It never fails. When the regime of center-right political leader with executive authority begins to implode, the focus is on how and why that person is failing — as it should be. When it becomes clear that a leftist mayor, governor, or president is entering the failure zone, it's because the job is impossible, or the city, state, or nation has become "ungovernable."
We're entering the excuses phase with President Obama (with an important qualifier to be explained later). At the Washington Post's "The Fix" blog yesterday, Chris Cillizza, in a post titled "It’s virtually impossible to be a successful modern president," had a trio of cop-outs at the ready:
Being president is the most powerful job in the world. At which you will almost certainly fail.
* The decline of the bully pulpit as a persuasion mechanism
* The deep partisanship present not only in Congress but also in the electorate more broadly
* The splintering of the mainstream media/the rise of social media.
The similarities between the Bush presidency and Obama's tenure are striking in that the trends ... have accelerated exponentially over the past 14 years. And the result has been the same in both cases: A president who a majority of the country disapproves of and a country even more split along ideological lines on, well, everything.
... All of that is not to excuse President Obama. He has struggled to contain self-inflicted wounds -- particularly in his second term -- ranging from the IRS scandal to the problems of vets receiving adequate and timely care. His relations with Congress -- Democrats included -- have never been warm and, as a result, his ability to ask for the benefit of the doubt is non-existent. His underestimation of just how polarized the country and the Congress have become was entirely avoidable; senior members of his inner circle -- many of whom came directly from the campaign(s) -- were all too aware of that reality. His belief in his own powers of persuasion -- to the Congress and the country -- were also heavily overrated.
... Is success impossible as a president these days? No. But failure is far, far more likely.
Give it six more months, and the lefty pundits will move to "success is absolutely impossible."
In the mid- and late-1990s, as New York City's crime rate raged out of control and its finances deteriorated, the press, particularly the New York Times, sympathized with hard-left Mayor David Dinkins, bemoaning how the job was too overwhelming for anyone. Somehow, when Rudy Giuliani took the reins of supposedly ungovernable Gotham City, the crime rate declined dramatically, the city's fiscal situation vastly improved, and the city's reputation as the financial capital of the world was restored.
In the late-1970s, as the Iranian hostage crisis festered and the nation's economy went into stagflation, the press threw what felt like a non-stop pity party for Jimmy Carter and the impossible job of the presidency during his final year or so in office. But, as Powerline's Steven Hayward noted yesterday, "People stopped saying this about halfway through Reagan’s presidency." Actually much sooner, if I recall correctly — which would make sense, given Reagan's history-making landslide victory over Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election.
As to Obama, there is a very real qualifier, namely that he appears not to care if he's perceived as "failing" as long as he can continue to issue executive orders; as long as his unleashed regulators can continue their reign of terror on the productive; as long as he can continue the flow of illegal immigrants designed to guarantee the left's electoral dominance for generations to come; and as long as his "lead from behind" foreign policy, combined with de facto fiscal insolvency, continues to erode America's status as the bastion of liberty in the free world.
In other words, Obama appears to be uninterested in "success" as the term would ordinarily be defined. Those who question whether this is truly the case need to answer this question: If you really believe that he doesn't want to undermine this country, what would he be doing differently if that really was his goal?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.