.”

  • nohype

    “…the President looks weak, dodgy, uncertain” because he is weak, dodgy, uncertain. This is the expected result when we elect “an untested and inexperienced Senator.” You have the pieces and the evidence, but you refuse to follow them to the logical conclusions.

  • glenn

    Here’s another problem. Reagan had an enthusiasm, optimism and love for America that was contagious. Nobody believes that about Obama. He scolds everyone from ordinary citizens (“clinging to guns and religion” and foolishly concerned about gas prices) to millionaires (who, he never misses an opportunity to tell us, are dishonest and tax cheats). The only enthusaism I’ve seen from him was about the NCAA basketball tournament.

    It’s hard to get enthused about the economy — or anything else — when the President’s dejection, pessimism and anger are palpable.

  • Anthony

    Afghanistan, NSC, CIA, and Pentagon each a presidential decision addressed by President Obama this week. Perhaps Obama’s role as chief executive, chief legislator, head of state, party leader, and commander-in-chief underwhelms his detractors but for all intents and purpose he remains image of nation. So, is he reassuring to interests that matter at home and abroad as the embodiment of sustained global capitalism, despite his heretofore thin leadership resume?

  • FlashHarry

    Any consideration of the current president should begin with the fact that he has always concealed virtually the entire paper trail of his existence. Practically every personal record and document from Obama’s past has never been released or allowed to be subjected to any sort of scrutiny.

    Barack Obama was presented in 2008 as a brilliant intellectual with stellar Ivy League credentials whose cool low key style would transform the culture of Washing, leading America into a new harmonious postracial era with an administration of great transparency, all while achieving miracles of bipartisan cooperation.

    It has become quite apparent to rational people of all political persuasions how that ridiculously naive wishful fantasy has really played out.

    There exists a widespread and growing international speculation that an objective examination of Barack Obama’s extensive hidden paper trail would clearly reveal that his meteoric rise up the educational and career ladders was largely the result of multiple affirmative action preferences and an adoring uncritical mainstream media, and that his vaunted intellect was greatly exaggerated.

    In short, Barack Obama is just another left-posing big city machine politician, with more than a touch of narcissism and a proven record of ruthless self-serving dealmaking, who has cleverly used his race to get ahead and get over, and has clearly demonstrated his allegiance to international corporate and financial interests.

  • Simeon

    It is obvious this article appeals to a certain group, having said that, I think considering what a mess the President inherited, he is doing a fine job so far. Aside from the core opposition to President Obama, most Americans agree with this point of view and are more than likely to re-elect the President in 2012. What the majority of the American people want is a stable and competent leadership. Anericans are tired of reckless politics both at home and abroad. A number Presidents have played fast and loose with US political interests and the nations economy with a wink and smile, only to leave a mess behind. President Obama’s style may not appeal to all and most certainly to a core group (they know who they are), but, for the majority of Americans, it is exactly what they want. As for the issues of the stimulus, auto industry bail-out and the health care, the majority of Americans who have and are benefiting from these policies, no complaints from them, and I doubt if President Obama sees them as victories that came with a price. The economy is improving, the country is safe from terrorism, various dictators are on the run or gone. The question is do you consider American prestige to be Iraq of George W. Bush or inspiring citizens to take up arms against their own dictators? I think the majority of Americans would support the later and in a democracy the majority is paramount.

  • Anthony

    Economic output 1.8%; jobless claims 429,000 for week ending 4-22-11; consumer prices up 3.8% from last year; price of gas 35% higher than year ago; dollar declines versus major currencies; home prices could decrease 10 to 25% before bottom; Americans “anxious, pessimistic, defensive,….” Can we blame Obama for economic conditions worsening in America or are there systemic issues beyond President’s power to control (not minimizing consequences of his actions) and if so, does replacing Obama in 2012 improve country’s mood, systemic issues, and economy? Will changing the face of ‘national executive’ address country’s general sense of apprehensive uneasiness?

  • LindaB

    I think your take on Obama’s approach to negotiation all wrong. You suggest that the opposition asks for double what they need so they can get exactly what they want in the end. Duh! Of course. That is what a good negotiator will do, no matter who the President is. And Obama understands that. If there is any fault here, it is that Obama’s team does not ask for double what they want, so they end up with less. I for one am tremendously grateful that he is our President right now. The thought that we might have unstable McCain and shallow and callow Palin making decisions is more than frightening.

  • Nadine

    LindaB, I think you have mistaken style for substance across the board.

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