This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president's political judgment and instincts.
There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don't see how you politically survive this.
The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another...
This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.
Jules Crittenden piles on:
In 2004, for example, the Dems offered John Kerry. Didn’t work. In 2006 and 2008, they offered Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, respectively. Did work, though the problems inherent in both were obvious from the outset. Divisive incompetence, and divisive inexperience, respectively.
The big surprise with the current president is not so much that he is incompetent, inexperienced and divisive, but the extent to which he is all of those things, and the extent to which anyone is surprised. It’s not like there weren’t enough warning signs on the way in, all of which were summarily dismissed.
As for those George Bush "Miss me yet?" billboards and t-shirts, the answer is "yes".
Update, 5/31/10: Don Surber says:
Helplessness, however undeniable, is no defense. Moreover, Obama has never been overly modest about his own powers. Two years ago next week, he declared that history will mark his ascent to the presidency as the moment when ‘our planet began to heal’ and ‘the rise of the oceans began to slow.’ Well, when you anoint yourself King Canute, you mustn’t be surprised when your subjects expect you to command the tides”...
The president’s mettle has been tested four times now. I cannot give him a Gentleman’s D on any of them.
Update #2, 5/31/10: Roger Kimball adds a little more fuel to the fire, as if any is needed:
I believe that Obama is unique in the annals of American history. It’s not any individual quality — if “quality” is the right word: perhaps “attribute” would be better — that sets him apart. It’s the combination of attributes. What are those attributes?
Peggy Noonan touched on one: enormous, all-encompassing, stupefying incompetence. The man can pose. He can preen. He cannot, judging by his performance these last eighteen months, govern...
The other two attributes are 1) arrogance and 2) ideological animus.