For President Barack Obama, last week was about as bad as it gets, according to New York Times columnist
and frequent Obama booster Maureen Dowd.
The week began with critical press coverage of the “kill list” of drone strike targets. A New York Times op-ed called Obama’s personal involvement in administering the list “a unilateral campaign of death.”
On the heels of this controversial policy revelation came former President Bill Clinton, an Obama ally who nonetheless stepped on Obama’s condemnation of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, calling Romney’s business record “sterling.”
On Friday, the economic picture changed hue from tepid to perilous. An underwhelming unemployment report and continued worries about the eurozone pushed the stock market to its lowest point this year.
And perhaps most damning of all, Dowd observes that the White House Press Corps evinced a sort of nostalgia for the days of George W. Bush during the former President’s White House portrait unveiling, an atmosphere Dowd interprets as “a sure sign that the Obama magic is flagging.”
In all, it amounts to a crisis of confidence for the incumbent and his supporters.
“The President who started off with such dazzle now seems incapable of stimulating either the economy or the voters,” writes Dowd. “How the mighty have fallen.”
Dowd blames poor message control from the administration, observing, “The legendary speaker who drew campaign crowds in the tens of thousands and inspired a dispirited nation ended up nonchalantly delegating to a pork-happy Congress, disdaining the bully pulpit […] and ceding control of his narrative.”
The Times columnist laments the Administration’s tone-deaf sale of two big initiatives that remain controversial even today, several years after their passage: “Obama has never felt the need to explain or sell his signature pieces of legislation — the stimulus and health care bills — or stanch the flow of false information from the other side.”
The result has been unrelenting political warfare, a particularly disappointing outcome from a candidate who “had lofty dreams of playing the great convener and conciliator.” Now, Dowd writes, “he’s just another combatant in a capital full of Hatfields and McCoys. No compromises, just nihilism.”
Dowd identifies Obama’s problem as a surfeit of introspective caution, describing how the president “prefers to float above, at a reserve, in grandiose mists.”
This caution, which Dowd sees as a product of Obama’s somewhat disjointed upbringing, has “restrained him at times.” The man who once described himself as “caught without a class, a structure, a tradition to support me” is “still finding himself, too absorbed to see what’s not working.”
But in Dowd’s estimation, Obama chose a poor time to continue his journey of self-discovery: “The White House is a very hard place to go on a vision quest, especially with a storm brewing.”
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