Ethics & Public Policy Center

Obama Fatigue

Published in Commentary Magazine on May 3, 2013



These are not good days for Barack Obama.

His second term agenda has broken down. The Democratic-controlled Senate did not pass even a single part of his gun-control agenda.
His effort to use sequestration to batter Republicans has backfired. His budget was sent up to Capitol Hill two months late–and was immediately dismissed. If immigration reform passes, it will be because Democrats kept the president on the sideline, fully aware that his presence in negotiations with Republicans would only make success more unlikely.

In his press conference earlier this week, Mr. Obama was forced to plead that he is still relevant. “Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point,” he said. (“At this point” is a curious and revealing formulation.)

The economy continues to stagger. Jeff Cox, a CNBC senior writer, earlier this week wrote, “In terms of actual growth, this is … the worst economy in 83 years. GDP growth is in the midst of its longest sub-3 percent annual growth rate since 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression.”

The president’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is as unpopular as it’s ever been, with only 35 percent approving of it in the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Democratic Senator Max Baucus has referred to ObamaCare as a coming “train wreck”–and in a debate earlier this week, Politico reports, “South Carolina’s Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a favorite of the Democratic left, couldn’t get away from the law fast enough, calling ObamaCare ‘extremely problematic.’”

Overseas, in Syria, the president looks feckless, having drawn a “red line” last year that was crossed this year–and it appears no serious consequences will follow. This will have an enormously damaging effect on American credibility, alarming our allies and emboldening our adversaries. Media reports indicate the president is now thinking of arming Syrian rebels, having declined to do so when it could have strengthened moderate elements within the opposition. According to the Wall Street Journal, two administration officials who once favored arming rebels–director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey–both voiced increased skepticism about doing so because of the growing influence of Islamist groups in rebel ranks.

Ryan Crocker, whom Max Boot rightly calls the best diplomat of his generation, has written that recent events in Iraq “are reminiscent of those that led to virtual civil war in 2006 and resulted in the need for a surge in U.S. troop levels, a new strategy and very heavy fighting.”

One of Barack Obama’s undeniable political gifts is his ability to defy political gravity. He’s shown an ability, unmatched in my lifetime, to distance himself from his own failures. But at some point, reality has a way of intervening. One can sense, I think, that the country–large parts of it, anyway–is growing weary of a man so self-righteous and yet without any results to show for it. The compulsive finger-pointing and hyper-partisanship has become a tired act. People are becoming increasingly disenchanted with America, and America’s president, resembling a cork caught in the current, at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. And they will tire, too, of the mounting human cost of President Obama’s failures.

It’s taken longer than it should have. But Obama Fatigue has begun.

Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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