(Writers note: The arrangement with the syndicators allows for my columns to appear here one week after their newspaper release)
^OBAMA ENTERS A NEW ERA@<
^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@<
^By BOB FRANKEN@=
^C.2010 Hearst Newspapers@=
WASHINGTON _ Just two years after Barack Obama wrapped this country in pride over his election, his presidency sure seems to be wearing thin. Events of this month alone give strong evidence that much of his promise and so many of his promises are in various stages of unravel.
At the very least he and his administration have frayed at the edges. The mid-term elections make the point loud and clear. The Republican/Tea Party steamroller ran on the high-octane fuel of dissing Obama.
And when he made the usual presidential retreat from domestic problems and scurried overseas after his party’s shellacking, he found a gaggle of other world leaders unwilling to gloss things over with the usual member-of-the-club platitudes.
In fact, President Obama was treated like a Rodney Dangerfield during his Asia trip. By extension, so was the United States, getting no respect when trying to work out trade deals or impose currency policy. It seemed as if the mighty superpower was suddenly being dismissed as impotent by other nations, hell-bent on flexing their muscles at the expense of the shrinking giant. He comes back with nothing, not even a pledge from an overseas corporation to outsource a call center in the U.S.
His prestige with them is further undermined here at home where Republican senators are refusing to ratify the START agreement he made with Russia, which would further reduce the nuclear weapons stockpiles of both countries
On the current domestic agenda the name of his game has become face saving as he slip-slides toward a deal on extending the Bush tax cuts and tries not to look like he's flat out caving in, further feeding the perception of a weakened presidency.
Same with the don't-ask-don't-tell policy against openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Conservatives are antagonized he's wants to drop the ban, while liberals complain his pursuit has been too halting.
His national security agenda has slammed into a bipartisan wall. Remember closing Guantanamo?
To be fair, he did finally push through health care reform, but it only nibbled at the edges after it was chewed up by the politics as usual he pledged to change.
And true, he did put a finger in the dike and prevent the financial failure he inherited, but his attempts to build new protections have been compromised by deals with the very same people who caused the disaster.
Among the issues that so upset members of his own party is the evidence of economic unfairness. The Hay Group's analysis for the Wall Street Journal, for instance, shows that average total direct compensation for chief executives at the nation's top 456 companies exceeds $7 million. At the very same time new numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service show that one in seven U.S. households, including 50 million people, have what is officially designated as ``Food Insecurity,’’ defined as a lack of ``...consistent access to adequate food for active, healthy lives.’’ The ERS says it is a ``frequent or chronic’’ problem. In Barack Obama's America.
A November Zogby Interactive poll shows that half of the respondents _ self-identified as ``likely voters’’ _ say they do not plan to vote for Obama in 2012, compared to 40 percent who said they expect to.
Even in his own party, he has adversaries. Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen wrote a Washington Post op-ed suggesting that the president immediately announce he will not run again.
``By explicitly saying he will be a one-term president,’’ they argued, Obama would be ``...draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.’’
There is every indication the president plans to seek re-election. But he and those who tailor his policy have a lot of stitching to do if they want to avoid becoming a presidency too much in tatters to stretch things out for an extra four years.
(E-mail: bob(at)hearstdc.com; on the Web: www.bobfranken.tv