President Obama is beset and overwhelmed by crises of his own making. His notion of retrenchment and “ending” wars has backfired spectacularly in the Middle East. Syria and Iraq are fast becoming the staging ground for a jihadist state. Iran remains defiant in its determination to keep its nuclear weapons program. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas — Obama dubbed him a “man of peace” — has linked arms with Hamas and violence rages in Israel, the result of the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers, allegedly by Abbas’s partner. We have the worst of all worlds — except for the Muslim Brotherhood — in Egypt. A military government akin to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s socialist dictatorship controls the country and openly snubs the United States, which the Egyptian people are convinced was allied with the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile in Europe, Russia has grabbed Crimea, eastern Ukraine is a battleground and “Russian reset” is a punch line.
At home, the Supreme Court has slapped Obama down on recess appointments (one of about 20 unanimous decisions against his administration) and on his insistence on forcing the contraception mandate onto closely held businesses whose owners’ religious beliefs prevent them from making available four abortion-inducing drugs. In these cases, as in so many others, Obama’s arrogant attempt to aggrandize power resulted in humiliating defeats.
On everything from the border crisis to the Veterans Affairs and Internal Revenue Service scandals, he denies responsibility. He seems at a loss to run his own administration.
What does he do? Pretty much what he always does — resort to campaign-type rallies and bitter attacks on his foes. He is reduced to schoolyard taunts. (Sue me! Well, it’s not a bad suggestion given his track record in court.) The Post reports, “His public appearances, despite whatever comments he makes about his desire to work with Congress, have been designed to sharpen the partisan divisions, to belittle the Republicans, and to say to middle-class families and especially unmarried women that he’s with them and the Republicans aren’t.” It is, in other words a Hail Mary from a president who is losing it — losing his grip on world events, on public opinion and on the operation of government itself.
Failure and unpopularity are bitter pills, all the more so if you fancy yourself a transformational figure in history and imagine that opponents are not simply wrong but malicious. It is no coincidence that Obama’s public tantrums increase as his approval ratings sink. It’s all he has left to stir some segment of the public and reaffirm his own relevance. He is, of course, most at home on a campaign trail, attacking his opponents’ motives and playing to friendly audiences. Unfortunately, that has very little to do with a successful presidency, and in fact is a sign of a deteriorating one.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, Obama is regarded as the worst president since World War II. For a man who consciously modeled his presidency on FDR and Abraham Lincoln, that’s quite a comedown. Ironically, in his public tantrums Obama reveals how absurd the comparison is to the two historic figures. Both were attacked and maligned, but they rose above adversity and led the country in war. They did not engage in self-pity.
Conservatives are, to be honest, a bit taken aback by Obama’s public meltdowns. He is, after all, president for the next 2 1/2 years. He would do well to follow the failed Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s advice: Man up.