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Being There

"Like Chauncey Gardiner, Obama is profoundly aloof," Michael Barone writes.

I won't hold my breath waiting for any journalist/JournoList to ask President Obama what he thinks of Michael Barone's latest column, to see his response to the comparison:

But last Thursday two influential Republicans, Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl, left the bargaining table and said that they wouldn't return until Democrats dropped demands for tax increases. After all, if the Democrats hadn't been able to raise taxes on high earners when they had large majorities in December's lame duck session, what makes anyone think this more Republican Congress will raise them now?

Cantor said it was impossible to make progress unless Obama got personally involved. Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid said the same thing. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, fresh from making a bipartisan compromise on public employee benefits, offered succinct advice: "First, the president can show up."

Well, Obama has agreed to do that Monday. But while Chauncey Gardiner, in his befuddlement, tried to answer questions squarely, Obama has seemed less interested in the substance of public policy than in framing issues for the next presidential campaign.

That was plainly the case in the decisions on Afghanistan he announced Wednesday night. Regardless of conditions on the ground, the president promised that the last of the surge troops will be removed by September 2012, the month Democrats hold their national convention.

As for Libya, Obama pretends we're not involved in "hostilities" and has been content to "lead from behind." Another sop to the antiwar left.

Sometimes it seems he's president of the AFL-CIO, not the USA. The man who said he wanted to double exports in five years has nothing to say about his National Labor Relations Board appointee's attempt to shut down a $1 billion plant being built by the nation's No. 1 exporter.

And don't forget the enviro types. Obama is releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but his appointees are barring drilling in the Gulf and Alaska and refusing approval for a natural gas pipeline from Canada.

On all these issues Obama seems oddly disengaged, aloof from the hard work of government, hesitant about making choices.

That doesn't sound like Lincoln. Or Roosevelt. Or even Carter. More like "then we have fall and winter."

It's not easy being the Accidental President. Or as Glenn Reynolds wrote in November of 2009, after the off-year elections that year permanently took the bloom off all of the left's "40 More Years" and "We Are All Socialists Now" rhetoric of the previous winter:

The truth is, Obama wasn’t ready to be president when he ran in 2008. When he started, he probably thought he had no real chance — he himself admitted upon entering the Senate that he wasn’t qualified to be president — and that his first run would simply be a PR effort that would lift him to the top ranks of Senate Democrats.

When, to everyone’s surprise, resentment of the Clinton machine crystallized around him, he wound up beating Hillary for the nomination, and found himself riding an out-of-control express train. He rode it to victory, with some help from erratic McCain actions.

But he was right the first time about not being ready for the Oval Office. As president, he seems confused and a bit distant on the issues, leaving the details to congressional Democrats and an ever-growing number of "czars" while he golfs and launches attacks at Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

With the economy tanking (unemployment is much worse after Obama’s deficit-swelling stimulus than Obama’s advisers predicted it would be with no stimulus at all), with the promised post-partisanship dissolving into witch-hunts against hostile media and the promised post-racial America devolving into the awkwardly staged "beer summit," with the "necessary war" in Afghanistan the subject of endless dithering and the promised "smart diplomacy" materializing as a series of awkward missteps by Hillary Clinton, the froth has become a lot less frothy.

Republicans, who were prepared to give Obama the benefit of the doubt a year ago, now can’t stand him. Independents who voted for him are deserting in droves. And Democrats don’t seem that happy either.

Of course, once the GOP picks a presidential nominee, which hopefully won't be for quite some time yet, Obama will soon be back doing what he does best -- being a Chicago machine politician and reliving his favorite Godfather and Untouchable leitmotifs. (Obama has said that The Godfather is his favorite movie; for him, it's a how-to guide.) Say what you will about Chauncey Gardiner, he was a remarkably sweet, if befuddled man. Next year will be yet another reminder that the first half of that equation doesn't apply to the president.

Besides, why should we be surprised that the man who gave us the New Feudalism is in a permanent Fugue State?