Obama: After 2 1/2 Years, A Has-Been

I watched President Obama’s and John Boehner’s speeches tonight–it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

On the President’s side, it was more cowbell. Obama and his advisers apparently think that he can sway public opinion by going on television. I am not sure why: he persuaded no one on Obamacare, and how has he done on selling the stimulus? Or the moratorium on Gulf drilling? Or the Libyan bombing campaign?

The President was the Obama we have all come to expect: hyper-partisan and divisive, to a degree I have never seen in any other chief executive. And I go back to Eisenhower. His talk was full of transparent lies. And Obama is an economic illiterate, which has resulted in most Americans writing him off as a failure. A plurality of Americans regard him as a terrible president. So one wonders whether anyone was listening to him tonight with an open mind.

Obama’s performance was, in my view, awful. Why? Because, as the president has revealed himself to be inept on one issue after another, the lingering question has always been: is he, nevertheless, some sort of political genius? After all, his one undoubted talent is fundraising; he is the greatest money-machine in the history of American politics.

But tonight–and this is the point I really want to make–Obama dispelled any idea that lurking behind his incompetence on matters of policy and administration is a gleam of political shrewdness. This was, I think, the key moment in Obama’s speech:

The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a cuts-only approach….

Obama went on to demagogue corporate jet owners, etc., in his predictable–and frankly stupid–way. But what he apparently didn’t realize is that most of his listeners were saying, Yes! Let’s have a cuts-only approach! We don’t need more taxes, we need the federal government to start living within its means!

Obama’s speech no doubt went down well in tony D.C. precincts where “revenue enhancement” means “money in my pocket.” But most of the relative handful of American voters who still care what Obama says perceived, no doubt, that he is on the wrong side of history.

John Boehner did much better, not because he was particularly eloquent, although he was entirely competent, but because he was speaking what most Americans know to be the truth.

Barack Obama’s presidency isn’t dead yet, but it is on life support.

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