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Questioning What Went Wrong

Politico’s Arena section recently featured back-to-back questions for discussion. “Obama’s Charisma, Where Did He Leave It?” was followed by “Should Obama hit the reset button on the White House?” Well, that speaks volumes, huh?

Like a Saturday Night Live skit, the questions depend on shared understandings that Obama isn’t who the liberal intelligentsia once thought he was and that his presidency isn’t doing so well. One of the ordinary folk who chimed in on the topic of charisma, reminded readers that not all of us thought Obama was so charismatic to begin with:

Lest you forget: millions of people, me included, never found Obama charismatic at all. Half the country, the truth to tell. I voted against a Democrat for the first time in over 40 years because of his candidacy – he always seemed to me exactly as he has turned out- a man who probably can take a test well, but has zero imagination, a man who thinks leading is telling people what he wants (though he sometimes doesn’t even do that), a man who constantly speaks ambiguously in order to always have an out.

But a great many people, ignoring the vapidity of Obama’s rhetoric about lowering the oceans and “we are the world,” did think s0 and were in full swoon. Now they no longer are. That includes a great many self-styled moderates and many members of the liberal media. The import is clear for the presidency: Obama is neither galvanizing the public opinion nor leading. His countless health-care speeches have done nothing to sway public opinion on ObamaCare. Even the rest of his agenda (e.g., cap-and-trade, card check) seems to be on permanent hold. His decisions on Guantanamo and KSM have been wildly unpopular. And on the world stage, the IOC, the mullahs, and the parties in the Middle East — well, just about everyone — are unmoved by Obama’s supposed mystique.

So we move to the “reset” question: since his poll numbers are tumbling and his agenda is on the skids, shouldn’t he do something about it? Well, we get bizarrely self-contradictory advice (“Resetting toward an agenda that creates jobs quickly and kicks Wall Street speculators in the face will make President Obama and the Democrats very popular next November.” Uh. . . I think Wall Street is where the investment for job growth comes from). There are others who just want to tough it out. Still others are dreaming of a different presidency altogether (“Imagine if he admitted that spending cuts and free trade, not tax hikes, bailouts for unions, and protectionism, were the keys to prosperity.” Well, that was the other 2008 candidate, I think.) And Lanny Davis says it’s the media’s fault. (My, how things have changed.)

But so far, the Obami themselves show no concern over their political belly flops. They don’t seem to be on the verge of a reset, and those who presided over a shockingly unsuccessful first year don’t appear to be in danger of losing their jobs.

Well, in politics as in life, the answers are sometimes not as critical as the questions. And in the case of Obama, the most telling query on everyone’s lips is: what’s wrong with this president? Well, plenty – but until he thinks so, we’ll be getting more of the same.


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