President Obama, with credit to Joe Biden, floated a pretty good campaign slogan last night on “60 Minutes”: “Don’t judge me against the Almighty; judge me against the alternative.” I doubt we will see that on car bumpers soon, but it, and the rest of the fascinating interview, served as the most revealing presidential self-analysis since “Dreams of My Father.”
Within the interview, you could hear the president’s mental gears grind over and over the central conundrum of his presidency: a failure to meet expectations. Here, too, the president gave a very honest answer, saying that if he’d stayed in the U.S. Senate instead of running for president, “I’d be sitting on 70 percent approval ratings, but I wouldn’t be leading this country. I’d remain attractive because I wouldn’t have had to make any choices.”
I’m sure many Republicans will find this soul-searching a sign of petulant weakness, but I found it effective. In order to win, the president has to reset expectations, to reconnect to voters, not as Superman but as Clark Kent, the steady, reliable one you can count on.