President Obama, lacking any dis­cern­ible sign of self-awareness, is most self-destructive when he is relaxed. At times when his guard is down the real Obama pours forth. It is neither attractive nor helpful to his campaign. His interview with Charlie Rose on CBS certainly highlighted this phenomenon.

First there was this:

“The mistake of my first term —a couple of years — was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that’s important, but the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times. It’s funny, when I ran, people said, ‘Well, he can give a great speech, but can he actually manage the job?’ And then in my first two years, I think the notion was, “Well, you know, he’s been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where’s the story that tells us where he’s going?’ And I think that was a legitimate criticism.”

Really, it’s absurd to say he got the policies all right, but failed to say nice things. The arrogance of a president — sitting atop 8.2 percent unemployment, the worst post-New Deal recovery, rising poverty and international debacles from Damascus to Moscow — to claim he’s had no policy errors is jaw-dropping.

Second, he confessed that if he were Mitt Romney he’d be running on the lousy economy as well (“if I was in his shoes I’d be making the same argument”). Obama seems to be wistful about running as the challenger. What is absent once again is any recognition that his policies haven’t worked. If that is Romney’s “argument” — his economic record is terrible — what’s the explanation for why he deserves four more years to try to figure this out?

And finally there is all that darn partisanship. He said: “I haven’t been able to change the atmosphere here in Washington to reflect the decency and common sense of ordinary people — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — who I think just want to see their leadership solve problems.” The self-pity is quite profound here. He skates by in saying there is blame to go around. But once again, if he can’t work with the other side, why give him four more years?

Rose’s interview was remarkably weak, reflecting the unwillingness to challenge the president on his responsibility for the ongoing recession or to quiz him on why more of the same Obamanomics is a good idea. But even without sharp questions or follow-ups, Obama’s dilemma comes through clearly: Despite his arrogance, despite his woe-is-me routine and despite a cast of characters to blame, he still hasn’t explained why going forward he is going to be any more successful than he has been in spurring an economic rebound.

Romney’s challenge is to focus on the president’s lack of results and to ask voters if they’d keep their jobs if they performed as poorly as Obama has. (“Yeah, my performance isn’t winning you over, but I haven’t told you how well I’m doing often enough and I don’t get along with co-workers, but give me more time and I’ll figure this out.”)

Romney showed in the primary debates the ability to go for the jugular and to bury his opponents in their own records. If he can do that in the fall debates, he’ll be most of the way home, because there really is no politically acceptable excuse for the putrid recovery.