Published on TheHill.com on June 26, 2012
Particularly if the Supreme Court invalidates the individual mandate at the heart of the ObamaCare law, this president's tenure is increasingly going to be seen as an unmitigated failure.
The economy is in a shambles and getting worse. The national debt is bloated. The stimulus didn't work. His healthcare reform law, his signature program, might be unconstitutional. He tied the nation up for a year and a half, and lost his party's House majority and much of its margin in the Senate, to pass and defend a law that was so poorly written, it could get thrown out by the court. He might be cited for contempt of Congress. He hasn't delivered on his environmental commitments. Cap-and-trade is a dead letter. Gov. Scott Walker's victory in Wisconsin makes a mockery of Obama's pledge to strengthen organized labor during his term. American popularity around the globe is lower than it was under Bush, and both Iran and North Korea are more threatening.
Spurred by this record of failure, the case against Obama is rapidly becoming non-ideological and even nonpartisan. Throughout his tenure, he has been under fire from the right for his liberal programs, big spending and grow-government tendencies. But now, the center and the left are chiming in, criticizing his competence, leadership, strength, experience and wisdom. He is coming to be seen as an amateur, not ready for prime time, prematurely elected president before he could acquire a real understanding of how the process works.
His speeches, once inspirational, now sound hollow. His tone, once uplifting, now is partisan and harsh. His demeanor was once unruffled and his voice calming. These days he often appears rattled and off balance. He ran a relatively gaffe-free campaign in 2008 (the encounter with Joe the Plumber excepted). But in 2012, he can't seem to do anything right. He attracted vast amounts of money in piling up a 2-to-1 financial advantage over McCain. But this year, he admits he will be outspent.
In a sense, Barack Obama has morphed into Jimmy Carter. Looking back at the 1980 election, we are tempted to see it in hindsight as the triumph of conservatism as Reagan swept to power. But, in fact, Reagan was careful not to run as an ideologue lest he be impaled like Goldwater was in 1964. Rather, Jimmy Carter lost the election more than Reagan won it. It was the Republican's question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" and his calculation of the misery index (combining unemployment and inflation) that brought Carter down.
Carter, himself, was not a leftist in 1980. He had been a moderate as president. His liberalism was still in the future. He was beaten not because he strayed too far left, but because he couldn't get out of his own way. The American public came to see him in much the same terms that they now use to describe Obama: In over his head, hasn't a clue, can't get anything done.
To win, Obama needs a phenomenal turnout among downscale voters. He's not going to get it. There is no enthusiasm for him among his base. Nobody can be inspired by his record of failure. Democrats are increasingly voting with their feet, staying home during his coming convention and distancing themselves from the top of the ticket. And few voters are sufficiently scared of Mitt Romney to come out to vote for a president who hasn't done anything right.
Six months ago, when I predicted that 2012 would be a Republican landslide, few agreed with me. Now I'm getting more company.
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