Carter makes a valid point about the American political world being in a rut, but he didn’t use the magic word “malaise.” It unfairly haunts Democrats. But the tiresome Republican combat is only part of the story that makes the glass appear to be half empty at times. 

From Afghanistan to mortgage foreclosures, to gas prices and painfully high unemployment, we are reminded that President Obama has not delivered on what was expected from his 2008 offer of hope and change. Talk of American decline has diminished more because of resignation than because it is considered fiction. But Obama still has goodwill and could even win reelection more by default than because of a job well done.

It is not the American way to be pessimistic, and fresh new political energy should be part of our can-do culture. But trench warfare among Republicans is only part of today’s frustrations.

Note: Speaking of dark clouds, I've been talking about politics and gas prices for months. It looks like President Obama has finally gotten the message that he has a political problem. I've never seen a serious energy analyst talk about using the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as a way to bring down fuel prices. It would only contribute to lower prices for a short time and would widely be seen as a clumsy gimmick. If, on the other hand there was going to be an attack on Iran, SPR should be part of our planning both here and with our allies abroad. I understand that it would take about 30 days for oil to flow from the reserves, so now would be the time to start talking with the British and others about planning for the shortages and price surge an attack in the spring could cause.