April 29, 2013

If there is such a thing as death by a thousand cuts, then President Obama’s condition is not critical. But the lacerations are beginning to add up and some are deeper than they appear.

The problems start with the constant low-grade political fever produced by anemic economic growth and chronic low employment, which doesn’t leave the president with much room to operate politically. All the while, time is running out and other problems and mistakes are accumulating.

Obamacare implementation miscues are underreported, but the anecdotal accounts of a fiasco in the making are beginning to surface. I’ve yet to meet a business owner who knows exactly what Obamacare is going to cost, exactly what they have to pay and when, and what they are going to have to pay for or what their options, penalties and fines will be if they don’t. Their accountants and lawyers all tell them different things.

On the international front — typically a refuge where a spent president can find usefulness —  nothing appears to be going the president’s way. The administration can’t bring itself to admit its mistake in saying that any use of chemical weapons by Syria would be crossing a “red line.” Turns out the president had absolutely no plan in mind when he put America’s commitment and prestige on the line.

I’m not for intervening in Syria anytime soon. I say let the factions fight it out for a while. If the ultimate “winner” in Syria is weaker as a result of a prolonged fight, well, I can think of something worse. But somehow the president has put America in a position where we make taunts and threats and puny promises, but no plans or policies. Our friends are nervous and our enemies are snickering at us.

The economy, Obamacare and Syria are heavy anchors on the Obama presidency. Add Iran, Egypt, North Korea, budget battles, and the debt ceiling — not to mention spring and summer inquiries into what the Obama team knew about the Boston bombers and when they knew it — and I have a hard time seeing where Obama is going to achieve anything that looks like a legacy-building success.

And then add that reality to a swarm of unflattering, self-inflicted wounds, such as the let-them-eat-cake 5 percent pay cut President Obama gave himself. And there’s the sequester debacles, including the insistence that air traffic be delayed (until Congress made the White House blink) and that there be no White House tours for tourists.

Insiders readers know I believe that in politics, bad gets worse. And I now believe the White House is sitting on a pile of political kindling. Team Obama might be just one mistake away from igniting the blaze that will consume much of the president’s remaining goodwill and almost all of his time. None of this makes me think the president will be a particularly strong force for Democratic candidate recruitment in the remaining weeks of that portion of the 2014 cycle, nor does he appear to be forming an agenda that will motivate voters to help his cause 18 months from now.