That Obama's learning curve is broken emerges in his current befuddled optimism: about Congress (yes, worthy partners all), or economics (the audacity of re-hawking Summers), or Russia (my buddy Putin). I think I can, I think I can. That adds to his woeful past record of getting snookered by reckless generals, like promoting nutcase Gen. McChrystal or backing Gen. Patraeus' costly, doomed surge, with prescribed thresholds. Afghanistan wobbles like bombed-over Iraq, and drone excesses only cement our infamy as hated invaders.
Obama boasts one asset Bush can't match: no cadre of power brokers elevated this long-shot, a distinction on par with status as first minority president. Unlike Dubya and Reagan (handpicked governors to launch White House runs), or JFK (paternally-anointed senator, then president), or Bush I (riding a family dynasty), Obama's personal ambition let him do it his way. Alas, his lousy outcome undermines the democratic spirit of rugged individualism: the self-driven, self-made guy performed little better than party hacks raised up by power elites.
Celebrity popularity contest
Today's stalemate defines governance as gamesmanship that worships the status quo. Or regression, measured by Speaker Boehner's eye-opener: judge us by what we repeal. Structural gridlock gets punctuated with a four-year circus of campaigning, fundraising, and media hype, spewing forth more TV celebrity politicians. Indeed, politics now mimics TV, with duplicative shows and stars every season that produce crude popularity galas: who's the lesser bonehead, who comes across as "genuine," who inspires more fire-breathing zealots.
Oddly, while modern White Houses continue to concentrate power, it's no thanks to high competence at the top, with an array of mighty mites over-matched by the times or their staffs or D.C. momentum. Carter's singular merits surfaced after escaping Washington. Reagan starred so well as hands-off CEO few noticed big differences when senility hit. Clinton's improbable ascension (surviving trailer trash) only encouraged him to overplay his hand and mouth, redeemed thanks to the subsequent Cheney goon show. Initially Dubya lucked out by following the immoral Clinton, then parlayed 9/11 to unleash the darkest rightwing forces, all the while managing record-breaking vacation time that ended in a pit of unpopularity.
Finally, Obama, despite intelligence (except on war or Constitutional law) and grace facing unending racist attacks, limps home as lame-duck hypocrite. If Obama's negatives ever reach Dubya's, our first Hawaiian president might rethink the appeal of having a Kenyan birthright. That way, per the Peter Principle, he'd likely have retired after a lengthy, distinguished Senate career. More's the pity.
1 | 2