Nine days ago, I wrote a post called “Obama’s Presidency Hangs by a Thread.” I said then that Obama “is largely notable by his absence, which is itself the result not only of not knowing what to do but also apparently believing it is better for the world if he remains a minor player as a bloodbath approaches in the Middle East and something more ominous seems to be approaching in Japan.”
What a difference nine days makes—or not. Because the Obama presidency is again hanging by a thread, but this time the thread is not the result of inaction. It is, rather, the result of taking action so incomprehensible and incoherent that even Obama’s own people are finding it impossible to defend or explain (thus the already notorious coinage yesterday of the term “kinetic military action” to describe the firing of 170 missiles and the destruction from the air of Libyan facilities).
As of now, there’s no reason anyone would cast a vote in 2012 directly based on what happens in Libya. But handling something this peculiarly means the president is on the verge of convincing all kinds of people that he’s either not the man they voted for (on the Left) or that he’s in over his head (not only people who dislike him already but independents who took a chance on him in 2008).
And there are other gloomy portents on the horizon. Rasmussen Reports revealed yesterday that 23 percent of Americans think the country is on the right track. The right-track number is among the most important in all of polling; if it’s not at least above 40 at the time of an election, an incumbent president does not have a prayer of winning a second term. It’s a very long time (in polling terms) till Election Day 2012, but without question, Obama has a climb ahead of him.
And here’s why that right-track number might not rise: Macroadvisers, an economic forecasting firm, predicted that first-quarter growth this year would be 4 percent. This morning it revised that estimate downward—to 2.1 percent. It’s really simple: If the economy remains anemic while the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, The One will be The One Term no matter who runs against him.
But if Obama decides to get serious and decides the U.S. must succeed in Libya, and ceases looking feckless and unprepared for the consequences of his own actions, then the thread from which his presidency is hanging will reconstitute itself into a lifeline.