Am I the only one who senses that President Obama just isn’t himself lately? I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the original “Yes We Can!” enthusiasm has waned after two-and-a-half years of the GOP “defeat Obama at any cost” machine.
But even taking the usual presidential exhaustion into account, I can’t help but notice that Barack Obama just doesn’t seem to be himself lately. His appearances seem forced and uncomfortable. At televised appearances he looks like he’s just going through the motions and I keep wondering why.
And then it occurred to me that maybe Obama doesn’t want to win a second term in the White House.
Of course, he has to run — the last time a sitting president who was eligible to run for a second term decided he wasn’t interested was Lyndon Johnson. He knew he couldn’t win in light of the Vietnam War, so for the sake of the party, he stepped aside. (Of course, it turned out that Johnson didn’t really do the Democrats any favors since we ended up with Richard Nixon).
Exhibit A in the “Obama isn’t going to run” argument? He really didn’t seem to up for the whole debt ceiling debate with the GOP. When he finally talked to the nation, there were no fightin’ words. There was no sense of the Obama who fired up voters in 2008. There was just someone who couldn’t believe he was having to convince us — again — that partisan gridlock wasn’t going to solve anything.
Then he sort of looked like Droopy the Dog as he backed off soon-to-be-enacted EPA regulations for cleaner air (which would only benefit our kids’ health, after all), saying that was better for businesses and job creation.
He pretty much handed the media a week’s worth of pointless, but costly, criticism when he headed off on summer vacay. No one piece of evidence screams, “Get me back to Chicago!” But when the President decided to take the family to Martha’s Vineyard, he set himself up for criticism that he was being all golf-y and elite again — conservatives love to reprise that one. (FYI conservative media — lots of normal folks go there, too). I get it that if he vacations at all he has to go somewhere a little remote and protectable — hence, an island! But if he had really wanted to keep from doing any more damage to sagging his poll numbers, maybe he just should have stayed in the White House, watched some DVR’d movies with the kids and microwaved some popcorn.
But the piece de resistance in my hunch that maybe President Obama has a calendar with the heading, “Countdown to January 2012” is a re-election slogan that appeared in an E-mail received by one of my friends — “Let’s Do It Again.” Seriously? That’s a major come down from Hope and Change. If he really wants to stay in the White House until Malia is in high school, his people better get to work on something with a little more spirit.
Collectively, President Obama’s recent decisions and actions have a feeling of hopelessness and ambivalence. Sort of like he’s thinking that Jimmy Carter didn’t do so bad personally after just one term in the White House and he’s looking for Carter’s speed-dial to get some post-presidential tips.
Sure, the President seemed like the old, peppy Obama at the Labor Day rally. And I’m sure that someone is going to tell him he needs to lose a little bit of the professorial demeanor for his jobs speech. But if President Obama really does want to win in 2012 (and I’m not sure he does), he’d better dig deep. Because after the GOP debate at the Reagan library, it’s clear that the group of candidates are collectively ready to take him down, regardless of which one of them lands on Pennsylvania Avenue.
As we are now firmly entrenched in the 2012 campaign, if you want to read something that will give you some real hope about voters and the whole process, please check out my new book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (Bright Sky Press, 2011).