Roger L. Simon

Does Barack Obama want to be president?

Ever since viewing his depressing and disconnected “energy” speech last week, I have been mulling whether Barack Obama actually wants to be president anymore. That was an address given by a man who looked very much like he didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to continue. He appeared slumped and worn, as if he aged eighteen years in eighteen months. His demeanor was oddly distracted.

I am not being metaphorical here — I am quite serious. The more I have thought about this, the more I am convinced Barack Obama no longer wishes to be president. The degree that he admits this to himself, I am not sure. But I rather suspect that in the small hours of the morning he fantasizes he were anywhere but 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And who could blame him? By almost any measure, he is doing a terrible job.

Of course, as we all know, Obama didn’t really expect to be president. This was to be a trial run. And then it took off. He ended up in the White House with virtually no experience that prepared him for the task. His superior intelligence was supposed to carry him through. Only intelligence — whatever his level — is just one component of leadership, and probably far from the largest one.

But the question here is not his qualifications. They are no longer particularly relevant. This is a beaten man, struggling to show he is not, even though everybody knows he is.

The media claque that put him in office is getting disaffected and now his party allies in Congress are beginning to disregard him, sometimes for the better. One of the early symbols of Obama’s disconnection was his remarkably unemotional reaction to the democracy demonstrators in Iran. His Iran policy continued to be a phony concoction of non-existent dialogue and toothless sanctions, right up to the latest round at the UN.

But now Democrats in Congress (even Chris Dodd!) are attempting to enact far tougher sanctions, embarrassing the president. Members of his cabinet are rumored to be deserting him — or he them (as if this made a difference). Most Americans despise his health care plan, which he enacted despite their opposition. The Gulf is still leaking, with no end in sight. And no one, certainly not the president, has an answer to our financial woes. And there is no reason to expect it is not going to get worse.

So what does this mean that POTUS hates his job? On the extremes, he could have a breakdown (as blogger David Thomson has predicted) or simply quit. Neither of these things are likely to happen, though they certainly are within the realm of possibility.

More likely he will stumble on, spending as much time as he can on the golf course or on vacation. Meanwhile, the role of the presidency will begin to diminish. More people will disregard his wishes. If the Republicans win big in November, he will retreat further. This man is not a fighter, because he has never had to fight. He lives in a very close, protective bubble, among people he has worked with for many years, most from Chicago. That will only increase as the wagons circle

Except for the most partisan among us, none of this is cause for rejoicing. America cannot thrive with a president who wishes he weren’t there. Nothing does. We can only hope that the damage that is done is reversible. Sometimes I think that it is. Sometimes not.