The election in Massachusetts to replace Senator Edward M. Kennedy may turn out to be not as close as advertised. But it does highlight the political decline of President Barack Obama, only one year into his term. The Republican candidate, Scott Brown, is an inexperienced State Senator virtually unknown in Massachusetts and the nation only a few months ago, just like Obama was when he began thinking about running for president.
Obama is a gifted politician and he knows it. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” he wrote, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all of them.”
Right now, he is disappointing all of them. Let us count the ways
Obama has failed in his courtship of the Republicans despite his appointments of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, two Bush Republicans running the most important sectors of our government. Obama’s concessions to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, his bailouts of the nation's banks and auto companies have not gained him a single GOP vote in Congress.
The progressives/liberals in the Democratic Party are disillusioned by the priority given to saving the big banks, the failure to control corporate bonuses in bailed out companies, the military surge in Afghanistan, the compromises in health care reform, the failure to close the notorious prison at Guantanamo, etc.
The independents are also slipping away from Obama. Their perceptions are dominated by his inability to solve problems, his predilection for talk over action, the lack of a serious plan to reduce unemployment, a seemingly endless series of wars without resolution, and above all the failure to get things done in Washington. The bewildering complexities of health-care reform and the long period of indecision on the Afghanistan War have caused a decline of confidence in Obama and his administration.
In this political crisis, Obama has significant loyalists: African-Americans, Latinos, liberals still hopeful. And many Americans are personally bound to Obama by his personal attractiveness, his remarkable powers of oratory, his intellectual capacity, and the symbolism of his election as a break through for racial equality. His charming personality, attractive appearance, and likability, all help to keep him afloat in this political storm. But we chose a new and gloriously different president out of hope for serious change. And he hasn't delivered that - yet.
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