Perhaps this is the “change” portion of the agenda.
In recent days, President Barack Obama has eclipsed his unflappable campaign image, exposing himself as man with a melting point, a Mr. Once-Cool turned hot. After 18 months, his approval ratings continue to drop as his losses outpace his wins and his rock-star status of 2008 feels more garage-band as the dog days of summer descend on deflated Washington.
The media, even those squarely in his corner, are using words like snappish, on the edge, even testy and defensive to describe Mr. Obama’s response to an increasing host of issue woes that have tested his administration’s ability to govern and strained his loping, athletic portrait and sleek “I’ve got this” visage. It appears that as his frustration mounts, confidence even among some Democrats has waned, his considerable influence declining as he stumps for vulnerable congressional candidates with a midterm election looming.
“It’s clear the President is finding the job more challenging than he anticipated,” observes GOP strategist Cheri Jacobus of Obama’s public whining. “Governing is not campaigning, and making promises is quite different than keeping them – especially when the details are revealed."
“While there is an obvious personality flaw emerging with Obama’s recent snappishness, of considerable concern is that the job of President seems too big and too difficult for him to handle,” adds Miss Jacobus, who serves as president of Capitol Strategies PR.
“His recent claim that this has been the most challenging 18 months or any 18-month period since the 1930’s was very telling – and even more alarming. Especially since he has a Democrat-majority House and Senate,” she said. “It appears he may not be up to the job even in the easiest of circumstances.”
The BP oil spill, still churning in the stained Gulf Waters, is fast becoming Mr. Obama’s own Katrina-stye debacle. As oil drifts toward Gulf beaches and wildlife estuaries, it is bound to get worse, even if the leak is somehow plugged. Some television stations are now broadcasting running meters of just how many gooey gallons – 12,000 to 19,000 per day by government estimates — continue to pour into once clear blue waters, the urgency increasing even as President Obama uneasily shifts course on responsibility for the growing disaster. Where is his Brownie to blame? The Minerals and Management Service seems a less juicy substitute for someone hapless to take the fall.
First his White House asserted that the global oil giant was in charge of the spill, but then last Wednesday, the President seemed to reverse that tact, “defensively and sometimes testily,” the Associated Press described, asserting that he took full responsibility “to make sure this thing is shut down.”
But his BP disaster talk — “plug the damn hole” – was not the first time his remarks turned blunt. Karl Rove, the White House adviser to former President George W. Bush, described Obama’s incivility on the job as “sulfuric rhetoric.”
“For a man who is enormously self-aware, Mr. Obama could also use a little bit more self-awareness. He should consider how powerful – and inappropriate – a model he sets by his own frequent course and uncivil language.”
Just this past week, in a closed meeting with Senate Republicans – the first in a year — the discourse turned rancorous, causing some to dub Mr. Obama “thin-skinned.”
“He needs to take a Valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans” said Sen. Pat Roberts, in an account of the meeting reported by the Washington Post.
“This is closed press,” Mr. Obama reportedly chided Sen. John Barrasso, suggesting that he was playing to the cameras that were not in the private confab.
Not that such a meeting moved his agenda forward. Some senators questioned his motives with larger issues like financial and healthcare reform continuing to divide Congress and voters. They chided the President for his partisanship and his distance from their concerns.
““The pattern is they’re pretty good at reaching out when they need you, and when they don’t, they don’t mind running over you,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham last week to Politico.
“The distrust level right now is pretty high among our guys — and on both sides,” Mr. Graham said.
As the pressure mounts, Mr. Obama must take notice that a majority of Americans say they don’t’ like what they are seeing. And that his message of hope and change has been squandered through a seeming “I know what’s best for you” internalization.
Miss Jacobus, in a column she writes for The Hill, described his behavior as “presidential petulance,” calling Mr. Obama “weak but hardly humbled.” Mr. Obama, she added, “is in dire need of a tutorial on how to win friends and influence people."
“Senate Republicans have been smacked over the head with the olive branch too many times, so the dearth of trust should come as no surprise,” she writes. “Obama’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach is truly stinking up the joint.”
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