Jobs, jobs, jobs. Throughout the presidency of Barack Obama, Americans have been preoccupied with jobs. Unemployed people need work. The underemployed need more work. The employed want salaries that go up instead of down.
The rich are worried too. The Depression of 2008-? is killing their stock portfolios.
Most presidents struggle to find the pulse of the people. Trapped in the D.C. bubble, they try to find out what voters want. Obama was lucky. He didn't have to do that. The U.S. was in the midst of an epic economic collapse in January 2009, and has been ever since. It's the only issue that everyone, rich to middle to poor, cared about. It still is.
In this single-issue environment, any idiot could have been a successful president. All Obama had to do was express sympathy and understanding while announcing a bunch of jobs initiatives.
Weirdly, though, Obama has focused on everything else except jobs: health care, gays in the military, gays getting married, more war against Afghanistan, new war against Libya, secret wars against Somalia and Yemen, the dreary showdown over taxes, budget cuts and the federal debt ceiling.
According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Obama's approval rating is down to 39 percent. The crappy economy -- and Obama's inaction -- is the simple cause.
"What Happened to Obama?" Drew Westen asked in a much-passed-around New York Times op-ed. It used to be just me. Now everyone sane agrees that Obama's presidency has failed.
This is my favorite part of Westen's postmortem:
"Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues."
Westen is nicer than I am. He left out the fact that Obama had an undistinguished career as a U.S. Senator.
Is Obama a secret pawn of evil plutocrats? Does he suffer a character flaw alluded to in Westen's piece, that he doesn't know who he is?
Maybe. But I don't think so. I think eight years of George W. Bush caused Americans to make a mistake. Obama was calm, so they assumed he was wise.
Obama is calm. He's calm that it's hard to tell if he's sentient. But that doesn't make him smart. Based on his record before and after becoming president, there's a better-than-even chance that he's not very smart.
Let's be logical. Let's assume that appearances don't lie -- that Obama doesn't lose a wink of sleep over the fact that he's presiding over a disaster that makes 9/11 look like a joke.
Let us further stipulate, for the sake of argument, that Obama isn't stupid. That he's merely another cynical and/or corrupt politician. If nothing else, Mr. Cynical (But Intelligent) Dirtbag ought to care about getting reelected.