As the president embarked on an odd bus trip into the Midwest this week – what the Mitt Romney campaign dubbed the “Magical Misery Tour” – Gallup said Mr. Obama’s job approval rating has sunk into the 30s.
Kind of like the economy.
The trip is official business, not campaigning, and a total coincidence, the White House claimed, that the three-day excursion included Iowa, scene of this past weekend’s Republican straw poll. This way, taxpayers can foot the bill.
Now seems a bizarre time for some sort of victory lap for this president. But he seems stuck in the groove of campaign mode, unable to actually govern us out of this historic quagmire.
“When many critics, including Democrats, are clamoring for Obama to do something big on the economy,” writes the Los Angeles Times, “a three-day jaunt down America’s backroads could end up looking like just the opposite.”
Even the liberal establishment is crying out for leadership from the Obama White House.
“Anyone hungering for a robust vision to invigorate the economy and increase employment is still hungry,” The New York Times wrote a week ago of Obama’s unmoving, unconvincing pep talk as the markets nosedived around him. Indeed, the Dow fell another couple hundred points after Gipper Jr.’s speech.
What has happened to the next Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator? Why does the soaring rhetoric now fail him? How could he have laid yet another egg such as his inconsequential stock market pitch?
The answer is twofold: He’s got nothing new left in the bag to sell; and his lame lectures delivered from on high, in which he blames everyone and everything around him as if he’s not a part of the country’s leadership infrastructure, have become predictable, wearying harangues.
A third answer, which one simply must entertain after nearly three years of his chasing parked cars, is that this man is all style and no substance.
As The New York Times wonders – where’s the president’s plan? Where’s the vision? Where’s the innovation?
Weren’t we the ones we’ve been waiting for?
Consider, too, what liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote after the stock market yawner: “(T)he most powerful man in the world seems strangely powerless, and irresolute, as larger forces bring down the country and his presidency.”
History may record that this presidency was, at this moment, stalled at a crossroads. Does he continue down the dead-end of rigid, spread-the-wealth-around, class-warfare socialism? Or does he finally agree, as he promised in his campaign, to go through the federal budget line item by line item to eliminate waste and unnecessary bureaucracy? Does he follow through on his oft-stated pledge of entitlement reform?
Does he stop “leading from behind” as his own entourage put it?
The public is increasingly skeptical of the president’s leadership and fatigued of his empty platitudes.
“Obama’s leadership lacking as markets plunge,” blared an editorial headline in The Star Press in Muncie, Ind. The editorial called his market speech a “pathetic” effort, wondering, “Is anybody listening to President Obama? Apparently not... Instead of leadership from the White House, we got slogans.”
Noting that Obama should have offered his bland reassurances before the markets opened, the newspaper wrote, “America needed a clear sign of the president’s leadership, and he failed to deliver.
“And when Obama did address the American people, he offered no substance and certainly no clue that he knows how to handle this mess.”
What Mr. Obama could have done, writes The (Washington) Examiner, was “for the greater benefit of the country, shed all pretense of political posturing and simply told the truth about the situation we are in.” Instead, what we got was “vintage Obama: political double talk with a sprinkling of empty promises and baseless accusations of selfish intentions on the part of opponents. What it was not was presidential leadership.”
And even in the Deccan Herald newspaper in India: “A politician who was elected on the promise of a different kind of leadership is having difficulty in projecting any kind of leadership. The U.S. economy remains in doldrums and Americans are blaming Obama now. He can no longer blame George W. Bush.”
Barack Obama let another leadership opportunity slip through his fingers last week. He’s running out of time to show that he has any hope of rescuing either his presidency or the country.