Losing his grip

Rising number of political brush fires spell trouble for the Obama presidency

He’s still got a few months to pull it together. But by nearly every measurement, the Obama presidency is unraveling.

When our heretofore unheard-of Commerce Secretary John Bryson was cited over last weekend for ramming several cars with his own in separate accidents in California, Mr. Obama’s press secretary did everything he could to dodge questions about it.

“This White House has too many other pileups to deal with,” wrote liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank.

“Job growth has stalled, the Democrats have been humiliated in Wisconsin, the attorney general is facing a contempt-of-Congress citation, talks with Pakistan have broken down, Bill Clinton is contradicting Obama, Mitt Romney is outraising him, Democrats and Republicans alike are complaining about a ‘cascade’ of national-security leaks from his administration, and he is now on record as saying that the ‘private sector is doing fine.’

“Could it get any worse?”

Maybe.

Heat was dialed up in Congress this past week for that embattled Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over his abject failure to assist in getting to the bottom of the disgraceful “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal. Someone in Holder’s bailiwick authorized U.S. agents to purposely allow high-powered guns to get into the hands of mega-dangerous Mexican drug cartels. Hundreds were shot with them, including U.S. Border

Patrol agent Brian A. Terry, who was slain.

“One year ago today,” CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson reported late last year, “Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was gunned down in Arizona near the Mexican border by illegal immigrants armed with weapons from the now-infamous ATF ‘Fast and Furious’ gunwalking operation.”

It’s a scandal, pure and simple. But Holder’s handling of it has become another one. You would think an attorney general would be the first person to want to get to the bottom of a case in which his own agency’s bungling led to the death of one of his agents. But Holder has obstructed Congress at nearly every turn, and faces a possible contempt-of-Congress vote later this week.

“I would say that you leave me no alternative but to join those that call upon you to resign your office,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told him last week.

Then there are the eye-popping, broad-based leaks of national security information – about the Osama bin Laden raid and, more recently, a New York Times story detailing Obama’s personal involvement in a secret “kill” list of terror suspects. The leaks have also exposed a U.S. double agent in Yemen and U.S. “cyber” tactics against Iran.

The leaks, folks on both sides of the aisle agree, seem calculated only to puff up Mr. Obama’s image.

“A really disturbing aspect of this,” says Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., “is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the president’s political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security.”

This is a wholly bipartisan concern. Democrats and Republicans joined each other on Capitol Hill to demand accountability for the leaks.

“What we’re seeing ... is an Anschluss, an avalanche of leaks,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on CNN. “And it’s very, very disturbing. It’s dismayed our allies. It puts American lives in jeopardy. It puts our nation’s security in jeopardy.”

When a Democratic president has Dianne Feinstein nipping at his heels, he knows he’s in big trouble.

Holder has tried to call off the dogs by appointing two of his U.S. attorneys to investigate the leaks. Such a probe, by political appointees under Holder, won’t have much credibility, and some have called for a special counsel to investigate – which you can bet the Obama camp would love to put off until after the November election.

One thing the administration can’t put off, which may make the president’s summer even worse: The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on “Obamacare” and the administration’s challenge to the Arizona illegal immigration law. Both rulings have the capacity to further embarrass the president – particularly if the health care law, his chief legislative triumph, is rolled back.

For now, the intelligence leaks simply make the administration look desperate, cheap and pathetic – even to committed liberals.

“What is remarkable about the recent leaks is the coincidence,” writes the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen “... that (the leaks) all made the president look good, heroic, decisive, strong and even a touch cruel ...

“The leakers set out to blow a mighty trumpet for Obama. It came out, however, like a shrill penny whistle.”

One of the few unscripted moments of his three years in office – and you can now see why there aren’t many of them – came recently in a rare press conference in which he oddly and wrongly put forth that “the private sector is doing fine.” It will likely go down as one of the great verbal blunders in presidential history.

Ironically, the only thing the first president with his own logo may have left when it’s over is what he started with: his brand.

What is his brand? It’s hope and change. It’s fighting for the little guy. It’s a new American humility in foreign affairs in which we “lead from behind” in the world. So how’s he doing on those counts? He has abandoned “hope and change” for bitter partisan attacks; no one has suffered more under him than the little guy; and American preeminence in the world is at greater risk than at anytime since World War II.

But more than anything, the Obama brand is about the hip aura that made “Obama girl” swoon in Internet videos – the aura that says “Hey, relax. I got this.”

There can be little doubt at this point that he doesn’t.

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