Oh, Mr. President ...
*shakes head sadly*
Perhaps this is the encapsulating snapshot of the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.
I've observed Obama closely for the better part of three years, and I've made two critical analyses, neither of which is particularly groundbreaking:
1. Barack Obama is in love with himself
2. Barack Obama doesn't take criticism very well
These two personality traits, put together, might make for entertaining campaign fodder, but they are a recipe for a disastrous presidency, where the chief executive spends more time exploring detours and personal firefights than driving the main road of proper governance.
The Chairman remarked to me during campaign season in 2008 that Barack Obama genuinely believes that he is the antidote to all of America's problems. From Iran to Palestine to the economy to health care and beyond, this rather ordinary, back-benching senator seems to sincerely believe that he is a transformative historical figure. Among other things, his belief that he could convince the Iranians to halt uranium enrichment simply by offering them a seat at a bargaining table was naive, dangerous and silly. His rhetoric even into his presidency suggests that he views himself as a transformative political figure, transcending not only racial divides but also partisan gridlock, with an uncanny ability to speak to the country's soul. And darn it, if those Republicans would just get out of his way, he could transform the country into a post-partisan utopia.
The second element of his personality -- that he bristles at criticism and can't work well with others once he's been criticized -- has manifested itself time and again. He called former President Clinton a racist after Clinton compared his primary candidacy to Jesse Jackson's in 1988 and the two continue to have a frosty relationship. He thinks that criticism of his big-government profligacy equates to criticism of him personally -- at which he recoils. He has taken some unfair shots from the political right, to be sure, but the vast majority of the criticism has been legitimate and policy-based. He talks a good game on bipartisanship, but on the two signature initiatives of his presidency -- the stimulus and the health care bill -- he adopted almost no Republican ideas, and wasn't concerned with garnering any Republican support.
Obama can't do that because he isn't able to separate personality from policy -- it's one and the same. Therefore, if someone disagrees with his policy prescriptions, he considers it a personal affront.
This is precisely why he never worked across the aisle on anything of substance during his Senate career. During the campaign, anytime he was asked to give an example of working across the aisle, he cited a bill he co-sponsored with Dick Lugar of Indiana to round up loose nukes in the Soviet Union (something absolutely no American could ever oppose) -- which passed the Senate by near-unanimous consent. He didn't have to take a tough stand on this issue, because no one disagreed with him. How easy does it get?
He didn't run on policy prescriptions, but on the singular force of his own personality. Obama is the policy. This is precisely why his approval ratings have suffered such a cataclysmic drop. He is a standard-issue, old-time liberal in the vein of Lyndon Johnson and Ted Kennedy, and America is a center-right country.
He has repeatedly set up straw men to criticize Republicans -- that they want to completely deregulate Wall Street, that they want to line the pockets of their Wall Street buddies, that they want to take away seniors' Social Security, and on and on -- because he appears to be unable to separate those who have legitimate criticisms of his policies from those few hateful folks who actually detest him personally. He demonizes his political opponents much in the same way Karl Rove did. To Obama, all politics is personal.
It came to a head over Labor Day, when, in that idiotic dialect he falls into when he's trying to get a crowd riled up, he said, "They talk about me like I'm a dog." This was the encapsulation of his presidency in a nutshell. He's so in love with himself, and so thin-skinned, and so recoils from legitimate bipartisan compromise, that he becomes offended that people disagree with him at all.
Obama's comments over the weekend were immature at best, and unpresidential at worst. For all of his failings, George W. Bush never once complained of the vitriolic personal attacks levied against him by the American left. He didn't stoop to their level, because he fundamentally understood that simply by holding the office of the presidency, you're going to get criticized. Period.
In his short, utterly inconsequential political career, Barack Obama hasn't learned this. I doubt he ever will.
Unless the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin in 2012, he will be a one-term president.